Oct. 14, 2015
Skate of the Day: Mae-Berenice Meite, Master's Orleans Short Program
I love a good Swan Lake. More than any other piece of overused figure skating music, athletes tend to reinvent it - everyone wants to be his or her own swan. When Maé-Bérénice Meite debuted her short program last weekend at a small competition mostly comprised of French skaters, she seemed determined to turn her swan into a bird of prey.
Few current ladies' figure skaters have as much raw power as Meite. She struggles with consistency, but when her jumps are on - as they were in Orléans - they are enormous yet effortless. In her triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination here, the second jump is even bigger than the first. It's a pleasure to see such confidence from Meite early in the season, and this is a good sign that she'll be able to deliver strong performances in the upcoming Grand Prix. It's unclear whether her jumps will be enough to earn her a medal, because her limited flexibility and speed make it hard for her to achieve the program components or spin and footwork levels that other ladies' skaters will have no problem getting.
Even though Meite is not a "complete" skater in terms of artistry, intricacy, and non-jump elements, she's still fun to watch. Her skating style is a bit of a throwback to the '90s, evoking her hero, Surya Bonaly, as well as fellow tough cookie Midori Ito and ex-swan Oksana Baiul. Meite gets plenty of mileage out of the loud, dramatic moments in Swan Lake, making herself look birdlike but also imposing. It's not the kind of performance we expect to see from a ladies' skater, nor the kind of graceful, flowing swan we expect to see on the ice. But Meite has cultivated the skill of connecting with her audience, which makes her aggressive style look like an artistic choice, not an awkward liability. She knows how to make herself memorable, and how to highlight her strengths. In that respect, she has a definite leg up on her competitors.