Monday, November 8, 2010

ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating: Skate America Preview

The ISU's Grand Prix of Figure Skating will make its fourth stop this week at Skate America in Portland, OR. In my opinion, this event has the most talented field of any event so far this season, but only time will tell. If you have been reading my Grand Prix blogs and tweets thus far, you will know that I've been disappointed with the overall quality of the performances so far. I have simply seen too many falls and mistakes this season from athletes that are supposed to be world class. I really hope that since we're at the halfway point in the Grand Prix season, skaters have had more practice time with their new programs and we'll hopefully see fewer mistakes from here on out.

In the Men's competition we'll see two of the top Japanese men, Daisuke Takahashi and Nobunari Oda battle it out for Gold, while Adam Rippon of the US will look to capitalize on any mistakes made by the top two. I prefer Takahashi to Oda in general, but I definitely think Takahashi has the stronger programs this year, particularly in the Free Skate. If he is on, Kevin Van Der Perren, the strong jumper from Belgium, could make the podium as well. Shawn Sawyer of Canada is quite an artist and has amazing flexibility for a male skater, but I'm not sure his technical marks can live up to his artistry. We'll catch our fist glimpse this season of the young Americans Stephen Carriere and Armin Mahbanoozadeh and I wish them the best.

Rachael Flatt of the USA is the biggest American hope for a medal in the ladies competition and she is miss consistency. She definitely has the merit to win on her own, but if any of the other top ladies, namely Italy's Carolina Kostner or Japan's Kanako Murakami falter, Rachael will surely stand atop the podium. Amelie Lacoste Canada made a splash by winning the bronze at Skate Canada so she could be a podium threat here as well. We'll also see Americans Caroline Zhang and Alexe Gilles, both of whom struggle with consistency.

In pairs, there are really only two that have any chance of winning gold, in my opinion. This will be the first time we see Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, but Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China are on a hot streak, coming off of a silver medal at Cup of China. Also look for Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch of Canada to make the podium with their excellent Free Skate to Les Miserables. Their lifts are seriously awe inspiring. The top American team Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett could also medal if they can put together two clean programs.

There is seriously no contest in the Ice Dance competition. Meryl Davis & Charlie White will win gold barring any catastrophes. The real battles will be for silver and bronze. Canada has two top teams here in Crone & Poirier and Weaver & Poje. I personally think Weaver & Poje are a more exciting team with more interesting programs, but both teams are solid. The young American team of Maia & Alex Shibutani also looks to medal after their bronze at the NHK trophy. They are well trained by Zoueva & Shpilband and have amazing training partners to push them everyday.

Here is the live streaming schedule for Skate America and the events I will be live-blogging are highlighted in yellow.

Pairs Short: Friday, November 12th 10PM
Mens Short: Friday, November 12th 11:45 PM

Ladies Short: Saturday, November 13th 5:00PM
Short Dance: Saturday, November 13th 6:45 PM
Mens Free: Saturday, November 13th 10:00 PM

Pairs Free: Sunday, November 14th 12:30 AM
Free Dance: Sunday, November 14th 2:00 PM
Ladies Free: Sunday, November 14th 4:00 PM (live on NBC)
Without further ado, here are this week's fantasy picks from myself and Skategate. Also, just for fun, I'm going to list the skaters & teams in the order I think they will finish at Skate America.
BackStage Barbie Skategate Shared Picks

Cup of China Rankings: 33       173
Overall Rankings:          65        71  
Total Points:                  5789    5781
** We are roughly 100 points out of first place overall

1) Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)
2) Nobunari Oda (Japan)
3) Adam Rippon (USA)
4) Kevin Van Der Perren (Belgium)
5) Denis Ten (Kaz)
6) Stephen Carriere (USA)
7) Nan Song (China)
8) Adrian Schultheiss (Sweden)
9) Shawn Sawyer (Canada)
10) Daisuke Murakami (Japan)
11) Armin Mahbanoozadeh (USA)
12) Viktor Pfeifer (Austria)

1) Rachael Flatt (USA)
2) Kanako Murakami (Japan)
3) Carolina Kostner (Italy)
4) Elene Gedevanishvili (Georgia)
5) Amelie Lacoste (Canada)
6) Joshi Helgesson (Sweden)
7) Viktoria Helgesson (Sweden)
8) Caroline Zhang (USA)
9) Alexe Gilles (USA)
10) Jenna McCorkell (Great Britain)
11) Min-Jeong Kwak (Korea)
12) Mae Berenice Miete (France)

1) Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (Germany)
2) Wingjing Sui & Cong Han (China)
3) Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscowitch (Canada)
4) Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett (USA)
5) Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (Russia)
6) Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir (USA)
7) Felicia Zhang & Taylor Toth (USA)
8) Stacey Kemp & David King (Great Britain)

Ice Dance:
1) Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA)
2) Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (Canada)
3) Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier (Canada)
4) Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani (USA)
5) Ekaterina Riazanova & Iila Tkachenko (Russia)
6) Chris Reed & Cathy Reed (Japan)
7) Stephanie Frohberg & Tim Geisen (Germany)
8) Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti Schmitt (USA)
9) Penney Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (Great Britain)

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