Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 US Figure Skating Championships: Senior Men Predictions and Fantasy Picks

My Predictions:
1) Adam Rippon
2) Jeremy Abbott
3) Brandon Mroz
4) Ryan Bradley
5) Armin Mahbanoozadeh
6) Richard Dornbush

My Fantasy Picks:                               SkateGate's Fantasy Picks
A) Adam Rippon                                  A) Adam Rippon
B) Armin Mahbanoozadeh                  B) Armin Mahbanoozadeh
C) Jonathan Cassar                             C) Douglas Razzano

I think Adam Rippon is my favorite singles skater of this season and I have faith that he is going to bring the goods and win in Greensboro. He has been on the cusp for the past few years and finished an impressive 5th last season. I love that even though he is more of an "artistic skater," he still brings the same goods technically as the best in the world. His 233.04 total score at Skate Canada is the highest achieved by a US male on the Grand Prix this season, and nearly 12 points higher than the next closest competitor. His performance at Skate America was a bit disappointing, but I think he is ready to bounce back. His Rippon Lutz, with two arms overhead is one of the highlights of any competition he enters. We have yet to see his quad, but I hope he debuts in in Greensboro to get some competition experience with it going into worlds. I think Adam is ready to fill the "artistic" void that Johnny Weir normally fills at nationals, though probably without the off-ice antics. He is well trained and well prepared by coach Brian Orser and I truly believe that Adam Rippon is poised and ready to become the next US National Champion.
While Adam Rippon is ready to win a National title, Jeremy Abbott is just as ready to defend his, and he has already done that successfully. Some of the keys to continuing his reign for a third year will be mental toughness, and the quad. It has been debated for years, but the quad is still a major factor in every men's competition and Jeremy has it, as long as he goes for it and can land it successfully. Jeremy is not one of those skaters who forgets past mistakes and his disappointing Olympic finish last season really hit him hard. If he can use that to fuel his skating and bring out the fierce competitor within, he just may hang on to his title. Regardless of where he finishes, I would be baffled if he didn't make the podium, and the World team, in some way, shape or form. He suffered some boot issues this season and felt that not qualifying for the Grand Prix Final was a blessing because it gave him time to work in the new boots, so if all is well on that front, he'll be tough to topple in Greensboro. His top score this season was 218.19 at NHK, just about 15 points below Adam Rippon's top score.
Also in the thick of things is Brandon Mroz who medaled at both of his Grand Prix events this season and has great momentum going into Nationals. Up until now I always thought of him as the athletic, "man's man" skater, sort of like a Michael Weiss, but he has really grown as an artist this season. His Bernstein free skate suits him perfectly and give off a "cool guy" vibe. His emphasis though still is on the technical and he was the only US male to land the quad on the Grand Prix circuit. Having that as a solid part of his jump arsenal will give him quite an edge at Nationals, especially if other men forgo the quad or attempt it and fall. His top score this season was 216.80 which is just a little over a point below Jeremy Abbott's top score. He says his goal is to win gold and though he is a very strong skater, he doesn't get the program components scores of Rippon or Abbott, but if they make mistakes, Brandon may just achieve his goal and stand atop the podium.
The dark horse of this competition will be none other than long-time fan favorite Ryan Bradley. He was so disappointed last season to have missed the Olympic team, but at the request of his fans, he is returning to compete at Nationals this year. He will repeat his free program from last season, but plans to debut a new short. Like Mroz, Bradley has the quad in his arsenal and knows how to use it. I love Ryan as a performer and I would love to see him do well, but I hate to say that I think his time has passed. He has never performed incredibly well at Worlds and I think it is in the USA's best interest to send Rippon, Abbott, and Mroz. I do think Bradley will put up a good fight but I suspect he may find himself in the familiar, painful position of fourth. I am not trying to take anything away from him, I am just stating the facts. I think he is a brilliant performer and can enjoy a nice career as a show skater if he chooses to do so. Either way, it will be good for the fans to see a familiar face in a relatively young field.
Another skater to watch is Armin Mahbanoozadeh. I never thought he would challenge for a medal this season, but he blew me away at Skate America with a strong short and his innovative Avatar free skate. He put up a 211.17 to beat Adam Rippon for the bronze medal. If all of the top skaters do their best and skate clean, I think Armin will land in about 5th place, but if other skaters falter, he will be right there to seize a medal. Either way, this has been a great season for him and after he made that splash internationally at Skate America, look for him to receive two Grand Prix assignments next season and be a medal threat at both. Other skaters that look to factor into the top group are Richard Dornbush who won the Junior Grand Prix Final with a 219.56, the third highest total score put up by a US man this season. He also has some of the lowest scores by a US man this season so we'll see if he brings his A game to Greensboro. Joshua Farris and Keegan Messing also competed on the Junior Grand Prix Final and had impressive overall seasons. Ross Miner and Grant  Hochstein competed on the Senior Grand Prix Circuit and could factor into the top groups if others make mistakes.

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