Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 Skate America: Ladies Preview

The 2011-2012 Grand Prix circuit kicks off this weekend, and though this may not be the most loaded ladies field of the series, there is one key battle to watch for. The ladies take the ice Saturday at 11:25pm (EST) for their short program and 5:40pm on Sunday for their free. I'll be live-blogging all 8 events this weekend so be sure to check back for all my thoughts and feelings! Welcome back and let's have a great season!

This event has two standouts in Alissa Czisny (USA) and Carolina Kostner (ITA) who will fight it out for Gold, and then an inconsistent rest of the field who could fall into place any number of ways. Czisny & Kostner had nearly identical seasons in 2010/11 with each winning Gold & Bronze on the Grand Prix. Czisny finished one notch ahead of Kostner to win the Grand Prix Final while Kostner finished two spots ahead of Czinsy when she won Bronze at Worlds. Both have been inconsistent in the past but if they are both on, I'd prefer to watch Czisny any day. Her spins are among the best in the World, and in my opinion her artistry is far superior with grace and fluidity to spare, while I have always found Kostner to be a bit robotic. Bronze will be key here and there is no favorite now that 2010 World Bronze Medalist Laura Lepisto has withdrawn. Ksenia Makarova (RUS) had an up and down 2010/11 season and she withdrew from Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this month due to injury so only time will tell if that was serious enough to affect her here. Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO) made a coaching change in the off-season and seemed to have settled down a bit when she debuted at Nebelhorn earlier this month with a Silver Medal. Sisters Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) & Joshi Helgesson (SWE) had strong showings last year and normally Joshi is the higher scoring athlete, though she has a habit of finishing lower when she competes directly against her sister. We'll see if that trend continues. Haruka Imai (JPN) finished as high as 5th last season at Skate Canada, and though she is a nice skater, she has never reached the level of the top Japanese Ladies. Valentina Marchei (ITA) is a nice skater when she can land her elements and she too finished as high as 5th last season at Rostelecom Cup. At 25, she is pushing the age envelope for a singles skater and this could be her last season. Last but not least, America's host picks Caroline Zhang (USA) & Joelle Forte (USA) are dark horses to say the least. Zhang was a Junior phenom but never achieved success as a senior and you have to wonder if this may be the last year that US Figure Skating gives her International assignments unless she produces results. Forte is a pleasant skater, though I don't see a hugely successful career ahead of her given that she is making her International debut this season at age 25.

My Podium Predictions:
1) Alissa Czisny (USA)
2) Carolina Kostner (ITA)
3) Ksenia Makarova (RUS)

My USFSA Fantasy Picks:
A) Alissa Czisny (USA)
B) Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)
C) Joshi Helgesson (SWE)

Competitive History:

Alissa Czisny (USA)-5th 2011 Worlds, 5th 2011 Four Continents, 1st 2010 Grand Prix Final, 3rd 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard, 1st 2010 Skate Canada; PB: 182.25 at 2011 Worlds

Joelle Forte (USA)-7th 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 4th 2011 Gardena Spring Trophy

Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)-2nd 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 10th 2011 Worlds, 8th 2011 Europeans, 7th 2010 Skate America, 6th 2010 NHK Trophy; PB: 164.54 at 2010 Europeans

Joshi Helgesson (SWE)-3rd 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 15th 2011 Worlds, 2nd 2011 Mont Blanc Trophy, 6th 2011 Nordics, 4th 2010 Skate America, 7th 2010 Cup of China; PB: 149.08 at 2011 Worlds

Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)-5th 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy, 17th 2011 Worlds, 6th 2011 Europeans, 1st 2011 Nordics, 1st 2010 Merano Cup, 6th 2010 Skate America, 9th 2010 NHK Trophy; PB: 161.79 at 2010 Worlds

Haruka Imai (JPN)-3rd 2011 Gardena Spring Trophy, 2nd 2011 Asian Winter Games, 6th 2010 Trophee Eric Bompard, 5th 2010 Skate Canada, 1st 2010 O Nepala; PB: 155.29 at 2010 Four Continents

Carolina Kostner (ITA)-3rd 2011 Worlds, 1st 2011 Gardena Spring Trophy, 2nd 2011 Europeans, 3rd 2010 Skate America, 1st 2010 NHK Trophy; PB: 184.68 at 2008 Worlds

Ksenia Makarova (RUS)-7th 2011 Worlds, 4th 2011 Europeans, 7th 2010 Rostelecom Cup, 4th 2010 Skate Canada, 4th 2010 Finlandia Trophy; 171.91 at 2010 Winter Olympics

Valentina Marchei (ITA)-10th 2011 Europeans, 5th 2010 Rostelecom Cup, 8th 2010 Skate Canada, 2nd 2010 Coup de Nice, 2nd 2010 O Nepala; PB: 153.71 at 2010 Rostelecom Cup 

Caroline Zhang (USA)-9th 2010 Skate America, 7th 2010 NHK Trophy; PB: 176.48 at 2008 Grand Prix Final

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