Monday, October 14, 2013

2013 Skate America: Mens Preview

I'll preface by saying that there are no clear cut favorites in this Men's Event so my predictions are merely an educated guess. That being said, I'm THRILLED that figure skating season is back (especially in this Olympic year) and I am happy to get back to covering this gorgeous and dramatic sport with my skating family. Since the Men kick off Skate America with their Short Program Friday 10/18 at 7:00 pm EST, let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. They finish up Saturday at 7 with their free skate.

I have to go with a little combination of my gut and my heart here. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) will win this event. He is in the twilight of his career, and his body isn't what it used to be, but his artistry will carry him through this final Olympic season. His Lennon & McCartney free skate will showcase his showmanship and allow him to wrap the audience around his little finger as he always does. He only placed 6th at the 2013 Worlds, but I think he has the grit and the drive to go out with a bang this season. This event was a lucky draw for him in that he won't have to face Chan or Fernandez here in Detroit.

Max Aaron (USA) is the reigning US Champion and finished just behind Takahashi at the 2013 Worlds. While Takahashi is finishing a stellar career, Aaron is just beginning. He is poised to make a splash on his first senior Grand Prix circuit, and he will have the advantage of the home crowd. His technique is phenomenal and he is making leaps and bounds as a performer, though that will never be his strength. He will channel a younger Takahashi in his Historia de un Amor short and almost every other skater in the world with his Carmen free. I've been hearing good things about it, but I purposely am not watching any programs because I want to be surprised at the GP events. I think that great technical abilities and some home cooking will help him earn a medal in Detroit.
Denis Ten (KAZ) was the surprise of the 2013 Worlds. He has always been a talented but streaky skater, and he finally put it all together last March to earn a Silver at Worlds. Many even believed he deserved to beat a flawed Chan. This season will really tell the tale: is he still a streaky skater who will struggle with the mental aspect of the sport, or will he finally hold it together for a full season and prove that he belongs at the top of the sport? I think that his new International success will help improve his PCS scores, but that can only happen if he holds it together with the jumps. I think he'll make mistakes, but do enough to take a podium spot here in Detroit.

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) is facing probably the biggest season of his life. He is still young enough to
keep competing for several years, but he is at a crossroads in his career. He shows such promise early in this Olympic cycle, earning a World medal in 2011, but he has been sliding since then. He once had such clean technique, but he looks to be lacking confidence in his jumps and he lacks the showmanship of Takahashi and some of the other top men. If he can stay consistent, he will make Japan's Olympic team, but in such a competitive country, he won't make it to Sochi if he starts faltering early on.

Adam Rippon (USA) is one of our all time favorites, but this is a crucial year for him as well. After the 2010 Olympics, he seemed poised to take over the role of top male in the US, but that hasn't happened yet. He has made the coaching changes and every year we feel like this is the year for him, but something else happens that keeps him from taking that step forward. He earns the PCS for his artistry and his smooth lines, but he needs that quad. Let's stop talking about the quad and just do the quad, well that and the triple axel too. He is a very heady skater, so if he doesn't show well here at Skate America, that could be the season for him. If he does do well (and we are pulling for him) that could be just the confidence boost that he needs to ace the Grand Prix and earn a spot to Sochi.

I have to talk about Jason Brown (USA) because I love him and that's all there is to it. He, in my
opinion, is the future of US Men's figure skating because he really has it all, plus he isn't afraid to go all out and try new things, something we've been lacking in recent years. His new River Dance free is supposedly spectacular, but as I said above, I have been making myself wait until this weekend to watch them. Nobody is expecting him to medal, this is his first senior GP event, but because he has no pressure, watch out for him because he just could earn a medal if the favorites flame out

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Max Aaron (USA)
Bronze: Denis Ten (KAZ)

The Rest of the Field:
Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Artur Gachinski (RUS)
Alexander Majorov (SWE)
Jason Brown (USA)
Adam Rippon (USA)

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