Thursday, October 30, 2014

2014 SKATE CANADA: Pairs Preview

The 2014-2015 edition of the Meagan Duhamel show kicks off tomorrow. I hope she learns to point her feet for the event. The top two seem pretty clear here, but bronze is up for grabs.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Duhamel & Radford (CAN)
Silver: Sui & Han (CHN)
Bronze: Tarasova & Morozov (RUS)

Duhamel & Radford (CAN) pretty much felt they were guaranteed an Olympic bronze last year, but then Ksenia Stolbova happened. They repeated as world bronze medalists last season, but I feel like that's not enough for Meagan. She is in it to win it for another four years cycle, but finding the perfect programs will be key. The artistic side of skating is foreign to them, but God bless her vegan diet.

Sui & Han (CHN) are looking to hit the reset button after a strong campaign the last quad ended without a trip to the Olympics. Age is no longer a concern, and if they are healthy, they could be on the verge of a world medal this season. Now that they are teamed with Bin Yao and Hongbo Zhou, their ISU standing should escalate.

Tarasova & Morozov (RUS) have two of the most famous names in the figure skating world. They placed an impressive second at the Nebelhorn Trophy after also placing second at junior worlds last season. They have an excellent opportunity to medal here if they hit their elements.

The Rest of the Field:
Jones & Reagan (CAN)-4th at 2014 US International Classic, 7th at Skate Canada Autumn Classic
Moore-Towers & Marinaro (CAN)-No competitive history
James & Cipres (FRA)-5th at 2014 Europeans, 10th at 2014 Olympics, 10th at 2014 Worlds, 4th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trohpy
Vartmann & Van Cleave (GER)-9th at 2014 Europeans, 3rd at 2014 Coup de Nice
Aaron & Settlage (USA)-5th at 2014 World Juniors, 3rd at 2014 US International Classic, 6th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 5th at 2014 Skate America 

2014 SKATE CANADA: Ice Dance Preview

This Ice Dance event is going to be exciting! The winners will pretty much be a given, but about 5 teams will be in the mix for the rest of the podium. I can't wait to see the new programs!

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Weaver & Poje (CAN)
Silver: Hubbell & Donohue (USA)
Bronze: Gilles & Poirier (CAN)

Weaver & Poje (CAN) are finally the top team in Canada with the retirement (??) of Virtue & Moir. They finally took a world medal last season and they should remain perennial world medalists throughout this upcoming quad. They are an innovative team, usually tending toward more contemporary or sensual programs, so the Vivaldi free skate is a huge departure for them. They will likely play with many different styles of choreography to find the perfect piece for 2018.

Hubbell & Donohue (USA) are heading into a huge season. They barely missed the Sochi team and will want to lock up the second or third spot in the US before the hot juniors come up. They will want to outscore the Shibutanis from Skate America or stay really close to them. Their Great Gatsby program should highlight their connection and their romantic style.

Gilles & Poirier (CAN) are going to look to seal up the number two spot in Canada. From 2013-2014 they made a huge jump at Worlds from 18th to 8th and this year, in a depleted field, they will have the opportunity to make another big move.

The Rest of the Field:
Paradis & Ouellette (CAN)-5th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 4th at 2014 Skate America
Zhiganshina & Gazsi (GER)-7th at 2014 Europeans, 11th at 2014 Olympics, 11th at 2014 Worlds, 3rd at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 2nd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy
Monko & Khaliavin (RUS)-6th at 2013 Trophee Bompard, 5th at 2014 Rostelecom Cup, 1st at 2014 Ice Star Minsk
Hurtado & Diaz (ESP)-10th at 2014 Europeans, 13th at 2014 Olympics, 16th at 2014 Worlds, 2nd at 2014 Nestle Cup, 5th at 2014 Skate Canada Autumn Cup
Aldridge & Eaton (USA)-3rd at 2014 Four Continents, 17th at 2014 Worlds, 1st at 2014 US International Classic

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 SKATE CANADA: Ladies Preview

Much like the mens event, there are no clear favorites here in the ladies event at Skate Canada. About five different ladies could win this event, so it will be fun to watch. I have a feeling someone is going to even bomb the short program and come back with a strong free to medal. Anything can happen when there isn't a true headliner.

My Podium Predictions:
Gold: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
Silver: Ashley "Diva" Wagner (USA)
Bronze: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) is another in a long line of up and coming young Russian Divas. Girlfriend surprised us all by finishing fourth at Worlds in 2014 post-Sochi. She has been overshadowed by Sotnikova, Tuktamysheva, and Radionova in recent years, but she seems poised to make a name for herself and break out here.

Ashley Wagner (USA) is entering a crucial season. She will have to fight all of the critics that say she is too old, as well as all the young skaters who very well may prove she is too old. I question her decision to do the Moulin Rouge free skate, because I don't think it helps to fix her image. However, this might be her way of saying screw the skating establishment, I'm doing what ever I want. She tends to peak early in the season, so I don't see her leaving Canada without a medal of some color. She needs to make a strong showing to prove to USFS that she is worth investing in with another trip to Worlds.

Satoko  Miyahara (JPN) has a huge role to fill with Mao Asada moving on. The classic Japanese ladies have all gone, and they are waiting for their next champion to emerge. Satoko was a junior circuit star, but she never won a junior World medal. She peaks early in the season so I see her putting up a strong fight here. She won the Gardenia Trophy and the Lombardia Trophy here, so she shouldn't be rusty at all.

The Rest of the Field:
Brooklee Han (AUS)-14th at 2014 Four Continents, 20th at 2014 Olympics, 19th at 2014 Worlds, 4th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 10th at 2014 Skate America
Alaine Chartrand (CAN)-5th at 2014 World Juniors, 7th at 2014 Four Continents, 4th at 2014 US International Classic
Veronik Mallet (CAN)-13th at 2014 Four Continents, 7th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Julianne Seguin (CAN)-3rd at 2014 Skate Canada Autumn Classic
Rika Hongo (JPN)-8th at 2014 Junior Worlds, 1st at 2014 Triglav Trophy, 1st at 2014 Asian Open, 3rd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy
Hae Jin Kim (KOR)-6th at 2014 Four Continents, 16th at 2014 Olympics, 23rd at 2014 Worlds, 5th at 2014 Asian Open, 9th at 2014 O. Nepela
Alena Leonova (RUS)-4th at 2014 Europeans, 2nd at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Viktoria Helgesson (SWE)-14th at 2014 Europeans, 27th at 2014 Olympics, 2nd at 2014 Nordics, 8th at 2014 Lombardia, 4th at 2014 O. Nepela
Courtney Hicks (USA)-5th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 US International

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 SKATE CANADA: Mens Preview

I always like Skate Canada because for some reason I feel like they consistently get the best talent. I don't see anyone running away with this mens event like Machida did at Skate America. I think we will have a cluster of 5 at the top and 4-5 in the middle.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Silver: Takahito Mura (JPN)
Bronze: Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)

Javier Fernandez (ESP) has been hyped up for the past two years, but hasn't actually lived up to the hype for most of that time. He's the Gracie Gold of mens skating if Gracie had two world medals. He's a jumper and he performs like Elvis Stojko. Brian Orser needs him to step up this season in the depleted post-Sochi field. He hasn't competed a major international since Worlds so he may have to kick the dust off the tires a bit. The mixture of the tacky as hell Black Betty and highbrow "Barber of Seville" sum up Javier perfectly.

Takahito Mura (JPN) has suffered greatly from the depth of mens figure skaters in Japan. He won the 2014 Four Continents, won the recent International Challenge Cup and placed 2nd at the Lombardia Trophy. This is going to be his season to break out.

Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) has had an up and down go of it the past few years. The 2010 Grand Prix looked like his coming out party, but he has struggled with his jumps as of late and Yuzuru Hanyu blew by him at home. Missing the Sochi team must have shredded his confidence, but he finished a respectable 6th at the 2014 Worlds and will look to reestablish himself this season. I think he could've benefitted from performing a senior B event.

The Rest of the Field:
Elladj Balde (CAN)-11th at 2014 Four Continents, 18th at 2014 Worlds, 5th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Liam Firus (CAN)-28th at 2014 Olympics, 9th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Kevin Reynolds (CAN)-15th at 2014 Olympics, 11th at 2014 Worlds, 6th at 2014 Autumn Classic
Michal Brezina (CZE)-4th at 2014 Europeans, 10th at 2014 Olympics, 2nd at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Florent Amodio (FRA)-13th at 2014 Europeans, 18th at 2014 Olympics, 7th at 2014 Lombardia Trophy
Konstantin Menshov (RUS)-3rd at 2014 Europeans, 3rd at 2014, Nebelhorn Trophy
Max Aaron (USA)-8th at 2014 Worlds, 1st at 2014 US International Classic
Stephen Carriere (USA)-1st at 2014 O. Nepela
Adam Rippon (USA)-8th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy

Thursday, October 23, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Pairs Preview

Pairs is going to be an interesting discipline this cycle because the top two teams aren't competing at the moment. This will give those mid-level teams a chance to move up the ranks and will give the junior teams a fair shake.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS)
Silver: Peng & Zhang (CHN)
Bronze: Scimeca & Knierem (USA)

Kavaguti & Smirnov (RUS) have had a career plagued by a series of unfortunate events. They missed last season due to an injury and with it, their home Olympics. I'm pretty surprised they are still competing, but it should be a good year for them to grab another world medal with the depleted field. Lady Moskvina is still going strong and they won Nebelhorn this season, so they should be the favorites here.

Peng & Zhang (CHN) are not personally my cup of tea, but they have the big tricks. I am hoping that they spent the summer working on their components to create a better look on the ice. They shouldn't have much competition for the silver or even the gold here.

Scimeca & Knierem (USA) seem like the top US hope in pairs these days. They've struggled greatly with injury, but they had a breakout season in 2012-2013 and made the world team. They have beautiful lines and a great connection on the ice. If they can stay healthy, I expect them to really grow over the next Olympic cycle. This will be a great opportunity to win a Grand Prix medal.

The Rest of the Field
Ziegler & Kiefer (AUT)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 17th at 2014 Olympics, 22nd at 2014 Worlds, 5th at 2014 Coup de Nice
Grenier & Deschamps (CAN)-5th at 2014 Nebelhorn, 5th at 2014 Autumn Classic
Prolss & Blommaert (GER)-7th at 2013 Junior Worlds, 2nd at 2014 Ice Challenge
Aaron & Settlage (USA)-5th at 2014 World Juniors, 3rd at 2014 US International Trophy, 6th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy, 6th at 2014 Nebelhorn
Denney & Frazier (USA)-1st at 2014 Lombardia Trophy, 2nd at 2014 Autumn Classic

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Ice Dance Preview

Ice Dance is my favorite of all the disciplines, but this year we will be without the two teams that ran the table for the past five years. There are about 5 teams that seem poised to be perennial world medalists throughout the next cycle, and one happens to be here at Skate America.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Chock & Bates (USA)
Silver: Shibutani & Shibutani (USA)
Bronze: Stepanova & Bukin (RUS)

Madison Chock & Evan Bates emerged as the solid number two team in the US last season and just barely missed a world medal. With Davis & White temporarily retired, they are the top team in the US. Madison Chock was anointed by Tara Lipinski as one of the next great divas in ice dance, and we all know Evan Bates has some of the best technique in the sport, so they should have a nice run over the next four year.

Maia & Alex Shibutani are a classic example of what happens when you fall out of favor with ice dance judges. They were the young phenoms in the post-Vancouver season and have been dropping steadily ever since. This year is key for them. I personally think they should've left Marina, but that's neither here nor there. That Michael Jackson program was a hot mess last year, but the Strauss should be a move back toward the classics that helped them start off so strong on the senior circuit four years ago.

Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin are one of those throwback Russian teams. They bring the drama, the pain, and anguish, and the garish costumes. I can only hope she will grow into one of those grand Russian divas who conveniently forgets to take her mood stabilizers. They won junior worlds last year and with the recent split of Ilinykh and Katasalapov, the top Russian spots are up for grabs.

The Rest of the Field:
Orford & Williams (CAN)-5th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 US International Classic, 6th at 2014 Autumn Classic
Paradis & Oullette (CAN)-5th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Guignard & Fabbri (FRA)-8th at 2014 Europeans, 14th at 2014 Olympics, 2014 at 2014 Worlds, 2nd at 2014 O. Nepela Trophy
Testa & Csolley (SVK)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 23rd at 2014 Worlds, 3rd at 2014 O. Nepela
Cannuscio & McManus (USA)-3rd at 2014 US International Classic, 3rd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy

Monday, October 20, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Mens Preview

The Skate America Mens event is shaping up to be a great battle. We have an interesting mix of veteran skaters like Ten and Abbott, skaters approaching their prime in Brown and Machida, and last year's junior world medalists Nguyen, and Pitkeev. I'm having a really hard time trying to predict the results, but I will do my best!

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Silver: Jason Brown (USA)
Bronze: Nam Nguyen (CAN)

Tatsuki Machida (JPN) has been gradually improving in recent years, but last year he really stepped it up. He won Skate America and Rostelecom Cup. He finished an impressive 5th at the Olympics and won silver at worlds. He is a skater that starts off the season strong. He has all the goods and most importantly, is entertaining to watch. I look for him to defend his Skate America title.

Jason Brown (USA) is America's sweetheart and last year about this time was when he began his steady climb to Sochi. He is still working on the advanced jump content, but he has everything else, plus that X-factor that can't be quantified. I don't look for him to be perfect here, but I think he will lay down the ground work for a strong season. He will be well trained, having already won Nebelhorn, while others may not be quite tuned up in competitive shape yet.

Nam Nguyen (CAN) could be the next big thing. He was the junior world champ in 2014 and finished a respectable 12th on the senior level. With Patrick Chan's skating future uncertain, Nam will be Canada's best hope in the mens event moving forward. The past few years we have seen the young ladies make much stronger senior Grand Prix debuts, but I think Nam will be ready to go. Skate America tends to be a messy event, particularly in the mens event with the early season quad and triple axel attempts, so the most prepared will make the podium.

The Rest of the Field:
Jorik Hendrickx (BEL)-9th at 2014 Europeans, 16th at 2014 Olympics, 17th at 2014 Worlds
Chafik Besseghier (FRA)-12th at 2014 Europeans, 9th at 2014 Olympics, 3rd at 2014 Challenge Cup
Alexei Bychenko (ISR)-10th at 2014 Europeans, 21st at 2014 Olympics, 15th at 2014 Worlds, 7th at 2014 Nebelhorn, 5th at 2014 Finlandia
Denis Ten (KAZ)-4th at 2014 Four Continents, 3rd at 2014 Olympics
Michael Christian Martinez (PHI)-19th at 2014 Olympics, 1st at 2014 Triglav Trophy, 6th at 2014 Lombardia Trophy
Artur Gachinski (RUS)-8th at 2013 Skate America, 6th at 2013 Cup of Russia
Adian Pitkeev (RUS)-2nd at 2014 World Juniors, 3rd at 2014 Trophy Lombardia
Jeremy Abbott (USA)-12th at 2014 Olympics, 5th at 2014 Worlds
Douglas Razzano (USA)-2nd at 2014 International Challenge Cup, 4th at 2014 US International Challenge

Sunday, October 19, 2014

SKATE AMERICA 2014: Ladies Preview

We are about to kick off the 2014-2015 figure skating season and I couldn't be more excited! I'm still feeling a little bit of the post-Olympic hangover, of course, but I love the fresh feeling of starting a new Olympic cycle. These skaters have a blank canvas ahead of them and the youngsters will start emerging as the favorites. Many of our favorites are returning and a handful of the great juniors have moved up, so here we go! Skate America kick off on Friday October 24th from Chicago, IL.

Podium Predictions:
Gold: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
Silver: Gracie Gold (USA)
Bronze: Elena Radionova (RUS)

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) was a phenom on the senior ISU circuit a few years ago, but the growing pains hit her hard last season. Missing out on the Sochi team was certainly devastating for her, but she appears locked and loaded to make a comeback. She swept the senior B events earlier this season, winning Nebelhorn, Finlandia, and Coup de Nice. This could be her year to go for a world title.

Gracie Gold (USA) has everything needed to be a perennial world medalist, and certainly the drive, but we question whether she can put everything together in the same competition. Her Phantom of the Opera program choice is a red flag for me, because I question if she has the musicality to really sell that grandiose music. If she tells us one time that she "watched the movie" for inspiration, I'm going to vomit. She generally peaks later in the season, so while I think she will have a strong competition, I think she will make one more mistake than Liza and take the silver. She finished a strong 4th at the Sochi games and is poised to remain at the top of the field for the next Olympic cycle.

Elena Radionova (RUS) was the surprise of the senior ISU circuit, but was not eligible for the Olympics. She's been known for her technical work, not her artistry, and I think that will hurt her against Gold and Tuktamysheva. Don't be surprised if you see a drop off from last season, as we did with Liza last year, but she will still be competitive.

The Rest of the Field
Brooklee Han (AUS)-14th at 2014 Four Continents, 20th at 2014 Olympics, 19th at 2014 Worlds, 6th at 2014 US Classic, 4th at 2014 Nebelhorn Trophy
Mae Beranice Meite (FRA)-5th at 2014 Europeans, 10th at 2014 Olympics, 15th at 2014 Worlds
Elene Gedevanishvili (GEO)-10th at 2014 Europeans, 19th at 2014 Olympics
Haruka Imai-4th at 2014 Four Continents
So Youn Park (KOR)-9th at 2014 Four Continents, 21st at 2014 Olympics, 9th at 2014 Worlds, 3rd at 2014 Asian Open
Natalia Popova (UKR)-23rd at 2014 Europeans, 28th at 2014 Olympics, 21st at 2014 Worlds, 4th at 2014 Coup de Nice
Samantha Cesario (USA)- 8th at 2014 Four Continents, 2nd at 2014 Finlandia Trophy
Mirai Nagasu (USA)-4th at 2010 Olympics, 10th at 2014 Four Continents, 5th at 2014 US Classic