Thursday, March 30, 2017

Helsinki Hopefuls: 2017 World Figure Skating Predictions, Part 3 (Ice Dance)

Papadakis/Cizeron, Shibutanis, Chock/Bates, Cappellini/Lanotte, Weaver/Poje, Hubbell/Donohue, Coomes/Buckland, Gilles/Poirier, Sinitsina/Katsalapov, Guignard/Fabbri

(Two teams from this list are not at Worlds this year—Coomes/Buckland due to Penny’s continuing recovery from a shattered kneecap, and Sin/Kat because Bobrova/Soloviev’s return to the team & resulting success apparently bumped Sin/Kat from contention.)

What about 2017?

Since it’s ice dance, and I don’t have the skills to predict this like others can, I’m simply going to take what I know from this season & last season… work 3 “new” teams into the mix… and offer up this list without any further explanation. Enjoy:

GOLD: Virtue/Moir (CAN)

SILVER: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)

BRONZE: Shibutanis (USA)

4th: Chock/Bates (USA)

5th: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)

6th: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

7th: Weaver/Poje (CAN)

8th: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

9th: Gilles/Poirier (CAN)

10th: Stepanova/Bukin (RUS)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Helsinki Hopefuls: 2017 World Figure Skating Predictions, part 2 (Men)


Fernandez, Hanyu, Jin, Kolyada, Chan, Rippon, Uno, Aaron, Brezina, Hochstein
(The cross-outs indicate 3 of the 10, a.k.a. ALL the U.S. men from last year, will not be at Worlds this year.)

How about THIS year’s Top 10?

GOLD: Hanyu (JPN) … because he’s healthy this year (as far as I know), he’s an OGM, and I tend to think he’s carefully assessed the field this year (read: New guy Nathan) and will find what it takes to win… something he hasn’t done at Worlds since 2014.

SILVER: Chen (USA)… because I think he’s gonna medal, but I don’t think he can defeat a top-flight Hanyu… yet. P.S. I’ve heard some talk about him actually attempting SIX quads in his free skate this week, and I truly hope that’s not the case. C’mon, Raf (his coach), where’s that bubble wrap when we need it??

BRONZE: Fernandez (ESP)… because, simply stated, I think he’s been a little under par all season.

4th: Uno (JPN)… because his time is coming; in fact, it’s very close.

5th: Chan (CAN)… because despite having some exceptionally beautiful programs this year, his jump consistency has been spottier than ever. (Which is to say he’ll probably make the podium now that I’ve said this. Oh well. I stand by this guess.)

6th: Jin (CHN)… I know he’s the reigning Bronze Medalist, and that he’s got mad quads too, but his artistry-in-progress status puts him further down in the pack this season.

7th: Brown (USA)… because (sigh) without the quads—even if they’re wildly imperfect— this feels like a best-case scenario.

8th Kovtun (RUS)… when he’s “on,” look out. It doesn’t happen that often, but a top 10 finish would be a vast improvement over last season (when he finished way down in 18th place after a 21st-place free skate). So I’m wishing that for him… if only so it keep us from ever having to watch his “Hitchhiker” SP beyond this week.

9th: Bychenko (ISR)… because he still seems to be on an upward trajectory at age 29 (!!) but he’s never made the top 10 at Worlds before. Seize the day, Alexei.

10th: Kolyada (RUS)… because he was a surprise 4th last year, but to finish anywhere near that this season seems an even bigger surprise. Still, I’ve gotta root for this second coming of Ilia Kulik.

Who’d I miss? Michal Brezina (CZE) kind of feels like a top 10 coin toss at this point… Misha Ge (UZB) might be calling it a career after this season, so he might make a return appearance (his best finish was 6th, 2 years ago)… Denis Ten (KAZ) has his crazy, end-of-season ways of getting in there at times… and if none of them take advantage, Kevin Reynolds (CAN) or Keiji Tenaka (JPN) or Jorik Hendrickx (BEL) might be up for the challenge.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Helsinki Hopefuls: 2017 World Figure Skating Predictions Part 1 (Ladies/Pairs)

The ISU 2017 World Figure Skating Championships are upon us!!!
Who’s ready for it???

I’ll start by linking you to the broadcast schedule, which includes times for IceNetwork, NBC, and NBC SN…

And then I’ll offer the following disclaimer for my predictions (which start below with the Ladies and Pairs): I’m operating this “heavy machinery” (the computer) while medicated… picked up my son’s wicked cold over the weekend and now need drugs to keep my body temp under three digits (Fahrenheit). So if/when any of these guesses start to go waaay south, I’m going to claim delirium. You heard it here first! (Or DID you…??)


Last year’s top 10, in order: Mevedeva, Wagner, Pogorilaya, Gold, Miyahara, Radionova, Asada, Hongo, Daleman, Nagasu
(As the crossouts indicate, half the women from that Top 10 will not be at Worlds this year)

So who will be in this year’s top 10? Here are my guesses:

GOLD: Medvedeva (RUS)… because she’s damn near unbeatable right now, even if I will once again cringe during her 9/11 free skate.

SILVER: Pogorilaya (RUS)… because she finally realized how good she could be at Worlds 2016, and she keeps on improving.

BRONZE: Wagner (USA)… not because her skating is no longer the quality that got her silver last year, but because Pogo improved that much (though I’ll take Ashley’s programs over Anna’s ANYTIME).

4th: Higuchi (JPN)… just a feeling I have.

5th: Kostner (ITA)… she’s baa-aack, and she’s looking very good. I expect her artistic scores to carry her where her technical scores can’t.

6th: Sotskova (RUS)… she’s not quite “soup” yet, as they say, but she’s got consistent jumps and good lines.

7th: Mihara (JPN)… because she’s got the goods, at least most of the time.

8th: Osmond (CAN)… whew! She’s here, and she’s healthy! The quality of her skating isn’t what is was at the start of the season, but I love her power and flair (not to mention both her programs this year), and really want to see her up in the top 10. Or better.

9th: Chen (USA)… because it sounds like her “boot issues” from 4CC are behind her, and a placement like this will comfortably give us the coveted “three spots” we need for next year.

10th: Daleman (CAN)… because Canada deserves to have two women in the top 10 this year. Them women are FIERCE.

Who’d I miss? Choi Da-Bin (S.KOR), Laurine Lecavelier (FRA), Rika Hongo (JPN), and of course Mariah Bell (USA) all could make a run for the top 10.


LAST YEAR’S TOP 10, IN ORDER: Duhamel/Radford, Sui/Han, Savchenko/Massot, Stolbova/Klimov, Tarasova/Morozov, Volosohzar/Trankov, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch, Moore-Towers/Marinaro, Scimeca/Knierim, James/Cipres
(The cross-outs indicate 2 of the 10 will not be at Worlds this year.)

This year’s top 10 as I see it?

GOLD: Sui/Han (CHN)… because they are as good (or probably better) than last year, when they won silver... and I can’t say the same right now about the reigning World Champs.

SILVER: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)… their SP is dynamite; their FS, not so much (to me, at least)… but the judges have seen them very favorably all season.

BRONZE: Savchenko/Massot (GER)… because this relatively “new” team looks better and better, but they’re still capable of any variety of weird moments that might make the difference between silver and bronze.

4th: Duhamel/Radford (CAN): OH NO I DIDN’T! Yeah, I’m afraid I did… my prediction is that they will cap off a lackluster (for them) season with a podium miss. Sorry.

5th Stolbova/Klimov (RUS): I’m sorry, what programs are they skating again this year?

6th: James/Cipres (FRA): Wait, I can answer that last question for these two… Earned It (SP) and Disturbed’s version of Sound of Silence. I actually think they could place even higher, but their scores don’t always seem to match their caliber (grrr).

7th: Zabiiako/Enbert (RUS): Because the Cry Me a River pair could very well put all three Russian pairs in the top 10 (a feat they’re quite familiar with),

8th: Yu/Zhang (CHN): Because I can’t imagine the veteran-of-veterans, Zhang Hao, missing the top 10 with this partner.

9th: Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN): Because they’re freakin’ adorable and have charisma for days… if only they can keep their jumps under control.

10th: Knierim/Knierim (USA): Don’t hate me for trying to keep my expectations low for this hard-tested-in-life, but not-really-tested-on-the-ice (this season) team.

Who’d I miss?  Iliushechkina/Moscovitch (CAN) could crack top 10 again, and Denney/Frazier (USA) could pull a top 10 surprise too. And while they probably don’t stand much of a chance for it this year, keep an eye on the new Junior World pair champs representing Australia (yes, THAT Australia) Alexandrovskaya/Windsor.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Consider this a preview to the preview of Worlds 2017

Hey, I’m back!!
Now where was I when I left off…?

 (Wait. That doesn’t sound right.)

I’ll try again. So, who’s ready to check out next year’s Olympic territory at this year’s Four Continents Championship...

(Really? That was nearly a month ago!)

I'm so sorry. Let’s go with the headlines instead. Hey guys, breaking news: Gracie Gold split from coach Frank Caroll and relocated to Michigan

(What? More like ‘ALREADY LONG BROKEN’ news!!)

How about this: Reigning ice dance OGM Charlie White has developed quite the remarkable voice on Twitter—

(Girl, by now the news is that he’s on Facebook too, busting way past 140 characters. Come on.)

Wait, I’ve got it! Did you hear that Nancy Kerrigan is going to be—

(Part of the Dancing with the Stars cast which started Monday March 20? Yep. Got that too. She did very in week 1, by the way.)

(Hey now! Don’t be a hater.)

No! I’m glad she’s on the show! I meant Crap, I was late on that too.

(Oh. Also… U.S. Men’s Silver Medalist Vincent Zhou just won Junior Worlds.)

Really? That’s incredible!

(And the brother/sister dance team from the U.S. won Junior Worlds, too.)

But the Shib Sibs aren’t…

(No, dummy. Different brother/sister that won EVERYTHING they could get their skates on this season..)

Oh, the PARSONS! Right! And while I’m thinking about it, how did the Whip My Hair girl do?

(Starr Andrews?  She was 12th… Bradie Tennell was 7th… and U.S. pairs were 7th and 10th overall.)

Good Lord, if all that is a done deal, then it must almost be time for senior Worlds!

(Indeed. It all starts about a week from now.)

Aaaugh! I’ve gotta get caught up!

(I think you kind of just did.)

Oh! Well, that was helpful.

(Not to mention convenient.)

What should we do next?

(I don’t know about you, but I think some Worlds previews would be nice for whatever readers you still have…)

“Previews”? Plural? You really think I can get more than one written over the next 7 days?

(Hey, SOMEONE here has to be optimistic…)

Fair enough. What else you got, oh optimistic one?

(Well… let’s ask readers to post in the Comments if they’d like you to address anyone or anything in particular. Or if they’ve got their own declarations to make about the upcoming events in Helsinki.)


(That’s where Worlds is happening, you know…)

I DO know, thank you very much.

(… and why #Helsinki2017 and #WorldFigure both appear to be the Twitter hashtags.)

Are you sure? Two “official” hashtags seems very unlikely.

(Let’s hope someone sets us straight in the comments, then. No time to research THAT—you’ve got other prep work to do!)

All too true. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships-- Predictions Pt. 2

Predictions continue with Senior Dance (SP starts at 6 PM ET on the evening of Friday 1/20):

GOLD: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani
SILVER: Madison Chock/Evan Bates
BRONZE: Kaitlyn Hawayek/Jean Luc-Baker

DARK HORSE: Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus

Yeah, I shook this up a little. Not at the top, where I think the Shib Sibs will keep a steady presence and C/B (who had a rough GPF, you’ll recall) will stay at 2nd. But where’s Hubbell/Donohue (who outscored C/B at said GPF)? I’ve got them being edged out of the podium by way of Hawayek/Baker… not because of their respective free dances (both of which I’m quite fond of), but because H/D’s short dance. I appreciate the “history of hip-hop” theme, but even with the changes made since the start of the season it still feels like a frantic lesson… and if the judges happen to agree, it could be the point or two difference between 3rd and 4th.

And finally, predictions for the Men (whose SP starts at 8:30 PM ET, just after the SD)

GOLD: Nathan Chen
SILVER: Max Aaron
BRONZE: Jason Brown

DARK HORSE: Vincent Zhou

Because if Chen doesn’t win it this year (with a skating-while-injured Brown, and no Rippon at all), it’s gotta be because zombies attack him in the locker room or something.

But after that, who…?? Brown suffers from a stress fracture, and even though it wasn’t diagnosed until December I’m still wondering how much it might have impacted his very “off” NHK performance. So I’m looking for Aaron to repeat as silver medalist this year. And teenager Zhou’s got the goods to shake up the podium, especially if Brown is unable to deliver.

I’ll post more after U.S. Nats are over! Till then, I’m @KLBSt8ofSk8 if you want to chat or follow on Twitter.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships- Predictions Pt. 1

Predictions start with Senior Pairs (SP starts at 5:30 ET on the evening of Thursday 1/19):

GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier
SILVER: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc
BRONZE: Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea

DARK HORSE: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran

Both Cain/LeDuc and Denney/Frazier have been bringing it competitively this season better than most U.S. teams, but I’m leaning Denney/Frazier for gold because they have more to draw on in terms of experience (Cain/LeDuc just formed over the summer).

In any case, keep an eye out for the team of Deanna Stellato/Nate Bartholomay… he’s formerly of the 2014 Olympic team (w/Felicia Zhang), she formerly of the singles skating world—if you remember skating at the most recent turn of the century, that is. Persistent injuries took her out of the sport at age 17, but 16 years later—yes, age 33 now—she’s back! I’m not sure of their chances this year, but then again, the good thing about the always-fluid state of U.S. pair skating is that that Nats podium often appears wide open…

Pairs are followed by Senior Ladies (SP starts at 9:05 ET Thursday evening, right after the Opening Ceremony):

GOLD: Ashley Wagner
SILVER: Mariah Bell
BRONZE: Gracie Gold

DARK HORSE: Amber Glenn

Wagner because it’s hers to lose this year.
Bell because it’s time for her to make a big move up the ladder. Skate America and the silver medal she earned there proves she’s got it in her; the injuries keeping Edmunds and Pierce out are paving the way as well.
Gold for bronze because she’s had a rough year thus far and while recent reports indicate she’s ready to claw her way back, I don’t trust that she’ll be all the way there yet.  

Glenn over Mirai Nagasu for that Dark Horse slot because she was a better competitor so far this year. Mirai’s programs this year I like better than any other recent season, and I’m always rooting for her to put it all together, especially at Nats, but… well… we’ll see.

2017 U.S. Championships Preview: Senior Men

MEN at a glance…

Jimmy Ma (SC of New York) age 21, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 16th (2016)

Oleksiy Melnyk (Washington FSC) age 19, SENIOR DEBUT, 5th in Juniors last yr

Emmanuel Savary (University of Delaware FSC) age 19, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish 13th (2016)

Kevin Shum (SC of Boston) age 19, SENIOR DEBUT, 2nd in Juniors last yr

Alexander Johnson (Braemar-City of Lakes FSC) age 26, 7th time at Seniors, best finish: 6th (2016)

Jordan Moeller (Northern Ice SC) age 21, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 13th (2015) Withdrew due to injury in 2016 

Sebastian Payannet (Rocky Mountain FSC) age ??, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 14th (2016) xx

Dennis Phan (Birmingham FSC) age 31, 7th time at Seniors… best finish: 10th (2008!).

Pacific Coast
Scott Dyer (All Year FSC) age 25, 5th time at Seniors, best finish: 10th (2012)

Daniel Kulenkamp (Sun Valley FSC) age 21, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 10th (2016)

Shotaro Omori (Los Angeles FSC) age 21, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 12th (2016)

Sean Rabbitt (Glacier Falls FSC) age 26, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 9th (2016) 

Max Aaron (Broadmoor SC) age 24, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2013)

Jason Brown (Skokie Valley SC) age 22, 6th time at Seniors, best finish: 1st (2015)

Nathan Chen (Salt Lake Figure Skating) age 17, 3rd time at Seniors, best finish: 3rd (2016)

Timothy Dolensky (Atlanta FSC) age 24, 4th time at Seniors, best finish: 7th (2016) 

Tomoki Hiwatashi (DuPage FSC) age 16, SENIOR DEBUT, 1st in Juniors last yr 

Grant Hochstein (SC of New York) age 26, 8th time at Seniors, best finish: 4th (2016)

Ross Miner (SC of Boston) age 25, 7th time at Seniors, best finish: 2nd (2013)

Andrew Torgashev (Panthers FSC) age 15, SENIOR DEBUT, 1st in Juniors 2015 (out w/injury all last season)

Vincent Zhou (SC of San Francisco) age 16, 2nd time at Seniors, best finish: 8th (2016)

Most trips to Seniors: Hochstein… this is Senior Nats #8 for him.

“Most Senior” (aka oldest): Phan (31)

“Least Senior”: Torgashev (15)

Withdrawals: Reigning champ Adam Rippon is the only one I know of. (Had Rippon been competing, this would be Senior Nats #9 for him.)

Rookies: Melnyk, Shum, Hiwatashi, Torgashev

(Don’t Call It A) Comeback: Five whole years before Rippon won Junior Nats, Dennis Phan did the same (in 2003). Then came six years at the senior level. Now—seven years past that last appearance—Phan has qualified to compete yet again. Respect!!