Thursday, December 8, 2016

State of the 2016 Grand Prix Final Predictions

Since the ISU Grand Prix Final happens in conjunction with the Junior GPF, the entire event—in Marseille, France this time) takes place over three days instead of two. Which means the pairs and men’s SPs are coming our way Thursday afternoon! (ET)

But first, a couple of announcements…

+      I finally got my Cup of China review up a couple of days ago, but the one for NHK Trophy is still at large. I’m hoping for next week, of course, as I’ll be too busy tracking this GPF to devote any other skate time to it.

+      You may have read that me and my book Skating on Air: The Broadcast History of an Olympic Marquee Sport are to be featured on an upcoming episode of The Skating Lesson (the brainchild of National and GP medalist Jenny Kirk and Dave Lease; currently anchored by Lease while Kirk focuses on law school). While I can confirm that I was interviewed at length by Dave a few weeks ago, I don’t yet have a date that the edited interview will be released. He was hoping for this week when I last checked. I’ll keep you posted! It was a fun interview, once I got over my being-on-camera nerves…

+      For anyone that was trying to keep track of my GP prediction accuracy—here are my point totals out of a possible 36: 20 for Skate America… 23.5 for Skate Canada… 24 for Rostelecom Cup… 28 for Trophee de France… 30.5 for Cup of China… 28 for NHK.

Now back to GPF predictions. As with last year, I’ve gone ahead and attempted to guess ALL the placements, though my 36 point scale still applies (No credit for correct 4-5-6 guesses though).


MEN PREDICTIONS:

GOLD: Javier Fernandez (ESP)

SILVER: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

BRONZE: Shoma Uno (JPN)

4th: Patrick Chan (CAN)

5th: Adam Rippon (USA)

6th: Nathan Chen (USA)

I don’t know if predicting Javi for the win is calling a full-blown upset (over Hanyu), but that’s how I’m calling it.


LADIES PREDICTIONS:

GOLD: Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)

SILVER: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)

BRONZE: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

4th: Elena Radionova (RUS)

5th: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)

6th: Maria Sotskova (RUS)

Medvedeva is far from my favorite skate right now, but she seems pretty darn unbeatable right now.



PAIRS PREDICTIONS:

GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)

SILVER: Yu/Zhang (CHN)

BRONZE: Peng/Jin (CHN)

4th: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)

5th:  Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN)

6th: Zabiiako/Enbert (RUS)

With no Savchenko/Massot in the mix (she’s still injured from their French GP appearance), it looks like a pretty straight shot for Du/Rad to continue their domination.


DANCE PREDICTIONS:

GOLD: Virtue/Moir (CAN)

SILVER: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)

BRONZE: Shibutanis (USA)

4th: Chock/Bates (USA)

5th: Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)

6th: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)

V/M has already proved they can outscore Papa/Ciz; I don't think that much will change in 2 weeks time.


The IFS page of GPF streams, links, broadcast times, etc. can be found here



And if you’re on Twitter, don’t forget to look for me @KLBSt8ofSk8!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

2016 Cup of China Post-Mortem: Chan Triumphs While Wagner Misses the Mark

I know we’re all grieving the fact that there was no GP event going on this past weekend to take our minds off of all the things we need to think about and/or would rather not think about, but I’m trying to use these two weeks to get caught up on that which I haven’t reviewed yet. Like Cup of China, which took place only 2 1/2 weeks back but might feel exponentially longer with each day that passes. In other words, I’d better get this going.


CoCh LADIES was where…

Elena Radionova and Kaetlyn Osmond finished 1-2 and punched their respective tickets to the GP Final.

Ashley Wagner didn’t appear at first glance to have the kind of competition that takes you out of the GPF (no falls, no abundance of flip-outs, step-outs or popped triple jumps), but times are tight—and the relatively small errors she made all added up in the end to… sigh… a 6th place finish (lowest of her career as far as GP events are concerned) and a 1st alternate spot for the finale. It's the first time she’ll miss the GPF since 2011. And for those who were wondering… a 5th place finish at CoCh still wouldn’t have given her enough points when all was said and done. (Rika Hongo edged Ash out for 5th place by less than ½ a point.)

Liza Tuktamysheva went back to last season’s Peer Gynt FS—something I was glad to see, given that I feel this year’s Cleopatra music (from the 1963 OST) is clunky and disengaging—and delivered one of the better performances in her post-World Champion era. The results gave her 2nd place in the FS, 3rd overall, and the 2nd alternate spot for the GPF (right behind Wagner).

CoCh MEN was where…

Patrick Chan had me realizing I’m rooting for him a little more than usual this year. Why? Because as more and more younguns come out of the woodwork (or, more accurately, the Junior ranks) with quad this and quad-triple that, Chan’s one of those guys who was a little late to the quad game and now he’s probably working harder than he ever expected just to stay near the top. Granted, some of that may be on Chan himself—isn’t he the guy who once declared he didn’t need a quad (and certainly not TWO quads!) to win Worlds/Olympics/whatever?—but maybe that gives a little more reason to be impressed with his efforts. FWIW, Chan’s FS (to music composed by Eric Radford of Duhamel/Radford) is another exceptional work of art.

Chan did win in China, but by just a little more than one point. Boyang Jin followed up a rough effort at SkAM (where he finished 5th) to shine a lot brighter on home ice with performances that included his decidedly playful La Strada free skate that looks to be some sort of shoutout to those who slam the young World Bronze Medalist’s immature artistry. I think it’s a pretty good decision for him, actually… so long as a(nother) Charlie Chaplin routine isn’t in store for us come Olympic season.

As for the top U.S. man at CoCh, Max Aaron—there is bad news, and good news, and more bad news, and actually-pretty-new news to report (!).  The BAD: he under-delivered (again) on his “Nessum Dorma” SP and went into 5th place. (Though to be fair, it was several ticks upward from his Rostelecom performance of it 2 weeks earlier.) The GOOD: his Lion King FS was judged 3rd-best of the day, bringing him up to 4th overall. The MORE BAD: he missed bronze (awarded to Sergei Voronov) by about one single point. But if you’re as tired of seeing Max do the “Nessum Dorma” as I am—he’s had it as his short program for 2 ½ seasons!—here’s the ACTUALLY-PRETTY-GOOD-NEWS: Max is tired of it too. Or so one would assume via coach Tom Z’s Tweet on 12/4:

New @MaxTAaron bullfighting SP by PMills to music by @sandovalarturo1 to debut @KansasCity2017

So, yet another something-to-look-forward-to come late January…


CoCH PAIRS…

Since this was in China, I’m taking this space to clarify the different teams representing it these days…
--Yu /Zhang—the team that won here, was 2nd at SkCAN, and will consequentially be at the Marseilles GPF—features veteran Zhang Hao in the third FP partnership of his enduring career… and already seems to have much better chemistry (though still in that fatherly sort of way) with Yu Xiaoyu than he ever had with Peng Cheng.

--Peng/Jin—the team that came in 2nd here, 2nd at NHK (the review I’ve yet to post), and also will be at the GPF—is the other side of China’s partner switcheroo from the start of the 2016 off season. In other words, what used to be Yu/Jin and Peng/Zhang is now Yu/Zhang and Peng/Jin. And to watch Peng/Jin in these last couple events—particularly their megacute SP, to “My Drag” by Jimbo Mathus (formerly of Squirrel Nut Zippers)—is to wonder why they didn’t put these two together sooner.

--Wang/Wang—who came in 4th, as they have 3 out of the past 4 years at CoCH—were called up to this year’s event with about one month’s notice. They’re the ones that had an SP to “Steppin’ Out with My Baby” and a FS to “Love is a Many Splendored Thing.” Of the top Chinese teams, this is the one I tend to forget about the most. (Harsh, perhaps, but accurate.)

--Which brings us to the best Chinese team of recent memory… Sui/Han… who were NOT competing this time (they were the team Wang/Wang replaced). Injuries (mostly affecting Wenjing Sui) have taken this still relatively young team down time and again; this time she is still recoveringfrom surgery and it seems the 2nd half of the 2016-17 season is still uncertain for them. Perhaps with next season culminating in Pyeongchang, it’d be best for them to sit it out. Surely Yu/Zhang and Peng/Jin can keep three spots for China come Worlds time…?


CoCH DANCE…

Since there were no real surprises at the top in CoCH dance—the Shib Sibs beat Weaver/Poje by a small but fair margin—I’d rather turn the attention briefly to “the Dirty Dancing couple”, AKA Kaliszek/Spodyriev. For a team that was 16th at Worlds this year (and 24th last year), they gained some pretty good traction so far this season. While the Johnny-and-Baby shtick may have a lot to do with it (Who doesn’t love that film for one reason or another??), their SD has nothing to do with the film and played a crucial role in their finishing 5th (of 9) in China and 7th (of 9) a week later at NHK. So here are a few quick facts about these potential rising stars Natalia & Maksym:

1)      They represent Poland, but he (Spodvriev) is actually from Ukraine. He received Polish citizenship this year, though, presumably so they can compete at the 2018 Olympics.
2)      According to his ISU bio, one of Spodvriev’s hobbies is skydiving.

3)      From the YEOW! Files (or more accurately, Wikipedia): “During training in early November (2016) they had a fall, related to poor rink conditions in ToruĊ„, that resulted in her blade cutting two of his fingers.SO… if you hear that little tale from Tanith and Johnny (or whoever) in Pyeongchang, round about 14 months from now… remember who stole borrowed it from Wiki first!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

State of the 2016 NHK Trophy: Previews/Predictions (ALL disciplines)

It’s Thanksgiving here in the States, so I’m going to make this relatively short and sweet because I’ve got a meal for 13 people to oversee/complete!



And the events, in order of occurrence…

PAIRS:

GOLD: Du/Rad
SILVER:  Peng/Jin
BRONZE: Wang/Wang

DARK HORSE: Kayne/O’Shea

It’s another small pairs field at NHK; only 7 teams will compete. But the reigning World Champs (Du/Rad) are among them, and I think will easily defeat their closest competition (Peng/Jin, in my estimation) unless they skate super sloppy. Americans Kayne/O’Shea are my Dark Horse pick, but in this case it’s more like “best possibility to win 4th” because I don’t think they can reach the Chinese teams in terms of content.


LADIES:

GOLD: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
SILVER:  Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
BRONZE: Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)

DARK HORSE: Alaine Chartrand (CAN)

Another tough ladies field awaits us… but I think Pogo’s still got the upper hand here. Miyahara’s got the skating I prefer, but her tiny jumps are coming under increasing scrutiny and I don’t expect that to change here. Higuchi (impressive with a bronze in Paris a few weeks ago) seems very capable of claiming the remaining NHK medal… but as always this season I’m keeping an eye on the powerful Canadian skater du jour and this time it’s Chartrand.

Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen are the U.S. reps; both should finish within the top 6. What actually happens might be something else entirely…


MEN

GOLD: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
SILVER:  Nathan Chen (USA)
BRONZE: Jason Brown (USA)

DARK HORSE: Aleksei Bychenko (ISR)

With Hanyu skating relatively healthy (as far as I know), I don’t see how he does anything but win NHK for what would be the third time. His closest competition in the jumps department will be recent record-setter Chen; assuming he can hold it together a little better in the FS this time, his first GP medal may be imminent. Brown’s technique and artistry (and possible quad) put him in good standing to medal here as well. Bychenko is my dark horse because I spent a fair portion of SkCAN (his previous GP event, where he ended up winning his first-ever medal) wondering Why didn’t I make him my dark horse?? (I’m kinda weird that way.)  


DANCE:

GOLD: Papadakis/Cizeron (FRA)
SILVER:  Virtue/Moir (CAN)
BRONZE: Cappellini/Lanotte (ITA)

DARK HORSE: Sinitsina/Katsalapov (RUS)

Ah, THIS is where it could get really interesting. It’s the first GP of the season (or ever?) pitting the reigning French powerhouse against the once and future Canadian powerhouse. Virtue/Moir almost lost SkCAN to Chock/Bates on the relative weaknesses of their FD. My guess is that, rather than change up what they’re doing yet, they’re waiting to see how they measure up to Papa/Ciz before making adjustments (with Worlds in mind). Papz/Ciz outscored V/M in Paris so barring disaster, I think they’ll take NHK too.

The U.S. is represented this time by Cannuscio/McManus (aka CanMan) and Hawayek/Baker (don’t have a good nickname for them yet). Mid-pack is my guess for both of them.


This is the last GP event before the FINALS in a couple short weeks, so let’s enjoy it! See you on Twitter… and back here next week (with results/analysis on this one coming after results/analysis for Cup of China). 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

2016 Trophee de France Post-Mortem: 2 more U.S. Medals & Medvedeva's FS: a Closer Look

Again, apologies for the delay but here is around 1000 words worth of Trophee de France in review…

LADIES:  Reigning World Champ Evgenia Medvedeva won by more than 20 points, despite falling on an element (either a 3Flip or 3Lutz) in the free skate, so that might give you an idea of just how dominant she continues to be in her sophomore year on the senior circuit… if you weren’t sure, that is. Speaking of Med’s FS—aka the 9/11 “tribute”—I’ve heard several different opinions (and I posted a survey about it on Twitter a few weeks ago). Some are intrigued by the choice; most are troubled by it, and a few are downright offended. My take is mixed: 1) given the prickly current state of affairs between the U.S. and Russia, I’m not sure a Russian skater depicting someone enduring one of America’s darkest days is going to be an easy sell anytime soon. 2) I don’t know how much Evgenia knew about 9/11 going into this season, nor do I know how much input she had (vs. her coach and choreographer) in doing this program in the first place. In short—she just turned 17, and I don’t think I can hold a 17 year-old young woman fully accountable for decisions like this. Having said all that… 3) The biggest problem I have with the program—aside from the infamous “phone call” at the end of the piece and the (dreaded) voiceover material that plays during her footwork sequence—is the fact that it IS a 17 year-old (from ANY country) doing this program.  When Julia Lipnitskaia did the Schindler’s List program, part of why it worked was because she was believable as The Girl in the Red Coat. But asking a teenager to take on the role of a grown woman, and all the emotions that might come with a horrific 9/11 realization? I think that’s asking too much. Even of an athlete as exceptional as Medvedeva.

OK, sermon over. What else happened at this Paris event a couple weeks ago?

With the ladies…
+  We discovered France’s Laurine Lecavelier, who was down in 31st at 2016 Worlds but finished a surprising 6th here (after 11th and 12th place finishes the past 2 years). We also discovered that while you CAN wear a convertible costume for your free skate… it doesn’t mean you SHOULD… for Lecavelier skated her Grease FS squeaky clean until she turned from Sweet Sandy to Slutty Sandy (the part skated to “You’re the One that I Want”). Maybe that was the idea? That only Sweet Sandy= squeaky clean? Nah, probably not.

+  And unfortunately we also witnessed some new lows for two accomplished skaters: USA’s Gracie Gold toughed out her post-Worlds issues, came in 8th (her lowest finish in five years on the GP circuit)…and Japan’s Mao Asada toughed out what we’ve since learned are continuing knee issues (she apparently didn’t want to talk about it much with the press, for fear it would sound like she was making excuses) to do mostly double jumps en route to 9th place… her lowest finish in—GASP—11 years on the circuit. With no GP Final in sight for these two, hopefully both will have the time they clearly need to prep for their respective Nationals (late December for Asada; late January for Gold).


MEN:  I know the big news was either back-to-back GP wins for Javier Fernandez—who is gunning for his first-ever GP Final title—or the halfway-to-spectacular GP debut of USA’s Nathan Chen (record-breaking quad-riffic SP; somewhat subpar FS that killed his podium chances). But for some of you (and me for sure), I’ve heard the most exciting thing to come out of the Paris men’s event was back-to-back clean programs from Adam Rippon that included his first fully-rotated and landed quad in competition. I think Adam’s hard-fought-and-won National title infused him with the same sort of confidence we’re now seeing in World Bronze Medalist Anna Pogorilaya—that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” vibe that, in Adam’s case, has so far resulted in his most exciting programs—and best finishes—to date. And there are a LOT of great programs in his scrapbook. Whether he adds the GP Final to his accomplishments depends entirely on NHK results this coming weekend; Yuzuru Hanyu and Jason Brown are the two most likely to advance if they finish on the podium—but something tells me Adam will continue to do well either way.

DANCE: Reigning World Champs Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron made their GP debut on home ice and it was every bit as splendid as you might expect, earning them the highest marks (both in SD and FD) of any GP debut this season. USA’s Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue took a distant 2nd (nearly 20 points behind); both Hub/Don and Canada’s Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier were able to gain some ground over Russia’s Elena Ilinykh /Ruslan Zhiganshin when a non-element fall on Elena’s part kept their FD score from improving on their SkAM FD score.

PAIRS: Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot made like Javier and earned back-to-back golds (here and the previous week at Rostelecom). Unlike Javi, they took an injury in the process—Aliona strained ligaments in her ankle with their attempt at a throw 3axel—and last I heard they’d already planned to skip the GP Final to rehab it properly.


But again, the real story of the pairs event for me was another team entirely… France’s own Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres finally won their first GP medal in 6 years on the circuit! (OK, technically they won their first medal at this event a year ago, but as you probably recall the event was rewarded on SP only due to the terrorist attacks in Paris causing the rest of the competition to be cancelled. Methinks this time around was slightly more rewarding.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

State of the 2016 Cup of China: ALL predictions!

Since Cup of China runs overnight/early morning for U.S. audiences, I’m posting predictions for all four disciplines at once this time.

Here is that (hopefully helpful) ISU link I like to post…

I plan to join the Twitterverse starting with men’s SP at 6:05AM Friday!  


DANCE…


GOLD: Shibutanis (USA)
SILVER: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
BRONZE: Stepanova/Bukin (RUS)

DARK HORSE: Sinitsina/Katsalapov (RUS)

The Shibs drew first to skate in the SD, while Wea/Po and Sinit/Kat are the final two teams. All things being equal, that might cause the Shibs to score closer to 70 and Wea/Po to score 73— which are the “opposites” of their previous GP SD scores this season (Shibs had 73.04; Wea/Po had 69.81). However it turns out, I still think the U.S. Champs will beat out the Canadian Champs in the end of this one. After that, and the battle for which Russian team will get to the podium—I’ve got S/K as the Dark Horse because I haven’t seen them at all yet this season— the placement of the rest of the field is pretty incidental to me. (But if Cannuscio/McManus of the U.S. can secure a top 5 finish that would be pretty sweet.)


LADIES…

GOLD: Elena Radionova (RUS)
SILVER: Ashley Wagner (USA)
BRONZE: Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)

DARK HORSE: Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) or Mai Mihara (JPN)

Lots of interesting names in this field, which is why I’m allowing myself two dark horse options. Although I prefer Wag’s skating to Radio’s, and think she’s quite capable of the victory here, I’m going with Radio… by the point spread of a 3Lutz/3Toe to a 3Flip/3Toe and a few over-the-top emotional deliveries. If Osmond can keep her mega-powered jumps under control, I think a medal is easily within her grasp. But if not, be on the lookout for Tuktamysheva or Mihara. If both of them falter? Eyes to Courtney Hicks or home country fave Li Zijun, both of which did very respectably at Rostelecom a couple weeks ago.


MEN…

GOLD: Patrick Chan (CAN)
SILVER: Jin Boyang  (CHN)
BRONZE: Sergei Voronov (RUS)

DARK HORSE: Alexander Petrov (RUS)

So there’s Chan for the win, and, um… gee, let’s see, who else?
Well… you’ve got Max Aaron and Michal Brezina, but both of them have unreliable quad salchows of late. You’ve got teenagers Daniel Samohin and Alexander Petrov, and they’re exactly that—(undercooked, inconsistent) teenagers. You’ve got Jin… another teenager, but this one’s out to prove he doesn’t understand this “sophomore slump” thing everyone’s been talking about since SkAM. And finally, you’ve got Voronov, who’s been skating remarkably clean this season. But he can’t possibly keep that up… can he?

PAIRS…

GOLD: Yu/Zhang (CHN)
SILVER: Peng/Jin (CHN)
BRONZE: Wang/Wang (CHN)

DARK HORSE: Ilyuschina/Moscovitch (RUS)

A Chinese sweep? Yep, I think it’s quite possible. We already know Yu/Zhang are pretty good, and Wang/Wang won two medals on the GP circuit a couple seasons ago. Peng/Jin are the flipside of that change-partners thing with Yu/Zhang, except P/J make their debut here.


If I’m wrong about this potential sweep, the first one I’ve got in line to upset the applecart is Ilyu/Mosco… but they’ll have to skate a lot cleaner than they did at Skate Canada in order to do so. 

2016 Rostelecom Cup Post-Mortem: 2 More U.S. Medals and a Ladies' Podium Sweep Goes Awry

I know this is turning up almost two weeks after Rostelecom took place, but between prep for an interview I recorded with The Skating Lesson last week (!) and more than a little anxiety/distraction following the elections (!!), I’ve fallen behind. But I’m a No-GP Event-Review-Left-Behind kind of girl, so here we go:

LADIES:

1)      It was one of the collectively cleanest sets of SPs I can ever remember seeing in a GP event. The only fall, as I recall, was a fluke-ish one just after the double axel in Elizabet Tursynbayeva’s program (and she happened to skate last)!


2)      And the free skates were going fairly well too… all the way until Julia Lipnitskaia did that waltz jump that made everyone watching say UH OH. You’ve probably seen what happened from there— another non-jump, followed by around three minutes and 15 seconds of a bewildered Julia drifting between coach Alexei Urmanov and the judges/referees while she/he/they tried to determine what would happen next. Which, ultimately, was Julia insisting on completing her program… gamely and in obvious pain (and a hard fall on a double axel surely didn’t help). Here’s all I really want to say about this: Please, ISU, make a rule that if a skater has to stop a program due to illness or injury, the program music will not be re-started unless and until the COACH (not the skater) gives the signal to do so.

As British Eurosport commentators said at the time (paraphrased) about her (apparently supported) decision to continue: “She’s 18. Alexei Urmonov is not. He should know better.” Indeed.

3)      So Lipnitskaia finished dead last, and USA’s Courtney Hicks (who had already done well enough to leapfrog two skaters to move from 6th to a probably 4th place finish) claimed bronze. As Hicks herself said via Twitter, it wasn’t the way she wanted to end up on the podium. But the good news is that she skated quite well in both phases of the event (yes she was 6th after the SP but it was due to extremely tough competition, not any major errors on her part). And Hicks received two GP assignments—she’ll be at Cup of China—so while the competition there promises to be quite tight as well, she’ll get a second chance at the GP podium (unlike Mariah Bell, who despite her excellent showing at SkAM was passed over for an NHK spot when Polina Edwards had to withdraw due to injury).


4)      And as for Anna Pogorilaya—who also did back-to-back clean programs and easily won the event—there’s something I said about her on Twitter that others seemed to agree with: It's like she won World bronze she said "wait! If I can get this after the season I've had, I can get gold" & got to work right away. Honest to goodness this is a night & day difference from this time last year (except last year she wasn’t even one of the three Russian women invited to compete).

MEN:

1)      While I’m proposing rules about coach-only music restarts, here’s another proposal: If a competitor is bleeding for any reason, cut their music. It’s rare (unless you’re pairs World Champ Meagan Duhamel, who has actually encountered this twice that I recall), but it does happen, sometimes in the form of a bloody nose as it did with Sweden’s Alexander Majorov at Rostelecom. Whatever triggered his—it seemed to start after he took a fall on his opening quad toe, though the fall didn’t look to affect his face in any way—it continued for the rest of the program, making for a long and uncomfortable 4 minutes as Majorov became clearly distracted and the rest of us became mindful of the possibility of bodily fluids on the ice. He did, however, manage to do most of his final footwork sequence while pinching his nose with one hand… does IJS have a component score for that??  

2)      Former U.S. men’s champ Max Aaron didn’t fare too badly in Moscow—rebounding from an 8th place SP to finish 4th in the FS and 5th overall—but something that I found myself asking as he struggled through that Nessum Dorma short program was “Why do I feel like we’ve been looking at the same SP for Max since 2003?” Answer—because we’ve been looking at it since early 2015 (when he replaced “Footloose” with ND for Worlds), and nearly three years in SP Time feels like approximately 12 years in real time. Please, Coach Tom Z, give Max an SP reboot in time for Nationals!

3)      A fascinating story to keep watching, particularly if he makes it to Pyeongchang in 2018, is that of Israel’s Alexei Bychenko… simply stated, Rostelecom provided him one of the best competitions he’s ever had at this level (Personal Bests all over the place, and a Bronze medal to boot)… with the possible exception of Euros earlier this year, at which he earned silver. This from a man who didn’t even qualify for the FS at Worlds in his first two attempts (2012-13). This from a man who was 21st at the Sochi Olympics, and last place at Skate America as recently as last year. This from a man who will be 29 years old in February! Let’s watch him at his other GP assignment (NHK) and see if he can stay consistent enough to be considered a serious threat to crack Worlds Top 10 this year.

Since this is coming so late, I’m again going to skip over the Pairs and Dance disciplines of 2016 Rostelecom… EXCEPT to say

1)      Savchenko/Massot won here, but Savchenko damaged ligaments in her ankle on a throw 3ax at Trophee de France (one week later). So despite a win in Paris as well, they’ve already opted out of the GP Finals for which they easily qualified.

2)      Both Bobrova/Soloviev and Chock/Bates qualified for the Final with respective gold and silver wins here. I picked C/B to win, but an egregious error on Bates’ part in the FD (with the twizzles) combined with remarkably higher scores all around for Bob/Solo (compared to SkAM). Weaver/Poje made their season GP debut here and got bronze; their 2nd run at gold will pit them against the Shib Sibs at Cup of China.


Speaking of which… CoC predictions, which I’ll be posting late Thursday night so that everything’s up in time for the SPs. Those will begin with Short Dance at 2:30 AM (ET) in the wee small hours of Friday morning. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

State of the 2016 Trophee de France: Men and Ladies Predictions

OKAY… single skating time at Trophee de France!

MEN

GOLD:  Javier Fernandez (ESP)
SILVER: Nathan Chen (USA)
BRONZE: Adam Rippon (USA)

DARK HORSE: Takahito Mura (JPN) or Denis Ten (KAZ)

In this week’s quad battle, the most noteworthy soldiers are a veteran (25 year-old Fernandez) and a newcomer to the senior GP (17 year-old Chen). If nerves don’t get to Chen (have they ever?) AND he’s fully recovered from surgery (I assume yes if he’s here??), I think he’ll be a fine runner-up… so long as Javi doesn’t get sloppy.

Interesting times for Adam… Friday is his 27th birthday I believe… and as he flew over to France for this event (during Election Day in the U.S. according to his Twitter feed), he surely was affected by the news that a man who is not held in high regard by the LGBTQ community (to say the least, and to say absolutely nothing of his moreso running mate) was just elected president. Will it be business as usual this weekend for our current U.S. champ? I hope so because his programs this season are marvelous in a whole different way than they were last year.

I have two DH’s here because Mura was a real study in hot & cold at his last event (great SP, forgettable FS) but the odds are in his favor at GP events I think… while Ten has gotta be everyone’s favorite GP wild card by now, right? So long as he’s not skating injured… I haven’t heard much about him lately. Anyone know?

And if ANY of the men I’ve mentioned falter, I hope Misha Ge can crack the top 5 at least. (But again, I think he’s battling injury…)

LADIES

GOLD:  Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
SILVER: Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
BRONZE: Maria Sotskova (RUS)

DARK HORSE: Gabrielle Daleman (CAN)

I’m not a fan of her free skate at this point, as I’ve stated, but if she skates anywhere close to the way she did at SkCAN Medvedeva’s looking at yet another victory. Her closest competition, in my estimation, is Higuchi (who won Lombardia Trophy already this year and was 2nd at Japan Nats) and Sotskova (who won Nepela Memorial already this year and was 5th at Russian Nats).

I’ve no idea how Gracie Gold is doing a mere 3 weeks past SkAM’s reality check, but I think a top-5 finish at this point would be just fine.


Daleman I have for DH because she’s “got the goods”, if she can deliver them.

NOTE: Look for a belated Rostelecom Review over the weekend!