Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Top Ladies and Gentlemen of U.S. Nationals (Or So I'm Guessing)...

Have you been keeping tabs on the goings-on over at the European Championships? Here are the snippets I’ve read:

+ Domnina/Shabalin took one of those “shocking” falls during compulsories and were fifth going into the OD, while Khoklova/Novitski sit in first. You know, the ones I predicted for… third. Rough start!
+ Meanwhile, Savchenko/Szolkowy had a “rare” (if not “shocking”) fall on the SBS triple-toe loops in the pairs’ short program, allowing Mukhortova/Trankov to claim the lead. You know, the ones I predicted for… nothing. Ouch!
+ But then I heard today that my men’s prediction for 1st place, Brian Joubert, nailed his SP and is leading Tomas Verner by 5 points.

Whew! Maybe it won’t be a complete strikeout after all… we’ll have to see how Carolina & Co. fare first.

Anyway, I’ve got some U.S. singles predictions to make…


Gold- Rachael Flatt
Silver- Ashley Wagner
Bronze- Caroline Zhang

What a tough choice for bronze! To be honest I’d really prefer to see Alissa Czisny up in 3rd (or anywhere on the podium)… when she’s “on”, she’s sublime. I’m just not convinced she’ll knock it out of the park this year. Maybe a base hit instead. (Hang on, the baseball analogies are bound to multiply.) So Zhang, who scored in the same general range at GP events this year as Czisny—and had the better time of the two at last year’s Nationals—gets the bronze prediction.

Basically, I moved last year’s champ Mirai Nagasu—who had a sub-par GP season and currently has ankle trouble—off the podium and moved last year’s silver/bronze/pewter up a space. Possibly not the best way to predict an outcome, but as it turns out it’s how I see Flatt and Wagner in their best-case scenarios… Wagner comes across as the more exciting and powerful performer this season of the two, but she also seems the one more likely to blow a jump.

Oh, and there are plenty of potential “spoilers” in the wings too—Katrina Hacker, Bebe Liang, Becky Bereswill, Alexe Gilles and Angela Maxwell all come to mind. Should be fun! Bring your popcorn.

And then be sure to save some popcorn for the MEN:

Gold- Johnny Weir
Silver- Jeremy Abbott
Bronze- Evan Lysacek

Here’s my theory, useless as it might be: Weir can be one tough cookie of a competitor. Not only is he gunning to get back the National title he lost to Lysacek in ’06, but he just lost the GP Final to JeremEEE. He knows what he’s up against from both of these guys, and I’m thinking he’ll deliver as perhaps he hasn’t fully done for a while (not even when he won World bronze). Just a feeling I have. And if it’s close between he and Abbott, I think the judges will lean towards Weir a little more on the performance components (please, no more TIES!!!).

As for Lysacek—first, a moment of silence because I heard his Gershwin costume from earlier in the season has been laid to rest (whew).

That atrocity notwithstanding, Lysacek seemed to get noticed for all the wrong reasons at Skate America and Skate Canada (namely, under-rotated jumps and questionable technique). While I’ve no doubt he’s been working on this like a crazy man since we last saw him compete, I can’t help but think the judges are going to have their sharpest eagle eyes on his feet, and are not going to give him the benefit of the doubt if said doubt rears its ugly head. (Or is it ugly feet?)

So… yes, I think a slip down to third place is very possible.

Spoilers for the men abound as well… Stephen Carriere is a very strong podium candidate, as is Adam Rippon (the latter of which just started training under Brian Orser). Brandon Mroz could have a shot; so could fresh faces like Curran Oi or maybe even Eliot Halverson. And certain veterans can’t be counted out either: what if Parker Pennington or Scott Smith pulled a surprise breakout performance? And if Skate Canada is any indication, Ryan Bradley remains as capable of stopping the show as ever.

Cleveland rocks—especially when it’s being rattled by triple axels and death drops! Let the marquee events begin!

As I started looking for Clip of the Day options, I learned that the Germans had come back in the free skate today to claim victory at Europeans. But since Mukhortova/Trankov finished with bronze—something I was rooting against, frankly—and since they won it on the strength of their SP, I’m giving it
Clip of the Day honors. By the way, Kawaguchi/Smirnov took silver.

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