Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Wrap-Up of International Nationals to Close Out 2011...

Updates, as promised, on two recently completed Nationals…

In what may have felt a little like an emotional repeat of Joannie Rochette’s performances at the Vancouver Olympics, Mao Asada completed her own return to the ice (following her mother’s recent passing) with a national title— her fifth. Although Kanako Murakami was the “overnight leader” (meaning after the SP), she was only able to hang on to bronze by the event’s end. In between the two was Akiko Suzuki, who actually bested Asada by one point and won the free skate (a sort of reverse on their performances at NHK, if memory serves me correctly). Fourth place went to Haruka Imai; fifth to Miu Sato, sixth to Satoko Miyahara. Can anyone share if the top three (Asada, Suzuki, Murakami) are officially representing Japan at Worlds, or if Four Continents results will have any bearing on that decision?

By now you probably know the answer to my earlier question about Evgeny Plushenko competing at Russian Nationals… yes, he did, and yes, he did in fact win the event. How will he fare against the likes of Javier Fernandez at Europeans (not to mention Chan and Dice-K at Worlds) remains to be seen. What’s that you say—Plushy can’t compete at Worlds this year; he can’t possibly have the ISU point minimum, since he hasn’t competed since Vancouver? Well, not to worry, according to
this article that ran at Golden Skate:

Plushenko…faces an unexpected challenge on his road to the ISU Championships: he does not have a minimal score which the ISU requires, and there are no competitions for Senior single skaters planned until the Europeans in the end of January.

“We are aware of the problem,” said coach Mishin. “We are working on it, but I am not going to tell you what we are doing.”

Without even speculating on what that might mean, can I just say that this is one of the reasons I don’t like Plushenko returning to competition. That above-the-law vibe is already creeping in… just sayin'.

Enough about that. The ladies event saw Adelina Sotnikova take home her third straight national title, with Julia Lipnitskaia (the one with the insane extensions that I’d like to re-name Julip Gumbyskaia) taking silver, and Alena Leonova getting bronze (she took a tumble on her 3T/3T in the short program; not sure about her free skate). Ksenia Makarova, she of the very rough GP season, managed a 4th place finish. As for Liza “with a triple lutzzzzzz” Tutkamysheva, she too fell on her planned 3/3 in the SP and had to settle for 6th place this year. But, like Sotnikova and Gumbyskaia, she is too young to compete at Worlds this year anyway. That results in Leonova and Makarova heading to Euros, with the third spot apparently up in the air between 7th place finisher Polina Korobeynikova (who apparently may have visa issues) and 9th place finisher Sofia Biryukova.

The pairs event was made a lot less interesting with the absence of both Volosohzar/Trankov and Kavaguti/Smirnov—both of whom got waived from the event due to injury (but will still be able to compete at Euros based on their strong GP performances). This cleared the way for Bazarova/Larionov to win their first-ever national title, with Stolbova/Klimov in silver and Martiusheva/Rogonov in bronze. As for dance, Bobrova/Soloviev nabbed their second straight national title, with Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Riazanova/Tkachenko rounding out the top 3.

This is likely my last post of the year… and incidentally, I’m told this is my 500th post since this blog launched in April 2008. So thanks as always for reading… Happy New Year, wherever you are… and here’s to (at least?) 500 more posts at State of the Skate!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

While the U.S. Nats are a Month Away, the Rest of the World Says...Game On!

Just a quick recap of some International Nationals... if you know what I mean...


MEN: Dice-K got a freakin’ 96+ on his SP, allowing him to win the title (his 5th one) despite having only the third best FS. Yurzuru Hanyu, who pulled off the top-scoring FS of the event, moved from 4th to 3rd overall and earned his first-ever spot on the world team. Sandwiched between the two was Takahiko Kozuka, whose scores indicate he was very, very good, but just not The Best (which as we all know is blazing amazing over in Japan). Fourth place went to Tatsuki Machida, 5th to Takahito Mura, and 6th to Daisuke Murakami. If you’re wondering about Nobunari Oda, you probably didn’t hear that he withdrew from Nationals due to an ongoing injury in his left knee. (I didn’t read as to whether or not his injury attributed to his Trophee Eric Bompard meltdown in the free skate.)

LADIES: Only the SP has been skated as of this posting; with a difference of just .16 points, Kanako Murakami leads Mao Asada (competing for the first time since her mother’s passing just a few weeks ago). Akiko Suzuki is almost four points behind, in 3rd, with Yuki Nishino a little more than a point behind her… and Haruka Imai less than a point behind her, in 5th. So it’s as fierce as ever, the battle for this title.

If you have something you’d like to say once the free skate takes place, please leave a comment!

Elsewhere around the globe:

Russian Nationals are just getting started; rumor has it Plushenko is competing this year. Any confirmations?

French Nationals are complete; Brian Jourbert (remember him?) won easily over Florent AmodioYretha Silete won for the women, with Mae Berenice Meite serving once again as runner-up.

And also complete are the Czech, Slovak, and Polish Nationals (one nationals for all three countries)… where Tomas Verner (remember HIM??) won easily over what must’ve been a way-underperforming Michal Brezina. But thanks to Brezina’s 4th place at Worlds last season, I believe both men will be able to represent their republic in Nice a few months from now (unless the outcome of Europeans can play a factor…?)

The holidays may keep me from posting again for a few days, but I hope to at least post some updates on Japanese and Russian Nationals. Until then… best wishes of peace and happiness to you as we near the end of 2011!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We Have A Winner!

Congratulations to Krista H. of Ft. Worth, Texas... her name was the one drawn tonight for a personally autographed copy of Skating on Air!

And big thanks to all who entered; it was great to hear from so many of you! I'll have to consider doing another one of these giveaways somewhere down the road...

Last Chance to Win a Copy of Skating on Air!

Just a quick post to remind everyone that the drawing for a free, personally autographed copy of Skating on Air will be TONIGHT! If you haven't entered yet, please drop me an email with your name and location (city and/or state/province/etc. is fine)at KLawrence997-at-gmail-dot-com. As long as you don't see a post here announcing that we have a winner, there's still time...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Silver and Bronze... a Different View of the 2011 Grand Prix Final

As this first half of the 2011-12 figure skating season came to its unofficial close over the weekend, there were two sorts of questions filling my head. One was the short, impetuous sort—

Chan feels underappreciated in Canada??
Chan won that free skate over Dice-K???
Do I like the silver unitard look for Kostner? Well, do I???

And then came the more contemplative kind, where I ruminated over the placements of all the skaters… particularly the ones who finished with silver and bronze. Have you noticed that medals are often accompanied by one of three emotions: relief (see Jeremy Abbott at Cup of Russia, where he “held on” by the skin of his components scores to win the bronze)… joy (see Nan Song’s story thus far this season)… or disappointment, often of the bitter variety (see Nancy Kerrigan, Surya Bonaly, Irina Slutskaya…).

So which emotion likely dominated with this GPF’s runner-up medalists? Let’s see…

Akiko Suziki’s Silver? Joy. When have we seen her exhibit anything else? Suzuki’s love for this sport lights up her whole body, trails out of her fingertips, and leaves little sparkles on the ice when she’s done spinning on it. And while she surely would have loved to come out at the top of the leader board here, a silver is still her best finish ever at this event… bring on Japanese Nationals, for we’d better see her at Worlds this year!

Alena Leonova’s Bronze? Big-time joy. For in my alternate universe (and maybe even hers), a non-injured Alissa Czisny would have come away with at least a bronze at this event. Which is not to say that Leonova was lucky to get anything—she’s having a great season, and definitely earned it, in my estimations—but in an event that anticipated the pain-free presence of both Czisny and Mao Asada (not to mention Carolina Kostner and everyone else), a medal for Leonova was far from a lock.

Daisuke Takahashi’s Silver? Let’s call it “gracious relief.” Coming back from a fifth-place SP to win any medal at all would have been impressive… but he more than did that—he won the free skate! Or so I hoped, after seeing all the errors that (once again) plagued Patrick Chan’s program. You’ll see from
this article that Dice-K acknowledges Chan’s flaws at the GPF… but rather than complain about his scores, he rationalizes them, concluding that Chan’s jumping technique must be superior to his, and confirming his need to bring a more consistent quad jump to both programs. Was he just being polite, hiding away frustrations? Beats me. All I can say is that Dice-K is one classy gentleman.

Javier Fernandez’s Bronze? Absolute freakin’ joy. I mean, think about it: I remember being happy for him last year because he’d cracked the top 5 at Skate Canada. Now look at him: two effortless quads… two silver GP medals… and now a bronze GPF medal to boot? What a season so far! And to think, this guy was barely breaking into the top 20 at Worlds back in ’09…


Volosohzar/Trankov’s Silver? Disappointment, to judge by the look on Trankov’s face after the scores went up in the Kiss’n’Cry. It was thisclose, to be sure—only .18 separated them from winners Savchenko/Szolkowy—and their content was pretty compatible. But Sav/Szol got the upper hand on the element score, with just enough of a boost on the component side to help them overtake Vol/Trank. Was it a case of the German’s experience helping them “earn” higher components? Maybe. Was Trankov justified in his disappointment? Maybe. But if I was Trankov, I’d cool my jets. His time is coming… and by the way, don’t you love this well-matched rivalry that has developed? (Sorry to say that I love it quite a bit more than Savchenko’s new hairdo.)

Kavaguti/Smirnov’s Bronze? I’m going with relief here… got to admit I’m feeling for these two just a little; it must be hard to basically tread water at an advanced level for several years while others (particularly teammates) swim over and under them. They finished this event a good 25 points behind the top two, so there just isn’t much of a contest for them for gold right now. It’s all about bronze, and they bested their closest competition (Zhang/Zhang) by about 5 points… so I hope they’re reasonably happy with their prize.


Virtue/Moir’s Silver? Well, these good-natured kids just seem to go back and forth with the top prizes, volleying with Davis/White, and it’s “only” the GPF, not Worlds, so…

Wait a minute. Did you read what I read about Scott Moir’s reaction to silver? It’s a piss-off? Bitter pill to swallow? Implications that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet; just wait until his wrath is unleashed if they lose gold at Worlds this year… Look out! The little knit stretchy gloves are off! I smell a rumble!!

In other words, pour V/M a big steaming cup of disappointed. With a bitter chaser, thank you very much. So we’ve got an ongoing (but still building) rivalry in Dance, and a fast-developing rivalry in Pairs. LOVE it! Game on, everyone!

Oh, and lest I forget: Pechalat/Bourzat’s Bronze? Let’s call that relative joy—surely they feel things are back in place with this event, having edged out Weaver/Poje and easily defeated the Shib Sibs (aka The Ones Who Got The Bronze When Bourzat Went Down). But, like Kavaguti/Smirnov, they are still no match for the Top Two in their field. And I don’t know if this Skate-Like-An-Egyptian-themed FD is going to get them any closer; last year’s Chaplin program remains my favorite from them.

One more thing to mention: I haven’t mentioned the Junior GPF lately. I plan to rectify that later in the week as I do some more “catching up,” but until then… be sure to watch Jason Brown’s gold medal-winning free skate. He’s still lacking a triple axel—or at least isn’t doing it in competition yet—and of course, that won’t get him very far at the senior level. But when others in this event faltered on that coveted jump, Brown’s stellar technique and beyond-his-years sophistication put him at the top of the heap.

***Don’t forget to enter your name for the chance to win a free, personally autographed copy of my book Skating on Aircheck this post from the other day for details. The drawing will be this coming Saturday, December 17.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Le 2011 Grand Prix Finale At-A-Glance

Welcome to Quebec City… the capital city of the Quebec province, home to the stunning Chateau Frontenac, and the only place I’ve ever been where I could find Crush Crème Soda (with pink labels on the bottles). My husband and I spent part of our honeymoon in Vieux-Quebec back in 1997, and hope to get back there someday. It won’t be anytime soon, unfortunately… so I’ll have to report on the ISU Grand Prix Final and Junior GP Final from my home office, as usual.

(And as you might guess—especially with it not being readily available on IceNetwork—I’m not going to do much with the JGP this week except take note of the placements, especially when they involve Americans.)

Here’s the IceNetwork schedule for the Senior GPF this weekend:

Friday, Dec. 9

1:00 p.m.: Senior ladies short program
2:05 p.m.: Senior short dance
8:00 p.m.: Senior pairs short program
9:15 p.m.: Senior men's short program

Saturday, Dec. 10

3:40 p.m.: Senior ladies free skate
4:55 p.m.: Senior men's free skate
8:15 p.m.: Senior pairs free skate

Sunday, Dec. 11
1:50 p.m.: Senior free dance

And here’s the schedule for Universal Sports, as posted at the USFSA site a few months ago (please note that NO schedule was posted at the Universal web site as of Thursday evening)

Friday, Dec. 9
Ladies short & Short dance (LIVE) - 1-3 p.m.
Pairs short & Men's short (LIVE) - 8-10:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 10
Men's free (LIVE) - 5-6 p.m.
Pairs free (LIVE) - 8:30-10 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 11
Free dance - 5-6 p.m.
Ladies free & Men's free (NBC re-air) - 8-10 p.m.**

** Which means, I believe, that you should be able to see the Ladies and Men's Finals on NBC Sunday afternoon. (UPDATE: A Tweet from Michael Weiss-- who's doing commentary this weekend-- says it'll be at noon Eastern time Sunday.)

So real quick, here are the senior GP Final entrants (last names only) as well as a brief list of some of their strengths/weaknesses:

MEN: Chan, Takahashi, Abbott, Brezina, Fernandez, Hanyu

Chanplus: Reigning World Champion, home-country fave, judges love his mastery of everything artistic
Chanminus: Occasionally falls all over the place,

DiceKplus: Can (at least) match Chan artistically
DiceKminus: Not as many consistent quads, occasionally falls all over the place

Abbottplus: Breathtaking choreography and execution
Abbottminus: Is zero-for-2 on quad attempts this year

Brezinaplus: Solid triple axel, two quads in arsenal
Brezinaminus: Stamina issues; sometimes listens to bad (coaching) advice

Fernandezplus: Wonderful jumping technique; arsenal includes two quads
Fernandezminus: Hasn’t yet earned the component love from judges

Yuzuruplus: Is developing strong sense of artistry at early age
Yuzuruminus: Lacks the experience of his competitors

LADIES: Tuktamysheva, Kostner, Suzuki, Czisny, Leonova

NOTE: Mao Asada was scheduled to compete, but returned to Japan today when she learned her mother is critically ill. It happened too late for an alternate to be brought in.*** UPDATE*** The Japanese press is reporting that Asada's mother has now passed away. She was only 48. Very sad. Prayers and peace to the Asada family.)

Tuktaplus: Has a triple lutz/triple toe, jumps are technically superb, she is waay younger than all other ladies here
Tuktaminus: Triple flip occasionally a problem, not as artistically advance as others

Kostnerplus: Fast, has elegant lines, has an occasional triple toe/triple toe
Kostnerminus: No triple lutz at all, let alone a 3lutz/3toe

Czisnyplus: Is a spinner extraordinaire, amazingly smooth, may try her own triple lutz/triple toe
Czisnyminus: Is frequently dinged for underrotated jumps, still battles nerves on occasion

Suzukiplus: Wonderfully musical, skates with obvious joy
Suzukiminus: Jumps can be inconsistent

Leonovaplus: Very animated; jumping technique seems improved over last year
Leonovaminus: See Suzukiminus

PAIRS: Volosozhar/Trankov, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Zhang/Zhang, Takahashi/Tran, Duhamel/Radford

Vol/Trankplus: Power skaters, very consistent, great chemistry
Vol/Trankminus: Still lacks team experience of other top couples

Sav/Szolplus: Power skaters, reigning world champs, inventive FS
Sav/Szolminus: Occasionally self-destructs mid-program

Kav/Smirplus: Artistically more delicate, jumping has improved
Kav/Smirminus: Throw jumps aren’t as steady as other two

Zhang/Zhangplus: Tons of experience, huge throw jumps
Zhang/Zhangminus: Can seem emotionally detached from programs

Taka/Tranplus: Young, budding talent with fresh music and moves
Taka/Tranminus: Inexperience amongst veterans

Duh/Radplus: Power skaters, good jumping
Duh/Radminus: Have been known to engage in (unintentional) bloodshed during programs

DANCE: Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, Shibutani/Shibutani, Bobrova/Soloviev, Pechalat/Bourzat, Weaver/Poje

Davis/Whiteplus: To-swoon-for twizzles, reigning world champs, FD that many are already saying should become “their signature dance”
Davis/Whiteminus: As White demonstrated at Cup of Russia, they are hardly infallible as skaters. A stumble like he took there in the SD could make all the difference in a tight race with V/M.

Virtue/Moirplus: Reigning OGMs, home country advantage, charming FD
Virtue/Moirminus: though they haven’t competed head-to-head since Worlds, V/M’s FD has not scored as highly as D/W’s in both couples’ two outings so far this season.

Shibsplus: Classic dance style, well-established for their ages
Shibsminus: Current free dance might be seen as too similar to previous free dance

Bobroplus: Classic Russian style, FD is drama-riffic
Bobrominus: Drama-riffic might cross the line to overwrought

Pech/Bourplus: Strong, inventive, Bourzat skating healthy again (following a bronchitis-laced trip to Skate America)
Pech/Bourminus: in a likely battle for bronze, Pech/Bour could be outdrama-ed by either Bobrova/Soloviev or Weaver/Poje

Weaver/Pojeplus: Home country advantage; plus their stock continues to rise even with V/M on the scene full-time
Weaver/Pojeminus: Weaver can’t seem to get the strap fixed on her FD costume (KIDDING)

Enjoy the weekend of skating, everyone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Want to Win a Free Copy of "Skating on Air"? Read on...

So in this holiday season of giving, what better time to give away a free, personally autographed copy of my book Skating on Air?

You see a little description for it on the left side of the page, and have probably "heard" me talk about it from time to time. You can read more about it
here ... and if you'd like to enter a drawing for a free copy, please send me an email at KLawrence997-at-gmail-dot-com (sorry, got to spell it out to avoid the spammers).

This is open ALL readers from ANY country-- if you're unable to get a copy of Skating on Air where you live (such as many countries in Asia, where I don't think McFarland has a distributor)... here's your chance to get one shipped for free!

If you have any question about the email address, check out my profile further down the page... you should find it there as well.

I'll post another notice about this drawing after the ISU GP Final, and then plan to do said drawing on Saturday, December 17 (10 days from now).

Any other questions? Please shoot me an email or post it in the comments.

Good luck!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Meanwhile, Back At the Ice Ranch… (catching up on non-GP developments)

As you’re probably aware, the world kept right on spinning as the ISU Grand Prix progressed between October and November—even when it came to the rest of the figure skating world. Among the most noteworthy developments (in chronological order):

+ Lepisto is out for the season… again
For those who say nerves have been the downfall of many a great skater— in a literal sense, that applies to athletes in general. Here in Indianapolis we’re still waiting to see if nerve damage to the neck of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning can ever heal well enough for him to play at all, let alone this football season. And over in Finland, nerve damage is also at the heart of what’s keeping 2010 World Bronze Medalist Laura Lepisto out of her sport of choice. In her case, it’s apparently nerves in one of her feet that need to heal before she can take the ice again… which she says is unlikely to happen this season. Lepisto will turn 24 next April.

+ Lady is a Champ: Bonhomme wins Battle of the Blades
For followers of the hit Canadian TV series Battle of the Blades, things really came full circle this particular season. As I mentioned
here at the end of August, the planned “twist” was for one of the hockey players-turning-figure-skaters to be, for the first time ever on the show, a female (Tessa Bonhomme). But the entire show (not to mention hockey fans) were dealt a savage blow when, less than a month before its season premiere, fellow competitor Wade Belak died at age 35. The show soldiered on, however… and by its conclusion in November, the winner was none other than Bonhomme (skating with David Pelletier). If you’re curious how she and Pelletier looked out there in front of the cameras, check out this clip from week 7.

+ Phaneuf joins team Orser
If you’re a veteran elite figure skater who has remained with the same coach/coaches since the early days, chances are slim that you’ll jump ship, even if your skating is in a sub-par slump. But if you’re Canadian champion Cynthia Phaneuf—who, aside from that national victory, has been unable to duplicate the jumping consistency that helped her come in 5th at Worlds in 2010—you don’t have much use for the odds at this point. So in the wake of back-to-back disappointing GP outings (7th at Skate Canada; 9th at NHK Trophy), the 23 year-old Phaneuf has parted ways with Annie Barabé and Sophie Richard to relocate to Toronto, and train with Brian Orser. She had been coached by Barabe/Richard since age 9. Orser’s other high-profile students include USA’s Christina Gao and Spain’s Javier Fernandez; in the past, he coached Adam Rippon and (of course) Kim Yu-Na.

+ Kwan is among the HOF nominees
Some might say “It’s about time!!” but, in all fairness, it happened as soon as possible: Michelle Kwan is among the
new batch of nominees to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. Now that Kwan has been out of competitive figure skating for six years, she is eligible… along with fellow nominees Rudy Galindo (1996 National Champion and ’96 World Bronze Medalist) and Robert “Bobby” Specht, who medaled nationally in pairs (1941) and won the men’s title in ’42. Jef Billings (designer) and Lori Nichol (choreographer) are nominated too, under the “creative impact” category. The official HOF Class of 2012 will be announced later this month, with the induction ceremony taking place at 2012 U.S. Nationals in San Jose.

+ Lysacek Won’t Be at Nationals… Either
Speaking of 2012 U.S. Nationals—if you were crossing your fingers for Evan Lysacek to make good on his early-season assertions to be competing in San Jose, it’s time to put your fingers to better use. Whether he wants to be there or not, it appears that U.S. Figure Skating and the Creative Artists Agency (which now represents Lysacek) could not reach the proverbial agreement necessary to get him out there and see how he ranks nearly two years past Vancouver. According to, CAA is citing “contractual obligations” for Lysacek’s absence. Chicago Tribune’s Phil Hersh continues to track the gory (read: money-related) details of Lysacek’s “negotiations,” so you can read much more about them

+ Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Plushy
And speaking of Vancouver… Evgeny Plushenko continues to rattle his platinum medal-lined cages every so often to make sure we know he plans to be competing in 2014. The latest rattle came last week, when he announced he’s “leaving politics” in order to train for Sochi. What, you didn’t know he was in politics? Feel free to read the
article that details his involvement a little further. Don’t care WHERE he is or WHAT his plans are? Well, join the club… that’s why my mention of him ends here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rostelecom Cup in Review… and Oh the Many Ways to Fill That Cup

With all due respect, I’m not going to talk much about the Pairs and Dance events in Moscow last weekend. For the most part, they unfolded as expected. Yes, Charlie White stumbled in the SD, but he and Meryl Davis still won handily. And yes, Savchenko/Szolkowy had (most of) their groove back and defeated Kavaguti/Smirnov, but we all know the real fun will come when these two are competing against Volosohzar/Trankov in the Final.

So… let’s instead get into what some of the single skaters appeared to have in their respective “Cups” of Russia:

Cup of good fortune:
Yuzuru Hanyu
He was sort of in that Jupiter-must-align-with-Mars situation as far as qualifying for the GP Final went… which included winning at CoR, which meant defeating the likes of Abbott (Cup of China winner), Brezina (Skate America winner), and Fernandez (2-time silver medalist this season). And guess what? He pulled it off, despite two falls in his own program. Not bad for a kid young enough to make Justin Bieber look a little old.

Cup of tears:
Brandon Mroz
OK, so he may not have wept publicly. But does Mroz know how to ride the gamut of highs and lows or what? In 2009 he’s a U.S. silver medalist; in 2009-10 he couldn’t compete well to save his life. In late 2010 he soared on the GP circuit; that same season he finished well out of the medals at Nationals. This season he becomes the first-ever on the quad lutz list; this same season he finishes in last place at both his GP assignments! It’s enough to give a guy career whiplash… but on the bright side…he’s due for a positive shift. Maybe at Nationals 2012?

Cup of relief*:
Jeremy Abbott
Hanyu’s not the only recipient of good fortune, as Abbott himself surely knows: he won Cup of China with third place finishes in both the SP and FS, and he won bronze (and qualified for the GP Final) with a fifth place FS finish at CoR. But make no mistake, when it all comes together—as it did with his top-flight SP here—he is right in the mix with the best of them.

*(Yes, I considered “cup of blood from his own hand” but that seemed so tasteless…)

Cup of angst with a dash of never mind:
Javier Fernandez
Three-hundredths of a point—that was the difference between gold and silver in the men’s event. Remember when Fernandez came off the ice with a self-deprecating, universally understood “Aaugh!” after doubling part of his combo in the SP? Turns out it was with good reason: that triple could have easily put him in the winner’s circle a day later, had all other things been equal. But as nice as that win would have been… the important thing was that he’d done enough (with a silver) to go to his first-ever GP Final. Bien hecho, Javier!


Cup of Sweet Components: Mao Asada
Cup of Wuz Robbed pt. 1: Alena Leonova
“Asada’s got history and the component edge”… so I said last week as I guesstimated a favorite for this event. But when I mentioned skaters with a technical advantage, I failed to mention Alena Leonova. My mistake… for while she doesn’t have the triple lutz/triple toe of some of her younger countrywomen, she’s got a reliable 3Toe/3Toe and seems to have much better jumps all around this season. Step-outs and hop-outs of poorly checked landings used to hinder her spunky performances… but not so much now. Yes, she had a fall in her FS here (on a double axel near the program’s end), but she also had twice as many successful triples than Asada. It wasn’t that she wasn’t recognized for this; she had the higher technical score of the two. But Asada out-component-ed her more than she out-techincal-ed Asada. It happens. The good news is that both ladies are in the GP Final.

Cup of wuz robbed pt. 2: Sofia Biryukova
I admittedly wasn’t paying as much attention to this battle as much as the previous one, but if you take a look at Vlad Luchianov’s Commentary, you can see something similar took place in the battle for bronze: one Russian skater, 17 year old Sofia Biryukova, lost the battle for third place against 15 year old teammate Adelina Sotnikova. This, despite a fall on the triple lutz in Sotnikova’s SP, and a fall on the triple flip in the FS (among other things)— while Biryukova’s programs were clean. Yes, Sotnikova’s jumps were slightly more difficult—which is apparently why the two were nearly even on the tech side (with a slight edge from Biryukova). But components saved the day again—this time for Sotnikova, whose scores totaled as much as a three point difference between she and Biryukova… and put the bronze in Sotnikova’s hands, also putting her in 1st alternate position for the GP Final. What Vlad drew attention to in his post is now Sotnikova has been touted by the Russian Skating Federation as the “main hope” of Russian skating at the Sochi Olympics… and the judging at Rostelecom already had the not-so-faint air of someone getting “held up” by the components (read: artistic scores) when their technical skating was subpar. Stay tuned, folks…

Cup of what’s up?: Rachael Flatt & Agnes Zawadzki
In 19 year-old Flatt’s case, the guess is that Stanford’s eating into her training time—while she at least skated clean here, her Firebird FS was lutz-free and lacked a spark. For Zawadzki, my hope is that she’s grown taller since last year (now standing 5’6”) and is still adjusting… darn puberty monsters and all that. But both ladies have been rather painful to watch this GP season, especially knowing what they are (or were once?) capable of.

Cup of tears: Christine Gao
On the other hand, Gao looked quite good at her first GP assignment… but completely fell apart in Moscow, staying soundly in last place throughout. “We’ll get through this… all right?” we heard her coach Brian Orser saying in consolation as she came off the FS nearly crying already. By the time her overall score (of 117) was posted, they were at least trying to make light of the fact that a 117 is what she more likely expects from the free skate alone. Back to the drawing board she goes…

So real quick, here are the senior GP Final entrants:

MEN: Chan, Takahashi, Abbott, Brezina, Fernandez, Hanyu
ALTS: Song, Kozuka, Rippon

LADIES: Tuktamysheva, Asada, Kostner, Suzuki, Czisny, Leonova
ALTS: Sotnikova, Nagasu, Wagner

PAIRS: Volosozhar/Trankov, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Zhang/Zhang, Takahashi/Tran, Duhamel/Radford
ALTS: M-T/Moscovitch, Bazarova/Larionov, Sui/Han

DANCE: Davis/White, Virtue/Moir, Shibutani/Shibutani, Bobrova/Soloviev, Pechalat/Bourzat, Weaver/Poje
ALTS: Cappellini/Lanotte, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, Tobias/Stagniunas

Next stop (in 2 weeks): Quebec City! But don’t worry, there’s be some blog posts in the interim…

Thursday, November 24, 2011

2011 Rostelecom Cup of Russia Preview

One more thing to add about Trophee Eric Bompard before stepping on into the Rostelecom Cup of Russia…

I meant to note that of all the creative flourishes that went along with the World Feed coverage of TEB, there was one shot I think we all could have done without: the extra close-up of Nobunari Oda in the Kiss-n-Cry, after his scores were read, as his eyes rimmed with tears. By then everyone knew he’d had a horrible day on the ice, not to mention completely shattered any chance of making the GP Final… and that shot, to me, was exploitive and over-the-line. It’s the Kiss-n-Cry, TV-directing folks. It happens. Leave him alone next time.

Hopefully CoR will have happier close-ups to choose from. Here’s where to catch it in the U.S.:

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Nov. 25
6:00 a.m.: Ladies short program
7:35 a.m.: Pairs short program
9:45 a.m.: Men's short program
11:20 a.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 26
5:00 a.m.: Ladies free skate
6:45 a.m.: Pairs free skate
8:25 a.m.: Men's free skate
10:25 a.m.: Free dance

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Saturday, Nov. 26
4- 6 p.m.: Pairs & Men’s Free Skate

8-10 p.m.: Free Dance

This will be one of NBC’s “delayed” weeks, as it will not carry the Ladies Free Skate until 1-3 p.m. NEXT Saturday 12/3… with a Universal repeat of it scheduled that night from 7-9 p.m.


Who’s there: Andrei Rogozine, Michal Brezina, Yuzuru Hanyu, Artur Gachinski, Sergei Voronov, Konstantin Menshov, Javier Fernandez, Jeremy Abbott, Brandon Mroz (Tomas Verner was originally scheduled here but has withdrawn)

Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Abbott, Brezina, Fernandez, Gachinski, Hanyu
Dark Horse: Mroz
Has a quad, or quads: Brezina, Hanyu, Gachinski, Fernandez, Mroz
Has a quad maybe: Everyone else
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: Hard to say; both Brezina and Abbott have a victory under their GP belts this season… probably Brezina though.
Other: Abbott and Fernandez are the ones at CoR that could do well enough to make the GP Final.


Who’s there: Amelie Lacoste, Kiira Korpi, Mao Asada, Haruka Imai, Sofia Biryukova, Alena Leonova, Adelina Sotnikova, Rachael Flatt, Christina Gao, Agnes Zawadzki

Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Asada, Biryukova, Imai, Leonova, Sotnikova
Dark Horse: Any of the U.S. ladies
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Korpi, Imai, Biryukova, Sotnikova, Leonova, Gao
Senior GP Debut: Biryukova
Favorite: Asada’s got history and the component edge; Biryukova and Sotnikova have the jumping advantage.
Other: Leonova, Asada, and Sotnikova all have shots at the GP final depending on how they do at CoR.


Who’s there:
Jones/Gaskell, Hausch/Wende, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Berton/Hotarek, Gerboldt/Enbert, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Stolbova/Klimov, Cain/Reagan

Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Berton/Hotarek, Gerboldt/Enbert, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Savchenko/Szolkowy
Dark Horse: Hausch/Wende
Senior GP Debut: Jones/Gaskell and Cain/Reagan
Favorite: Based on what I’ve seen this season, I’d now lean more to Kavaguti/Smirnov than Savchenko/Szolkowy.
Other: The two I just mentioned as faves are already locked into the GP Final, so the only here with a (very, very) outside chance to join them would be Berton/Hotarek.


Who’s there: Weaver/Poje, Carron/Jones, Reed/Reed, Tobias/Stagniunas, Bobrova/Soloviev, Riazanova/Tkachenko, Pushkash/Guerreiro, Davis/White

Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Bobrova/Soloviev, Davis/White, Tobias/Stagniunas, Weaver/Poje
Dark Horse: Carron/Jones
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: Davis/White
Other: Davis/White should be a lock for the GP Final after this weekend; Weaver/Poje are already in… Bobrova/Soloviev can qualify with 4th place or better, I think.

Enjoy your final stop on the regular GP tour…!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TEB 2011 and the Not-So-Funny Comedy of Errors

For better or worse, it seemed those in charge of the World Feed coming out of Paris (for this past weekend’s Trophee Eric Bompard) were aiming to be a little more artistique with their efforts than other countries. From that giant glowing light bulb-o-color behind the skaters in the Kiss-n-Cry, to the split screen of skaters and coaches occasionally shown during replays (such as with Nobunari Oda—oy!—but I’m getting ahead of myself), to the s-l-o-w dissolves most often employed as an athlete sat and watched the highlights/lowlights of their performance.

Unfortunately, many of those blips on the radar of creativity were overshadowed by storms of wild errors, disappointing placements, and widespread discontent by the time this penultimate GP qualifier was history.

But let’s start with the bright and/or anticipated bright spots of TEB…

+ Liza Tutamysheva, who I’d like to begin calling Liza With A Lutzzzzz if that’s okay with you… we’ve only seen her compete once before at the senior GP level, but I’m not at all surprised that she came away with her second gold of the season—especially when her two closest competitors had slightly flawed performances. Her ease with triple-triples may or may not survive the onset of puberty… but for now, she’s got what most other GP ladies don’t. And she’s got just enough grace and musicality to back it up.

+ Song Nan, whose name I’d like to say in that particular order from now on (and will try to remember to so with other Chinese skaters from here on out). I kept Song in my (predicted) top 5 for this event, not at all sure he’d be able to repeat the sort of jumping success he’d had at Cup of China but figuring he’d do pretty well even if he hit 60% of his CoCH jumps. Next thing I know, he’s sitting comfortably in 2nd place throughout the event, with the only one ahead being the reigning WORLD CHAMPION. How cool is that?

+ The entire dance lineup, meaning the placement of all who competed in ice dance at TEB. Virtue/Moir for the win, Pechalat/Bourzat for silver, Cappellini/Lannotte for bronze, the New Team (Chock/Bates) down in 5th, the first-ever-on-the-circuit Spanish dance team (Hurtado/Diaz) bringing up the rear… all eight teams staying in their same placement throughout the event; all eight teams separated by fairly healthy margins. Did we see it all coming (especially V/M)? Probably. Did we enjoy the event any less? Probably not. And to see (Fabian) Bourzat healthy again (and bronchitis-free) was likely worth the price of admission for those in attendance…

Which brings us to Patrick Chan, who fans would likely pay to watch drive the Zamboni these days, let alone skate. Yes, he won again—no surprise there. Yes, he won substantially despite multiple mistakes… no surprise there either, to be honest. It was the mistakes themselves that were the surprises: 2 flip-outs on jumps considerably simpler than his 2 quads or triple axels (although the axel was doubled; yet another mistake), and a freak fall during a footwork (or simply a transition?) sequence. Should he still have won with all these errors… plus a missed quad in the SP? In this case, yes. But if something similar happens on a night when, say, a Takahashi or Kozuka is in top form… I guess we’ll find out at the GP Final, huh?

Of course, Chan was hardly the only skater to suffer from the freaky-deaky mistakes at TEB…

+ Volosohzar/Trankov had a trip/fall immediately after their successful triple twist. Didn’t really interrupt the program, but I don’t think I’ve seen a fall like that before…

+ Madison Chock took an odd tumble on twizzles when Evan Bates seemed to stop traveling with his twizzles, and she crashed into him. But really, if twizzles are truly “the quads” of ice dance (as commentators in the know like to say), the real oddity is that this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often.

+ Duhamel/Radford had side-by-side falls, a throw jump fall, and they accidentally collided at one point while skating with their backs to each other. “Three falls and we get a 115??” Duhamel said incredulously in the Kiss-n-Cry. Somewhere in that arena, you’ve gotta think 4thplace Evora/Ladwig (who fell only once) were wondering the same thing.

+ Carolina Kostner, who has an interesting rivalry brewing with Czisny this season. They’re very compatible on components now, so it’s repeatedly coming down to the jumps… and as with Czisny, Kostner typically has a flaw or two. This time Kostner’s included a membership in the Footwork SPLAT Club; fortunately for her, it prompted little more than embarrassment on her part.

+ The same cannot be said for Nobunari Oda, as I mentioned earlier. The guy had almost as many “mishaps” as all the other TEB competitors put together. By my count: 1) a popped toe loop on the end of his first combination, 2) a doubled triple (lutz?) that also prompted a step out, 3) popped triple loop, 4) a fall during a footwork sequence that was followed by him skating around for at least the next 10-15 seconds trying to figure out where to resume the program, 5) an incomplete triple axel that had him landing forward and falling a second time, 6) a fall on a triple lutz, and 7) a waltz jump (which, while quite lovely, is no replacement for a triple jump in a Grand Prix program). But while you can’t blame the commentators for wondering out loud if he’d injured himself… those of us who remember oddly disoriented programs from Oda as far back as 2006 (Four Continents, anyone?) knew all too well that he probably hadn’t.

+ Maybe he should’ve taken a page from Kevin Reynolds’ TEB experience… where his SP scores apparently made him so sick he developed stomach flu and had to withdraw from the event...

Let’s hope Rostelecom goes a little better for everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

2011 Trophee Eric Bompard Preview

Vive la France! Pass the pain du chocolat… it’s Trophee Eric Bompard!

Here’s where to watch (particularly if you live in the U.S.):

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Nov. 18

9:00 a.m.: Men's short program

10:45 a.m.: Pairs short program

12:15 p.m.: Ladies short program

2:00 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Nov. 19

7:30 a.m.: Men's free skate

9:30 a.m.: Pairs free skate

12:30 p.m.: Ladies free skate

2:30 p.m.: Free dance

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Saturday, Nov. 19

6- 8 p.m.: Pairs & Men’s Free Skate

9-11p.m.: Free Dance

This will be one of NBC’s “delayed” weeks, as it will not carry the Ladies Free Skate until 2-4 p.m. NEXT Sunday 11/27… with a Universal repeat of it scheduled from 4-6 p.m.

The competitors look like this…


Who’s there: Patrick Chan, Kevin Reynolds, Nan Song, Michal Brezina, Florent Amodio, Chaffik Besseghier, Nobunari Oda, Alexander Majorov, Adam Rippon

Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Brezina, Chan, Oda, Rippon, Song
Dark Horse: Amodio
Has a quad, or quads: Chan, Reynolds, Song, Brezina, Oda
Has a quad maybe: Everyone else… except Amodio
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: That would be Chan, Chan, and oh yeah, Chan
Other: Majorov replaces Evan Lysacek, who was originally set to skate here… and Brian Joubert withdrew from TEB earlier in the week due to injury—no replacement.)


Who’s there: Yrethe Silete, Lena Marrocco, Mae Berenice Meite, Kanako Murakami, Carolina Kostner, Elizaveta Tutkamysheva, Sonia Lafuente, Viktoria Helgesson, Alissa Czisny
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Czisny, Helgesson, Kostner, Murakami, Tutkamysheva
Dark Horse: Meite
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Kostner, Czisny, Tutkamysheva, Murakami
Senior GP Debut: Silete
Favorite: Tough call, as Czisny AND Kostner AND Tutkamysheva all have one win apiece so far this GP season. My personal preference would be Czisny, though…
Other: Lafuente replaces Laura Lepisto, who announced earlier this week she’s out for the season with an injury… Sarah Hecken has also withdrawn from the event—no replacement.


Who’s there: Duhamel/Radford, Dube/Wolfe, Dong/Wu, James/Cipres, Bazarova/Larionov, Stolbova/Klimov, Volosohzar/Trankov, Evora/Ladwig

Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Bazarova/Larionov, Duhamel/Radford, Evora/Ladwig, Volosohzar/Trankov
Dark Horse: Stolbova/Klimov
Senior GP Debut: James/Cipres (of France); Stolbova/Klimov (of Russia)
Favorite: Gotta be Volo/Trank
Other: James/Cipres replaces Canac/Bonheur (both of France)… and the TBD spot for France ultimately went to Dube/Wolfe.


Who’s there: Virtue/Moir, Huang/Zheng, Pechalat/Bourzat, Cappellini/Lanotte, Gorshkova/Butikov, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, Hurtado/Diaz, Chock/Bates.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Cappellini/Lanotte, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, Pechalat/Bourzat, Virtue/Moir,
Dark Horse: Chock/Bates
Senior GP Debut: Hurtado/Diaz (Spain’s first-ever dance team in ISU competition)
Favorite: V/M, but something tells me Pechalat/Bourzat will be well-received nonetheless (especially now that Bourzat has recovered from his bronchitis)
Other: The TBD spot for France ultimately went to Chock/Bates.

Bon chance!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NHK 2011 Hits and Misses… or, How Team Japan Showed Some Serious National Love

When you categorize a GP event into Hits and Misses (as I’ve done below) and realize after doing so that half of the “Hits” were made by skaters representing the home country, you might consider re-naming your piece. But there were those that made a splash (or re-established themselves) last weekend, and those that garnered attention for all the wrong reasons. Not a lot of in-between. So I stand by the concept!


Akiko Suzuki—for bringing it big time, in front of a home crowd, at age 26. Yes, I know she popped 2 jumps in the back end of her FS—but I’m thrilled that she had a big enough margin with the SP score to retain the lead. (By the way, the joy she expressed at the end of that SP was one of the best moments of the entire competition—and given some of the incredible skating at NHK this year, that’s saying something.)

Mao Asada—for doing much of the same with perhaps an even bigger hurdle to overcome: her entire 2010-11 season. (And all without a triple axel attempt… unless you count her popped axel in the SP.)

Daisuke Takahashi—for being the best Dice-K he can be… which is pretty damn amazing. (90+ points for an SP without a quad?! Who else can do that??)

Takahiko Kozuka—for throwing down the gauntlet for Dice-K in magical fashion… which is to say that by doing some of his best work at NHK, I think he inspired Takahashi to do the same.

Takahashi/Tran—for looking SO happy with their efforts in the FS, even though they weren’t perfect.

Alena Leonova—for, at least this week, making people forget about Those Russian Teenagers. (Amazing but true—now at age 20; she’s no longer one of them.)

Kavaguti/Smirnov—for getting a victory for Russia while on Japanese soil… a true win-win situation in this particular case. (And no small feat, given the Sav/Szol’s track record.)

The Shibutanis—For nabbing their first senior GP victory, even if it wasn’t universally endorsed (former fellow competitor John Kerr, for example, Tweeted that while it was an “interesting” competition, he thought Weaver/Poje were the clear winners.)

Ross Miner—for being there to accept the bronze medal when three skaters ahead of him apparently had no interest in doing so.

Berton/Hotarek—For nicely synced, side-by-side triple toe/double toe/double toes that likely made the difference between 4th and 5th place. (I’m guessing sometime soon, it’ll make the difference for a medal.)


Savchenko/Szolkowy—for showing us their meltdowns come in a rainbow of flavors. Back in 2009 (at Trophee Eric Bompard), it was the spiral sequence and death spiral that best showed us something was very amiss. This time, it’s the popped side-by-side axels and ill-timed (and ultimately aborted) lift near the end of their FS. (Can’t blame the fall on the throw 3axel yet; they haven’t proven it’s something they can do.) Maybe odd-year season starts just aren’t their thing….

Brandon Mroz—for managing to hit perhaps the highest and lowest points of his career to date, all within a span of about 26 hours. Good grief.

Agnes Zawadzki—for what has to be a disappointing season debut (8th place), given the impression she quickly made last year with her SPs (if not her free skates, finishing 4th and 6th at her two GP events). Does anyone know if she’s grown substantially since last year? She’s now standing 5’6” (1.68 M), which puts her just an inch below the tallest female singles currently on the GP circuit… (Those would be Carolina Kostner and Germany’s Sarah Hecken.)

Dance warm-ups—turns out the crash we saw between The Reeds and USA’s K/G-S (please don’t make me type out their entire name every time I mention them!) was only part of the mayhem. On morning practices that same day, Paul/Islam (of Canada) collided with the Italian team (Alessandrini/Vaturi) and Islam suffered a cut to the back of the leg, forcing their withdrawal from the event. And Russian Elena Ilinykh crashed into the boards during that same warmup that had the Reed/K/G-S collision…while she and partner Nikita Katsalapov still competed (and won bronze), her knee injury kept them out of the post-competition exhibitions.

Weaver/Poje—no injury here, but maybe their spirits took a bit of a beating as they lost to the Shib Sibs by just .09 points… a loss that could have been reversed by “simply” keeping their too-long lift out of penalty range. Ouch indeed.

I know I’m late getting this out (thanks for your patience), but still look for the Paris/TEB preview Thursday evening!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NHK Trophy 2011 Preview

Get your stuffed animals ready to throw… it’s time for the NHK Trophy!

First, here’s where to watch (particularly if you live in the U.S.):

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Nov. 11

12:55 a.m.: Short dance
2:45 a.m.: Pairs short program
5:15 a.m.: Ladies short program
10 p.m.: Free dance

Saturday, Nov. 12
12:05 a.m.: Pairs free skate
2:30 a.m.: Men's short program
5:00 a.m.: Ladies free skate
10:55 p.m.: Men's free skate

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Saturday, Nov. 12
6- 8 p.m.: Pairs Free Skate & Free Dance

Sunday, Nov. 13
6-8 p.m.: Men’s Free Skate

NBC will carry the Ladies Free Skate from 2-4 p.m. Sunday 11/13… with a Universal repeat of it scheduled from 9:30-11:30 p.m.

As for the competitors…


Who’s there: Tomas Verner, Samuel Contesti, Takahiko Kozuka, Daisuke Takahashi, Tatsuki Machida, Konstantin Menshov, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, Ross Miner, and Brandon Mroz. (Adrian Schultheiss has withdrawn with a back injury.)

Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Kozuka, Machida, Mroz, Takahashi, Verner
Dark Horse: Contesti
Has a quad, or quads: Kozuka, Takahashi, Mroz, Machida, Menshov
Has a quad maybe: Verner, Mahbanoozadeh
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: Gotta be a toss-up between Kozuka and Dice-K, neither of which skated their best at Sk8AM a few weeks back but are still the standouts in this lineup.
Other: A lot of eyes are likely to be on Mroz, if only to see if he can land his quad lutz at a GP event.


Who’s there: Cynthia Phaneuf, Kiira Korpi, Mae Berenice Meite, Elene Gedevanishvili, Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki, Shoko Ishikawa, Alena Leonova, Ashley Wagner, Agnes Zawadzki

Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Asada, Leonova, Suzuki, Wagner, Zawadzki
Dark Horse: Korpi or Phaneuf
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Ummmm…. Maybe no one here?
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: With Asada still a wild card as far as I know, this is tough. I’ll go with Suzuki, but if Asada is back on track…or Leonova has a great day… all bets are off.
Other: Back in the summer it appeared that Korpi and Tomas Verner would both be competing with a hip-hop version of Carmina Burana, but it appears that Korpi has now opted to stick with her Over the Rainbow SP from last year. In other “colorful” news, look for Zawadzki to use Rhapsody in Blue for her FS.


Who’s there: Purich/Schultz, Savchenko/Szolkowy, Berton/Hotarek, Takahashi/Tran, Iliushechkina/Maisuradze, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Castelli/Shnapir, Denney/Coughlin (who got the invite here with Pang/Tong pulled out of their GP events)

Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Denney/Coughlin, Iliushechkina/Maisuradze, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Savchenko/Szolkowy,
Dark Horse: Berton/Hotarek
Senior GP Debut: Purich/Schultz (of Canada)
Favorite: It’ll be all about Sav/Szol and Kava/Smir, with Sav/Szol most likely improving on their Sk8AM performance to win yet again.
Other…: I read that Sav/Szol seemed to really be at odds with each other during the Sk8AM trip. If any of you have more info or an update, please share! I’ll probably be watching their warm-up and Kiss-n-Cry body language more than usual this time…


Who’s there: Paul/Islam, Weaver/Poje, Zhiganshina/Gazsi, Alessandrini/Vaturi, Reed/Reed, Ilinykh/Katsalapov, Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt, Shibutani/Shibutani

Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Ilinykh/Katsalapov, Paul/Islam, Shibutani/Shibutani, Weaver/Poje
Dark Horse: Zhiganshina/Gazsi
Senior GP Debut: Alessandrini/Vaturi (of Italy)
Favorite: Both the Shib Sibs and Weaver/Poje have picked up silver medals in the past few GP weeks, but I think W/P will have the definite advantage.

I'll post my post-event analysis as soon as I can... enjoy NHK!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Abbott’s “Single-Handed” Win of Cup of China, and Other Dreamy Tales

The directors for the World Feed of Cup of China have a similar game plan every year when it comes to camera shots: show the skater, show the skater’s skates up close, show at least one spin from a dizzying overhead angle, and show the crowd waaay too soon after the skater hits the final pose. I’ve complained about it in the past, but have (reluctantly) come to accept the way they do things over in Shanghai.

So this time, as I cringed at the multitude of skate shots, I couldn’t help but notice the fog that enveloped the rink on Day 1 of competition (during all the “short” events). Sure, it was basic science causing the problem… but especially since said problem started clearing up by Day 2, it made me think of Day 1 as a sort of long-playing dream on ice. I figure those that ultimately did well at Cup of China might feel similarly. But what about the rest… did those dreams turn to… nightmares?! (Cue scary music)

Let’s see how this shook out with a few examples from each discipline:


Jeremy Abbott dreamed of winning Cup of China even if he didn’t perform the best technically...

DREAM COME TRUE. Who’d have known a hand down on the ice would be the BEST part of an already superb program? Abbott may have fallen on his quad, popped a triple axel, and left out any triple/triple combos, but his FS to Exogenesis: Symphony pt. 3 by Muse is stunning. STUNNING! And if you’re not sure what I’m talking about regarding the hand down on the ice, you can check the program out here.

Nan Song dreamed of jumping well enough to land on the podium...

DREAM COME TRUE. Sk8AM had its van der Perren; Sk8CAN had its Fernandez (who I forgot to cheer about last week—sorry—awesome job!) And now, CoC has its Song—a surprise medal by someone who skated a surprise Lights Out free skate (2 quad toes! 2 triple axels! 2 of those jumps in combination with other triples! And all of them rock solid!!) But what makes this a particularly sweet “song” is the fact that this is the same guy who came in dead last at last year’s Skate America, and 22nd at Worlds earlier this year.

Artur Gachinski and Yuzuru Hanyu dreamed of retaining their 1-2 positions on the leader board after the free skate...

NIGHTMARE x 2. There was no reason to think either one of these young’uns would falter in the free skate… until both of them did just that, with Hanyu falling twice and Gachinski seeming to come undone once he missed his quad. Hang in there, kids—you’ve got time yet.


Carolina Kostner dreamed of doing well enough at CoC to become one of the first to qualify for the GP Final…

DREAM COME TRUE. It wasn’t a flawless skate, but it was enough to give Kostner a spot one better than she earned at Sk8AM 2 weeks ago.

Mirai Nagasu dreamed of making a notable improvement to her skating here, just one week after coming up with 5th place at Sk8CAN.

DREAM COME TRUE… sort of. While her Spartacus free skate (not to mention her Danzarin SP) seemed more inspired, and she “improved” her way to a silver medal… the edge calls on her triple lutzes continue to be her undoing… and might make all the difference in a close “race.” (This wasn’t close, though.)

Adelina Sotnikova dreamed of doing what teammate Liza Tutmyskeva had done the previous week: blast by the competition in her senior GP debut.

DREAM COME a little bit TRUE. Maybe she was a little disappointed with the color of her medal, or the quality of her performance, but I hope not… a bronze for her first time out is wonderful. (And while I’m at it, Kexin Zhang’s 4th place debut was very notable too.)

Kanako Murakami dreamed of continuing at the GP with the same bubbly spunk and precision that gave her two medals on the circuit last year, a bronze at the GP Final, and a top 10 finish at Worlds…

NIGHTMARE. Things just weren’t coming as easily this time around for the 17 year-old, and it showed on her distressed face in the Kiss-n-Cry. Is her 6th place finish an attack of the body-altering puberty monster, or a fluke? Time will tell…


Kavaguti/Smirnov dreamed of a Cup of China being the competition where their still-growing talent could shine without getting lost in the shadow of current Russian champs Volosozhar/Trankov

DREAM COME TRUE. No quad tricks these days; just solid elements melding together well enough to put them ahead of the Zhang/Zhang veterans. And might I add…it’s such a relief to watch them and not be worrying if Kavaguti is going to have to spend half the program popping her dislocated shoulder back in place.

Evora/Ladwig dreamed of getting to a GP podium again, as they’ve only made it there once in nine previous attempts (a bronze at Cup of Russia last year).

NIGHTMARE, if only because it’s almost always the same thing that trips them up—the side-by-side jumps. Their spins are great; their lifts are sublime, and their throw
jumps are increasingly consistent and solid. But if either of their SBS triple toe passes (in the SP or FS) had been clean, they could have had that bronze… less than 1.5 points separated them from actual bronze medalists Moore-Towers/ Moscovitch.

Sui/Han dreamed of… getting a break?
(OK, maybe that’s me thinking of what I’d want if I were them… two years of JGP events followed immediately by GP events? Jeez Louise. Take a nap or something.)

If this was indeed a dream of theirs (admitted or not), then DREAM COME TRUE… at least in the sense that, with their quad twist crash and 5th place finish, Sui/Han won’t have to worry this year about qualifying for both finals.

So let’s skip the NIGHTMARE possibilities, and leave it at that!


Bobrova/Soloviev dreamed that with the help of a dark, dramatic-themed free dance, they’d be the next great Russian dance team to twizzle all over the competition and win by a crazy, 15-point margin…

DREAM COME TRUE…except that this was Cup of China 2011, not Winter Olympics 2014.

The Shibutanis dreamed they’d remain in the GP medal hunt throughout the series… kind of like last year, except it wouldn’t take anyone by surprise…

DREAM COME TRUE… IF, in fact, that’s all they dreamed about. If they had visions of rivaling Bobro/Solo, that aforementioned 15-point margin wasn’t particularly encouraging.Time will tell if the Shib Sibs are simply having to deal with raised expectations now that they’re World Bronze Medalists… or if the Glenn Miller free dance this year is hurting more than helping.

Coomes/Buckland dreamed of staying within reach of the podium after their SD put them in 3rd place…

NIGHTMARE. A tumble near the very end of the free dance did them in, losing the bronze medal to Carron/Jones by less than half a point. Ah, hang in there kids… your 4th place finish was still way better than the pair of 8th places you came up with last season at the GP…

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2011 Cup of China Preview

The 2011 Cup of China is about to get underway!
First, here’s where to watch (particularly if you live in the U.S.):

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Nov. 4

3:30 a.m.: Short dance
5:00 a.m.: Ladies short program
6:45 a.m.: Men's short program
8:45 a.m.: Pairs short program

Saturday, Nov. 5
2:30 a.m.: Free dance
4:15 a.m.: Ladies free skate
6:15 a.m.: Men's free skate
8:30 a.m.: Pairs free skate

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Saturday, Nov. 5
6-8 p.m. Ladies free skate & Free Dance
10-12 midnight Men’s & Pairs free skate

NOTE: While Cup of China will NOT be covered on NBC, you CAN find last week’s Skate Canada Ladies free skate on NBC from 4-6 p.m. this Saturday. The broadcast will then repeat on Universal Sports from 6-8 p.m. this Sunday.

And now, some quick takes on this weekend’s lineup (details of which can be found


Replacements from original lineup:
No replacements; the TBD skater for China is Nan Song. However, Brian Joubert has withdrawn due to a back injury… and it appears Jinlin Guan (of China) has also withdrawn, leaving only 8 competitors.
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Jeremy Abbott, Artur Gachinski, Yuzuru Hanyu, Nobunari Oda, Ricky Dornbush
Dark Horse: Kevin Reynolds
Has a quad, or quads: Reynolds, Hanyu, Oda, Gachinski
Has a quad maybe: Abbott, Dornbush
Senior GP Debut: None
Favorite: Though I’m personally rooting for Abbott, the rest of the world is probably looking at either Oda or Hanyu to emerge victorious.
Other: 18 year-old reigning World Bronze Medalist Gachinski is the youngest competitor (and only teenager).


Replacements from original lineup: No replacements; the TBD for China is Qiuying Zhu.
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Christina Gao, Carolina Kostner, Ksenia Makarova, Kanako Murakami, Adelina Sotnikova
Dark Horse: Bingwa Geng
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Makarova, Kostner, Sotnikova, Murakami
Senior GP Debut: Zhu, Gao, Kexin Zhang
Favorite: Although Kostner was mighty good at Sk8AM, she might get overshadowed here by Sotnikova, who could make as big a splash as Tutamysheva did last week in Canada.
Other: Kostner’s teammate Valentina Marchei is the oldest competitor here (age 25).


Replacements from original lineup: Two from China: Sui/Han and Yu/Jin are replacing Pang/Tong and Zhang/Wang
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Kavaguti/Smirnov, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Sui/Han, Zhang/Zhang
Dark Horse: Evora/Ladwig
Senior GP Debut: Steele/Schultz (of Canada)
Favorite: I’ll go with Zhang/Zhang, who looked better at Sk8AM 2 weeks ago than I’ve seen them look in a long time.
Other…: Evora/Ladwig are using Daphne et Chloe (Ravel) and Reverie (Debussy) for their free skate; please correct me if I’m wrong but I think this combo is very similar to the selection put together for Sarah Hughes 2002 Olympic free skate.


Replacements from original lineup: the new U.S. team of Samuelson/Gilles replaces Russia’s Monko/Khaliavin; Huang/Zheng are the TBD from China.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Bobroba/Soloviev, Carron/Jones, Samuelson/Gilles, Shibutani/Shibutani
Dark Horse: Coomes/Buckland
Senior GP Debut: Samuelson/Gilles, Lichtman/Copely
Favorite: I’m guessing Bobrova/Soloviev, though wouldn’t be surprised if the current World Bronze Medalist Shib Sibs were favored over them
Other…: Although it’s their senior GP debut, U.S.’s Lichtman/Copely were the World Junior Bronze Medalists last year… I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the top 5.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Skate Canada 2011 in Review: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly "A-Spin"

Here's a little list of my observations from last weekend's GP event:


Terry Gannon, upon introducing Canadian team Harvey/Gagnon’s FD (set to a Rolling Stones medley): “Gagnon playing Mick Jagger here; we’ll have to see if he has the moves like Jagger too.” Ah, that Terry with the pop culture drop-ins… he’s the best!

High props to Adam Rippon and Denis Ten. Sure, they only finished 4th and 5th respectively, with programs far from perfect. But Rippon needed to start somewhere with getting experience on his shiny new quad lutz, and Sk8Can was as good a place as any—even if it was something of an incomplete mess, good for him actually going for it! And Ten’s pair of fifth-place finishes (at Sk8Can and earlier at Sk8Am), reinforced with steadily improving quad toe attempts and NICE 3axels, is refreshing to see… especially knowing how he’s struggled in the past year.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the quad twist executed by rising stars and possible perennial munchkins Sui/Han… nicely done, as Scott would say! Also rather satisfying to see Duhamel/Bradford make it to the podium, especially after being reminded multiple times how she broke his nose 6 months ago.

Over in ice dance, Virtue/Moir unveiled their Funny Face free dance for the GP crowd, with predictably joyous results. (Check it out here; it's the Clip of the Day.) It’s delightful, whimsical, and all the other “-als” you might be able to come up with… and, it made me think more about the differences between V/M and Davis/White. What I come up with is a color analogy: if D/W is an eye-popping indigo blue, V/M is a dreamy sort of periwinkle. If D/W is a rich, lush burgundy, V/M is a stunning shade of rose. Which is not at all to say that V/M is some sort of paler, less interesting version of D/W… but rather something subtle & intriguing in a manner that’s as successful as D/W’s deep, bold tones. Does this idea work for any of you?

I had to laugh when Gannon mentioned, during Coach Frank Carroll’s time in the Kiss-n-Cry with Denis Ten, that Carroll is frequently seen passing the time with a book at these GP events… presumably because these “events” are so ordinary for him by now. So if anyone sees him reading Skating on Air (MY book), let me know ASAP :-)

But nothing made me laugh more than poor Ashley Wagner… not because she skated badly (quite the opposite—yea!), but watching her try and get off a greeting to her fans in the K-n-C while coach John Nicks talked to her sporadically was a hoot. Every time she looked into the camera and started to say “Hi everybody” there was Nicks coming up with something new to tell her, seemingly oblivious to her attempts. Then, when she let several seconds of silence go by before trying again… the director went to the replays of her jumps. “Oh my goodness,” she sighed… much more politely than I might have under the circumstances!


Elladj Balde’s free skate. Sure, the Canadian newcomer finished last, but I was actually referring to his choice of music. Guess he didn’t get the memo that 2010, not 2011, was the year of the Michael Jackson FS medley…

Rachael Flatt’s free skate. I was going to say that her debut interpretation of Firebird—with only ONE clean triple to speak of—was sadly reminiscent of either her injury-plagued FS at Worlds earlier this year, or her dismal FS at last year’s GP Final. But in looking at her scores for each, I see that I was wrong… this one was worse than both of them. And without an injury cited (would she dare to admit an injury this season, I wonder?), I can only guess she hasn’t worked the delicate skating/Stanford balance out just yet… she did mention some sleep deprivation issues prior to the event, after all. Kidding or not, methinks she may have a point.

Kevin van der Perren. I’m not sure when the Sk8AM silver medalist came in to replace Alban Preaubert, but right about now he’s probably wishing he could hoist his 8th place finish on Preaubert too.

And finally, THE UGLY…

Peter Carruthers isn’t candy-coating it any more—especially when he’s commentating with Gannon, who lives to egg him on at times. Carruthers is not a fan of the A-spin, plain and simple. Know which one I’m talking about—where the skater spins with both his (it’s usually a male) legs straight while he’s bent over, with his tush in the air? Yeah, gotta say I’m not a fan of it either. Anyway, it played a part in at least 3 or 4 of the men’s free skates at Sk8CAN… much to Carruthers’ chagrin (and Gannon’s delight).
“There it is again!” Gannon prompted, the moment a skater assumed the position, as it were…
“I HATE IT!” Carruthers eventually came to bellow with each one.

Or maybe it was only once or twice at this event. We can only hope for more A-spin taunting at Cup of China… which comes next. Look for a preview here on Thursday.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Skate Canada Preview

Here’s what’s on the Skate Canada tap this weekend…

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Oct. 28
2:05 p.m.: Ladies short program
3:45 p.m.: Pairs short program
7:30 p.m.: Men's short program
9:10 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Oct. 29
2:15 p.m.: Ladies free skate
4:15 p.m.: Pairs free skate
7:10 p.m.: Men's free skate

Sunday, Oct. 30
12:30 p.m.: Free dance

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Saturday, Oct. 29
4:00 p.m. Pairs free skate
7:00 p.m. Men’s free skate

Sunday, Oct. 30
12:30 p.m.: Free dance

NOTE: The Ladies free skate will not air until NBC shows it NEXT Saturday (November 5).

As I mentioned last week, I’m going a slightly different route this year with the previews… no medals predictions, but some stuff of note nonetheless:


Replacements from original lineup: All original invitees are here; the TBD for Canada is Elladj Balde
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Patrick Chan, Javier Fernandez, Adam Rippon, Daisuke Takahashi, Denis Ten
Dark Horses: Tough to say; from bronze medal down it appears wide open. Maybe Ross Miner or Alban Preaubert?
Has a quad, or quads: Chan (2 of them), Takahashi, Fernandez, Ten
Has a quad maybe: Rippon (he is reportedly trying his quad lutz here), all other competitors of whom I know far too little about
Senior GP Debut: Andrei Rogozine, Balde, Alexander Majorov
Favorite: Chan. Maybe co-faves with Dice-K, but on home ice? Chan.
Other: Despite all the debuts of recent junior competitors here, the youngest of the bunch is 18 year-old Denis Ten (born June 1993).


Replacements from original lineup: All original invitees are here; the TBD for Canada is Adriana DeSanctis
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Rachael Flatt, Mirai Nagasu, Cynthia Phaneuf, Akiko Suzuki, Elizaveta Tutamysheva
Dark Horses: Alena Leonova, Amelie Lacoste, Ashley Wagner
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Nagasu, Tutamysheva, Sarah Hecken
Senior GP Debut: DeSanctis, Tutamysheva
Favorite: I’d say Phaneuf, except she crashed last year (1st in SP, off the podium in the end) and even said she probably shouldn’t compete at this event anymore…so IF there’s a favorite aside from the home-country variety, I think it might be Nagasu.
Other: Tutamysheva (aka “Liza”) is most likely the youngest here, not turning 15 until this December.

Replacements from original lineup: None… Jessica Dube and (new partner) Sebastien Wolfe are Canada’s TBD.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Iliusheckina/Maisuradze, Lawrence/Swiegers, Sui/Han, Volosozhar/Trankov
Dark Horse: Duhamel/Radford
Senior GP Debut: Yu/Jin, Dube/Wolfe, Volosozhar/Trankov
Favorite: Volosozhar/Trankov
Other…: Take note, US readers… no American teams in this event.


Replacements from original lineup: Lucie Mysliveckova and Matej Novak (CZE) are out; Madison Chock and Evan Bates take their place. Tarrah Harvey/Keith Gagnon are the Canadian TBD’s.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Cappellini/Lanotte, Riazanova/Tkachenko,
Virtue/Moir, Weaver/Poje
Dark Horse: Chock/Bates, Riazanova/Tkachenko
Senior GP Debut: Harvey/Gagnon, Pushkash/Guerrero, Chock/Bates
Favorite: Gotta be Virtue/Moir
Other…: Pechalat/Bourzat were originally scheduled to compete here, but Bourzat has been battling bronchitis… they’ve consequentially withdrawn.

Stay tuned for results & (my version of) analysis... as soon as I can get it posted! (Even if "soon" turns out to be Monday or Tuesday as it often does!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Don't Trust a Coach Who Uses Elton John as His Eyewear Fashion Consultant... and Other Sk8AM 2011 Observations

First the Skate America 2011 medalists... then, a list of Ten Things We Learned from this first event of the GP season.

GOLD: Michal Brezina, CZE
SILVER: Kevin van der Perren, BEL
BRONZE: Takahiko Kozuka, JPN

GOLD: Alissa Czisny, USA
SILVER: Carolina Kostner, ITA
BRONZE: Viktoria Helgesson, SWE

GOLD: Savchenko/Szolkowy, GER
SILVER: Zhang/Zhang, CHN
BRONZE: Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, CAN

GOLD: Davis/White, USA
SILVER: Pechalat/Bourzat, FRA
BRONZE: Tobias/Stagniunas, LIU

1) Don’t trust a coach who has Elton John as his eyewear fashion consultant (see above)…

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m a little mad at them right now,” Brezina confessed (on live TV, no less) to Andrea Joyce as he revealed that it was his coaching staff (which includes eyeglass style criminal Karel Fajfr) who talked him out of trying either of his two quads in an effort to seal his Sk8Am victory with a “safe” skate.

2) Do risks pay off? Welllll... depends on who you ask.

Ask Savchenko/Szolkowy (who crashed and burned on a throw triple axel attempt in the SP, but still came back to win gold)…Dornbush (who landed a quad with perhaps the best save EVER, but had a shaky rest-of-program)… Czisny, who landed a triple lutz/triple toe in the FS… that was downgraded… but still eked a win over Kostner). For reasons mentioned above, I suggest you do NOT ask Brezina this question.

3) Just because you’re a GP newbie doesn’t mean you have to finish last…

For more info, see 7th place finisher Doug Razzano, 8th place Joelle Forte, 4th place Richard Dornbush, and bronze medalists (!) Tobias/Stagniunas (of Lithuania).

4) Just because you PAY for live streaming video doesn’t mean you’re going to SEE it at critical times...

If the Universal Sports “Rugby” slide that popped up for the last half of Davis/White’s SD on IceNetwork is any indication.

5) Makarova prefers (tributes to) blondes.

Last year it was Evita… this year it’s Marilyn Monroe… will she pay homage to Madonna next year? Or is she saving that for Sochi?

6) Scott Hamilton is at his best when he’s being (almost) perfectly blunt.

When the NBC commentators took some time to speculate on the situation between Evan Lysacek and the USFSA, and Hamilton indicated he’d read Lysacek’s Twitter statement …and was even pointed to it by Lysacek himself after he called him wanting to talk about what was going on… Hamilton spoke of being confused, but at least one of his statements about the situation was crystal-clear: “If you’re training to compete, then… compete.” (Read: Even if you’re taking a pay cut.)

7) Sometimes skating to MJ just isn’t the thing to do.

Especially when you’re using “Wanna be Startin’ Somethin” as ice dancers, and your pre-stated tempo is the slow, smoky Rhumba. (Yes, Asher/Hill, I’m looking at you… though to be honest, I thought the rest of your time at the event was very well spent.)

8) Van der Perren’s silver medal… in what he’s apparently reporting to be his final season… is proof that, if nothing else, sometimes the 17th time is the charm.

(This was VDP’s 17th appearance at a GP event since 2004.)

9) Caroline Zhang & Elene Gedevanishvili’s performances raised the question “Is it better to be inconsistently good than consistently mediocre?”

Zhang skated a great SP this year but fell three times in her FS… still, her overall 6th place finish is surely considered an improvement over her 9th place at the same event. As for Gedevanishvili, who skated a miserable SP, a very respectable FS, and finished in 7th—just as she did last year--- um, hmm, I’ll get back to you on that one…

10) In the case of Zhang/Zhang, absence surely made somebody's heart grow fonder.

They found their way to a triumphant, not to mention winded, 2nd place finish after more than a year off the competitive circuit. And considering the last few times I saw them skating together—when it looked like neither one could wait to get off the ice, and maybe away from each other—it was nice to see them looking happier.

Next up in a few days… SKATE CANADA!

Friday, October 21, 2011

2011 Skate America... the Preview

It’s here…..!!!!!

So let’s get right to it. The U.S. options for watching 2011 Skate America are as follows:

On Ice (subscription required):

Friday, Oct. 21

10:05 p.m.: Men's short program
11:45 p.m.: Short dance

Saturday, Oct. 22

2:35 p.m.: Men's free skate (first group ONLY)
4:30 p.m.: Free dance (first group ONLY)
10:00 p.m.: Pairs short program
11:25 p.m.: Ladies short program

Sunday, Oct. 23

4:05 p.m.: Pairs free skate
5:45 p.m.: Ladies free skate

Why “first group ONLY” on the Men’s FS and the FD? Because NBC is carrying both final groups LIVE on Saturday from 3-6PM Eastern Time. (And are probably among the most disappointed that Evan Lysacek won’t be making an appearance.)

On Universal Sports (available over-the-air or via dish/satellite, depending on where you live):

Sunday, Oct. 23
1:30 p.m.: Pairs & Ladies short programs (from Saturday)
4:30 p.m.: Pairs & Ladies free skates (LIVE; looks like final group of pairs only if they start at 4:05)

As for previews, I’m going a slightly different route this year… no medals predictions (I’ve never been particularly good w/them anyway), but hopefully some worthwhile info to get you ready to watch:

Sk8AM Men…
Replacements from original lineup:
Peter Liebers (GER) is out; Denis Ten (KAZ) replaces him. Evan Lysacek (USA) is out; Douglas Razzano (USA) replaces him.
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Florent Amodio, Michal Brezina, Richard Dornbush, Takahiko Kozuka, Armin Mahbanoozadeh
Dark Horses: Samuel Contesti & Kevin van der Perren
Has a quad, or quads: VDP, Brezina (2 of them), Kozuka
Has a quad maybe: Amodio, Dornbush, Razzano (though I read he’s leaving it out this weekend)
Senior GP Debut: Razzano, Dornbush
Favorite: probably Kozuka, though I think I’d make him and Brezina co-faves
Other: van der Perren is the oldest in the field at age 29… this is his fourth Sk8AM appearance (best finish was 4th several years back).

Sk8AM Ladies…
Replacements from original lineup:
Laura Lepisto (FIN) is out; Viktoria Helgesson (SWE) replaces her. Joelle Forte is the USA’s TBD skater.
Top 5 guess in alphabetical order: Alissa Czisny, Joshi Helgesson, Haruka Imai, Carolina Kostner, Ksenia Makarova
Dark Horses: Elene Gedvanishvili, or either Helgesson sis
Who might have a 3/3 (triple/triple): Czisny, Kostner, Makarova
Senior GP Debut: Forte
Favorite: Probably Kostner, though again I see co-faves in Czisny and Kostner.
Other…: Forte, at age 25, is also the oldest competitor among the ladies at Sk8AM.

Sk8AM Pairs…
Replacements from original lineup:
None…Denney/Coughlin is the USA’s TBD.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Bazarova/Larionov, Denney/Coughlin, Savchekno/Szolkowy, Zhang/Zhang
Dark Horse: Moore-Towers/Moscovitch
Senior GP Debut: Denney/Coughlin and Marley/Brubaker
Favorite: Savchenko/Szolkowy
Other…: It’s the Zhangs first international competitive appearance since Worlds 2010 (where they finished 5th). They were out all of last year due to a broken finger and other injuries on Hao Zhang’s part.

Sk8AM Dance…
Replacements from original lineup:
Hoffmann/Zavozin (HUN) is out, as is Monko/Khaliavin (RUS)… Paul/Islam (CAN) and Tobias/Stagniunas (LIU) replace them. Cannuscio/Lorello and Hubbell/Donohue are the USA TBD’s.
Top 4 guess in alphabetical order: Asher/Hill (wild guess), Davis/White, Hubbell/Donohue, Pechalat/Bourzat
Dark Horse: no idea
Senior GP Debut: Hubbell/Donohue, Tobias/Stagniunas
Favorite: Davis/White
Other…: Davis/White have scrapped their La Strada FD in favor of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus (which they first used for an Original Dance all the way back in the 2002-3 season)