I had my days wrong; senior events at U.S. Nationals don’t get started until Thursday. So I took a little more time putting these together… we’ll see if it helps:
Dark Horses: Castelli/Shnapir, Vise/Baldwin, Cain/Reagan
Pairs shapes up internationally as our weakest event… will things change this year at Worlds? Methinks the ones to answer that question are similar to the ones who tried it last year. While it’d be nice to see Evora/Ladwig on top for once—if only as a testament to their enduring partnership-- I’m afraid I have more confidence in D/C’s side by side jumps. I haven’t seen Marley/Brubaker skate in a while, but I miss seeing Brubaker on the podium so I’m hoping he and young Ms. Marley now have the experience to get there.
Gold: Alissa Czisny
Silver: Mirai Nagasu
Bronze: Ashley Wagner
Dark Horses: Rachael Flatt, Agnes Zawadzki, Samantha Cesario
Czisny has been at this what seems like forever (yes, 2002 now counts as a very long time ago in respects like this), and to win this title back to back would be to further banish her “emotionally fragile” label. Nagasu tends to shine at Nationals, even when she can’t anywhere else… it’s not out of the question to think she could re-claim the title she first won in 2008. But I wasn’t a big fan of her Spartacus free skate when I saw it in the fall, mostly because she lacked a spark with it. Has she re-tooled it… or herself? We shall see. Speaking of which, Flatt sure had her work cut out for her when she completed her turn on the GP circuit with some of the lowest scores she’s ever had at this level of competition. Has she adjusted the Skating/Stanford balance by now? Maybe, but for me, Firebird just doesn’t work very well on Flatt. If her bummer season continues, I’m pulling for Wagner to get back to the podium. By the way, if I’m right about Cesario giving everyone a surprise appearance in the final flight, look for some dueling Swans… both she and Wagner are free skating to selections from Black Swan (and I think have similar costumes to boot).
Dark Horses: Chock/Bates, Kriengkrairut/Giulietti-Schmitt, Samuelson/Gilles
Obviously D/W are untouchable as far as the U.S. compeition is concerned, so let’s move on to the battle for silver and bronze (both of which get to move on to Worlds). I prefer both Hubbell/Donohue’s and Chock/Bates’ free dances to that of the Shib Sibs this year, and would enjoy seeing either of them on the podium. But the Shibs appear to have killer technique that helps them overcome any emotional disconnect they may encounter—a disconnect prone to brother/sister teams (the Kerrs being one notable exception). Plus they’ve still got that World bronze medal in their back pocket…
Gold: Jeremy Abbott
Silver: Richard Dornbush
Bronze: Adam Rippon
Dark Horses: Ross Miner, Max Aaron, Armin Mahbanoozadeh
A tough category? Yes, but on the other hand, I’m going to try and call the whole top 10 here: Abbott, Dornbush, Rippon, Miner, Aaron, Mahbanoozadeh, (Joshua) Farris, (Jason) Brown, (Keegan) Messing, (Douglas) Razzano.
Abbott will be disappointed with anything less than his third U.S. title; as well he should be, he’s the best all-around skater of the field with two of the best programs of the season. Dornbush should do well enough to prove his silver medal last year was no fluke; Rippon, like his buddy Ashley Wagner, desperately needs to prove he can handle this Nationals pressure and get a medal by hook or crook. Also making a splash this year should be Aaron (2011 Junior champ), Farris (shaking off the horrors of his previous senior Nats), and—especially if he can land as triple axel by now—Brown.
The pairs skate their SP at 7PM Eastern time Thursday; the ladies; at 10:30. ARE YOU READY?? ARE THEY?? Let’s enjoy this.