Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Grand Prix in Review: What Have We Learned?

First, to review who just medaled at the GP Final, here’s your cheat sheet...
GOLD: Hanyu, JPN
Hanyu’s siiiiick score in the SP (missed 100 by thatmuch!!) helped him defeat Chan, who skated right after that SP and “only” got 87 with a fall out on the triple axel and a hot mess of a double (not triple) lutz. Oda was a best-of-the-rest case in an event where the quads were off for damn near everyone.
GOLD: Asada, JPN
SILVER: Lipnitskaia, RUS
A lot of us were scratching our heads at Adelina Sotnikova’s 2nd place SP finish—particularly when both Wagner and Gumbyskaia skated clean, and had more difficult 3/3 combos—but in the end, Gumby no-boned her way to silver and once again gave notice to those on Sochi watch (probably everyone reading this, right?). Wagner, for her part, “left some points on the table” as she herself said (with a fall on her lutz and a 2-footed triple loop), and it sounds like she’s planning on doing some FS re-tooling with the spins and footwork during this brief pause before U.S. Nationals.
GOLD: Sav/Szol, GER
SILVER: Volo/Trank, RUS
BRONZE: Pang/Tong, CHN
Aha, the upset! It came just in time to make this race more interesting by Olympic time... even though I have a hard time seeing this scenario repeat itself this season. And just as I was casting doubt on Pang/Tong because of Tong’s SBS jump inconsistencies, he gets it together and Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (my bronze medal prediction) are the ones with the problems.
GOLD: Davis/White, USA
SILVER: Virtue/Moir, CAN
BRONZE: Pechalat/Bourzat, FRA
D/W got it in their first twizzle-to-twizzle with V/M of the season, but it wasn’t by as much as one might expect from a “dominating” team, so that’ll probably turn out to be a good thing for all involved. And it looked like Bob/Solo was going to make the podium a complete rerun of Worlds until... whoopsie... the ugly trip-up. You know who else is familiar with ugly trip-ups that cost them a medal? Pechalat/Bourzat. Except this time they were the ones standing by, catching the bronze in their bare hands as Bob/Solo hit the ice. (I’d say what goes around comes around except that doesn’t work in this case; the Shib Sibs were the ones that benefited from P/B’s mistake at 2011 Worlds.)

The battle for Olympic bronze is sooooo on—especially in ice dance. It appears to be advantage Bobrova/Soloviev, despite the GPF finish, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a time when so many teams had a legitimate shot at it. (Question for Cappillini/Lanotte fans: 4th at Worlds, but solidly in 6th at this GPF... what do you suggest for them?)
There’s a great future for skating—at least when it comes to the athletes themselves. All things being equal, we have good reason this season to keep our eyes peeled for the progression of Jason Brown (USA), Samantha Cesario (USA), Elena Radionova (RUS), Han Yan (CHN), and Satoko Miyahara (JPN), to name a few. I’d put Peng/Zhang (CHN) on this list too, but at age 30-something will Zhang really continue beyond this Olympics? Maybe “the future” is Peng with a new, more age-appropriate partner...
Is the future NOW? Lipnitskaia, aka The Best in Boneless Skating, is the most consistently good singles skater Russia has right now (male or female). I really think she is well-poised to be a spoiler in the Yuna vs. Mao quest for Olympic gold... IF she is able to withstand what’s sure to be enormous home-country pressure, that is. And another Russian on the rise, GP Finalist Maxim Kovtun, looked very much to be a threat to Plushy’s latest Olympic journey until the wheels started coming off in his past few performances. If the aforementioned pressure hasn’t already gotten to him, and he can regroup in time for next week’s Russian Championships (to be held right there in Sochi, no less!), Kovtun could make the Olympic selection committee regret the jobs with which they’ve been entrusted.
Who to worry about (based on GP performances): Fernandez. Amodio. Brezina. Kostner. Reynolds (because boot issues kept him from competing at all). Denis Ten (because multiple illnesses/ailments allowed him to compete only once, and he didn’t make the podium). Maybe Duhamel/Radford too? Yes, they made the GPF, but for World Bronze Medalists I don’t think they look as solid as they should at this point in the season.
And don’t write off the following skaters just yet: Pang/Tong. Rippon. Takahashi. Abbott. Suzuki. Oda! Nagasu! The list could probably go longer... who would you add? To this or any of these lists?
As the holidays approach and then pass, so are the national championships for many countries of note. Some of those dates are listed below; keep your eyes and ears open for streaming links!!
Japanese Nats: Dec 20-23
Russian Nats: Dec 24-27
U.S. Nats: Jan 5-12
Canadian Nats: Jan 9-15

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