Friday, October 24, 2014

2014 Skate America Preview/Predictions

Well it's that time again! #SA2014 here I come. I swear Worlds ended last month... What happened?! Lol

So Tweeted one Jeremy Abbott to his 45 thousand-plus followers, a day or two ago. And while those days between Worlds and SkAM may or may not have flown by for the rest of us, it’s most definitely time for the latter. In my home town, no less!

(Well 27.4 miles northwest of my home town, if I’m being honest. But it’s all part of what they call “Chicagoland” back home.)

Much as I hoped to be there at SkAM myself, selling & signing copies of Skating on Air on the concourse... sadly, it’s not to be. (But if YOU want a really good price on a signed copy of my book, you know where to find me, right? Send me an email! Seriously!)

The consolation prize is my updating the blog twice in two days—yes, it’s really me; I know I’ve only averaged one post (or less!) a month since Worlds and it might seem like trolls have taken over the blog at last. But could trolls make Skate America 2014 podium guesses like this?:

Gold—Chock/Bates (USA)
Silver—Shibutanis (USA)
Bronze—Stepanova/Bukin (RUS)

Dark Horse, A.K.A. Watch out for... Orford/Williams (CAN) or Guignard/Fabbri (ITA)

The U.S. ice dance crown is truly up for grabs this season, and Chock/Bates appear to be heirs to the Davis/White throne. But the Shib Sibs have voiced every intent to make a run for the title themselves. I suspect C/B still has the edge, but watch this showdown closely as the tone—maybe for the entire season—is set.

Gold—Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Silver—Jason Brown (USA)
Bronze—Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Dark Horse: Denis Ten (KAZ)

Last year, Machida claimed the SkAM crown so convincingly (with a total score in the 260s!) you’d have thought he was a favorite for the podium in Sochi. Now that he’s come pretty close to that latter feat—finishing 5th at the Games—it all comes to be a bit more expected now. Which is why I’ve picked him to defend his title successfully here, with Brown (who just won Nebelhorn Trophy a few weeks back) the runner-up. As for Abbott, count me among the few (?) who have not seen a speck of his new programs yet... but he hasn’t received many SkAM assignments through the years, and has yet to medal at the event. Despite my misgivings about him continuing to compete (see my September post), I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt this time around and peg him for bronze.

But all this could be for naught if reigning Olympic Bronze Medalist Denis Ten does something rare for this early in the season, and outshines the pack. He’s a wild card for me right now, particularly since he wasn’t able to compete at his “B” assignment (Nebelhorn).

Gold-- Peng/Zhang (CHN)
Silver-- Kavaguti/Smirnov (RUS)
Bronze-- Scimeca/Knierim (USA)

Dark Horse—Denney/Frazier (USA)

With OGMs Volo/Trank out with an injury, there is no defending pairs champ on hand this year at SkAM. In fact, I just looked over last year’s field and realized at least half those pairs teams aren’t even together anymore! But Kavaguti/Smirnov, bless their hearts, are pressing on past last year’s season-ending injury... and I expect to see them make the podium, just like old times. BUT Peng/Zhang were becoming quite the force as last season progressed, so I’m giving them the upper hand for now. What I’ve seen of Scimeca/Knierim and Denney/Frazier this season makes them pretty evenly matched, so consider that bronze prediction a coin toss.

Gold—Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
Silver—Elena Radionova (RUS)
Bronze—Gracie Gold (USA)

Dark Horse—Mirai Nagasu (USA) or Samantha Cesario (USA)

Although I’m not fond of her new costumes—too billowy, in my opinion, and unable to show off her body lines as they should—Liza T. looked very strong in her “B” events and could well re-claim the SkAM title she first won back in 2011. If not her? Then I look to Radionova, who was a tiny powerhouse in the GP last year but ultimately too young for Olympic competition. I saw no signs of the puberty monster hitting her yet at the Japan Open a few weeks ago, so it should be an interesting showdown between the Russian teens. USA’s own Gracie Gold could prove a spoiler, but only if she seriously improves on her Nebelhorn performance (where she finished 10 points behind Liza T.).

OK, gotta get this posted because things are getting started VERY SOON!


SFM said...

As you promised, two posts!

Nice to have you back blogging, Kelli...enjoy State of the Skate.

Always interesting to see everyone’s podium picks and how they vary. I have changed mine at least a half dozen times with the ladies discipline. I think your picks could be spot on with Liza, Elena and Gracie. I do feel, however, that if Elena skates clean, she might win over Liza and Gracie with her technical element score (TES) alone, unless Liza attempts a more difficult triple - triple or attempts one after the mid - way point in her FS to bump up her score. Gracie needs to skate clean also, in my opinion, in order to win (which would be SO nice to see.) Gracie will need a strong SP so that she does not have to play catch up to Elena and Liza. With this scoring system, these comps can easily be over after the SP, which is a bummer. Anyway, keep up the good work and hope you will be able to blog for the entire season and I am glad the season has finally begun!

Kelli Lawrence said...

Thanks for the kind words! I, too, hope to be back on track for blogging all season.

Looks like you were right about Elena :-)
(I've yet to see the skating but caught up on the scores last night)