Fun fact about Kelowna, B.C. (location of this year's Skate Canada International): It was the shooting locale for Fido, "a comedy/horror/thriller movie about zombies" that debuted at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006.
How do you like that? I've got the preview up 2 hours in advance AND have provided you some Halloween-ish trivia. Yay!
So let's get down to business...
GOLD: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
SILVER: Takahito Mura (JPN)
BRONZE: Max Aaron (USA)
Dark Horse: Adam Rippon (USA) and Michal Brezina (CZE)
I pick Fernandez easily in what is, frankly, a sea of not-so-heavy hitters this year (Patrick Chan taking the year off and all). Mura could upset, but I'd be amazed if anyone else did. Brezina's new Marriage of Figaro FS looked pretty good in the early season, but I still question his stamina issues too much to make him more than a dark horse option. Rippon's FS to Piano Concerto #1 (Liszt) looked even better when I gave it a look a few weeks back; if he had to move on from last year's glorious Debussy program (and given the sadness he must've felt in not making the Olympic team, well, who can blame him?), this is a good way to go. But let's see him put a good SP & LP back to back... then I'll look for him back on the podium.
P.S. While I'm not fond of Aaron's "Footloose" SP, and he made some silly mistakes in his season debut 2 months ago, I still point to his quads as a worthy reason to put him 3rd.
GOLD: Duhamel/Radford (CAN)
SILVER: Sui/Han (CHN)
BRONZE: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)
Dark Horse: James/Cipres (FRA)
Duhamel/Radford have their own throw quad salchow now; it was unveiled at the Autumn Classic a few weeks back. Pair that with side by side triple lutzes, and they now have some of the most technically challenging programs in the business. Sui/Han usually have a few quad tricks up their sleeve as well, so they're an easy pick for silver (and could win if D/R fall apart). New on the senior scene is Tarasova/Morozov; listen for the familiar strains of Lionel Richie's "Hello" (in orchestral form) when they perform their FS.
GOLD: Weaver/Poje (CAN)
SILVER: Hubbell/Donohue (USA)
BRONZE: Zhiganshina/Gazsi (GER)
Dark Horse: Gilles/Poirier (CAN)
W/P for the win? Easy. The rest? Heh. But I'm pulling for the sometimes overlooked Hubbell/Donohue to get silver with a Great Gatsby-themed FD. Zhiganshina/Gazsi are always wildly entertaining, if not technically outstanding, so I see them possibly edging out Gilles/Poirier (who I prefer, to be honest) with Z/G's "Swan Lake Reloaded" FD.
GOLD: Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
SILVER: Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
BRONZE: Ashley Wagner (USA)
Dark Horse: Alena Leonova (RUS) or Courtney Hicks (USA)
I love Wagner's skating, and I'm glad she's continuing beyond Sochi. But, like Nagasu, she's developed a reputation for UR jumps that I'm afraid will be tough to shake... even when she does fully rotate them. (Reputations are like that.) I tend to think she'll be outskated here by both Miyahara (who has a charming Miss Saigon FS) and Pogorilaya, who managed to make Firebird infinitely more interesting-- when she skated it at the Japan Open-- than the Mermaids (Pirates of the Caribbean) FS of last season.
Both Leonova and Hicks earned 2nd place finishes at Challenger Series events earlier in the season, and I think either one could make a podium visit if they are "on".
Remember, Skate Canada International only lasts Friday (today) and Saturday-- nothing on Sunday! Check this link for start times. I'll be off-and-on live tweeting both days... find me @KLBSt8ofSk8 and/or use #SC2014.