Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Canadian, Euros, U.S. Nationals... Let the Winter Gold Rush Begin!

The second half of the season is upon us!

Canadian Nationals have already begun (concluding this weekend)… U.S. Nationals begin next week… and ditto for Europeans.

Up north, it looks to be a pair of coronation/re-coronations paired with a couple more suspenseful competitions. For the men, of course, it’s Patrick Chan’s world… with a battle for silver (and the 2nd world team spot) that should prove the most interesting. Last year’s runner-up to Patrick Chan, Shawn Sawyer, has since retired; so too has Joey Russell, who took Sawyer’s place at Words. That leaves Kevin Reynolds, Elladj Balde, and the (finally!) injury-free Jeremy Ten among the contenders. Question for Canadian readers: should we include 13 year-old phenom Nam Nguyen (last year’s Junior Champ by a wide margin) among those who will make a run for the senior podium?

For dance, Virtue/Moir are back to reclaim their 4th National title after missing last year’s event. Crone/Poirier, who took the title in their absence, are no longer together… meaning the path is pretty clear for Weaver/Poje to repeat as silver medalists. Like the U.S., Canada gets three dance spots for Worlds—so battling for bronze should be Paul/Islam, Asher/Hill, and (possibly?) Paul Poirier with his new partner Piper Gilles. (Feel free to let me know if any of the athletes I name are not attending Nationals for some reason… I had the starting orders up earlier in the day, but they were proving difficult to load so I’m winging it at the moment!)

The biggest interest in the ladies event, I presume, is whether or not Cynthia Phaneuf’s recent coaching switch (to Brian Orser) will result in a notably improved skater from earlier in the season. Even if she’s still having trouble, is there really anyone strong enough to upset her from the top spot? Amelie Lacoste is the only one that comes to mind (is Myriane Sampson still competing?)

And over in pairs, the same three teams from last year could make the podium this year… but I wouldn’t place bets on the order for Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, Duhamel/Radford, and Lawrence/Swiegers. Duhamel/Radford took silver last year, but this season they were the Canadian pairs representative at the GP Final. Could they get the win at Nationals? We’ll know soon enough…

Over at Euros, the biggest news I’ve heard thus far (that isn’t Plushy-related) is that Russia’s Kavaguti/Smirnov, who took the silver here last year, will not be able to compete, due to the fact that Smirnov is still recovering from an emergency appendectomy he underwent earlier in the month. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are taking their place.

I’ll start honing in on the U.S. Nationals when I post again later this week!

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