Friday, October 21, 2016

STATE OF THE SKAM (Skate America): Ladies & Pairs

Are you ready?
Are you in Chicago, following Skate America in person?
If not, do you know when and where to follow along?

Here’s a guide (IceNetwork, NBC and Universal HD included) if you need it.

First up, Friday night… Ladies and Pairs SPs! That’s where I start with my predictions:


GOLD: Ashley Wagner (USA)
SILVER: Mai Mihara (JPN)
BRONZE: Gracie Gold (USA)

DARK HORSE: Mao Asada (JPN) or Serafima Sakhanovich (RUS)

Wagner’s senior GP history is pretty impressive, as I've said in the past: she’s made the podium 12 times (with 4 victories)… and that’s not even including 5 appearances (and 3 medals) at the GP Finals! Again, basing my SKAM predictions on what I’ve witnessed so far this season (not to mention that stunning GP pedigree of hers), I think this is Ashley’s to lose. The only thing NOT in her corner may be her own concerns about “peaking” at the wrong time. She alluded to it in her appearance on the premiere Ice Talk podcast (new from IceNetwork! Give it a listen—great content and none of the live streaming issues we’ve grown too accustomed to!)… let’s see if she seems to hold back, and how it affects her placement if she does.

If there’s an upset to be had, keep an eye out for 17 year-old GP newcomer Mai Mihara of Japan. She spent three years in the junior GP ranks, reaching the JGP last year, but it’s her recent win at Nebelhorn Trophy (over 2015 World Champ Liza Tuktamysheva, among others) that got my attention. Her triples and 3/3 combos, including a 3 lutz/3 toe, were spot on… and her artistry appears to be coming along nicely. Like the Russian ladies, the pool of top Japanese women continues to be a deep one… so whether Mihara shines for the long haul remains to be seen. But this GP season could be her breakout time for sure.
Bronze is tough. Gold is 6-for-8 (with 2 wins) on GP podiums; Asada is 17-for-20 (with 11 wins)! I’m rooting for Gold to skate well enough for this particular podium because she looked to still be haunted by the Worlds 2016 ghost at the Japan Open… she’s got to shake that off ASAP (paging Gracie’s friend Taylor Swift). BUT if she can’t get it done, Asada’s back in there. (She might be “back in there” anyway; her programs to “ Ritual Fire Dance” this season are stunners.)


GOLD: Tarasova/Morozov (RUS)
SILVER: Seguin/Bilodeau (CAN)
BRONZE: James/Cipres (FRA)

DARK HORSE: Astakhova/Rogonov (RUS)

Let me start by saying if RockerSkating’s Jackie Wong admits the SKAM pairs event is a toss-up, you know we’re all struggling on this one.

Here’s what I think I know:
+      Tarasova/Morozov finished 5th at Boston Worlds, and are bringing a quad twist into the picture this season  (debuting it at Ondrej Nepela Trophy a few weeks ago)
+      Seguin/Bilodeau were sidelined by injury late last season, but are back now and already won the Autumn Classic.
+      James/Cipres finally took home a GP medal last year, but it was at the abbreviated-due-to-tragedy Trophee Bompard. I’m sure they’re itching to still win one “outright”. Considering they finished right behind Seguin/Bilodeau at the Autumn classic, I’m most definitely rooting for this possibility.
+      Astakhova/Rogonov have yet to really dig into the senior circuit (10th at Worlds in 2014; didn’t qualify last year), but were (a distant) 2nd to Duhamel/Radford at the recent Finlandia Trophy… and probably have an above-average shot at a medal here.
+      Yes, the U.S. has three pairs teams at SKAM: Denney/Frazier (out all last season due to injury)… current national champs Kayne/O’Shea… and Castelli/Tran. All three have been through a “B” event this fall; Castelli/Tran fared best with a bronze at the Autumn Classic.
+      NO, I’m not predicting any of our teams for a medal. So… many… side-by-side… jumps…failed… by…our… pairs. That’s why. All the glorious lifts in the world won’t change this fact! Sorry if that seems harsh, but facts are facts. If one of these teams can rise above the fray (or two! Or three!), I’ll be sure to shout it from this blog next week.  

Stay tuned for Men’s and Dance predictions!

No comments: