Considering the mens field situation here, I'm happy with a 87T for the event and a 47 overall standing. I picked 7/12 fantasy picks correctly and 8/12 podium predictions. I'd like to keep that overall placement high- fingers crossed for France!
All four current World champions are competing at NHK this week and already the drama has been unfolding as reports of Hanyu's practice injury have surfaced. Good lord, who knows what else we are in store for this week?
This will be the second time we see each of the current World Champions on the Grand Prix. Evgenia Medvedeva, Sui/Han, Virtue/Moir and Yuzru Hanyu all look likely to clinch a Final berth with another win here. Only Hanyu comes in without a win at his prior event and again, news of his injury creates more question marks, but I still have to feel like he will win even if he lands only half of his quads. #yuzuprobs
Satoko Miyahara makes her long awaited return to competition after injury. There's a lot of attention on Miyahara from the Japanese press and you have to imagine there will be some "rust" and nerves from her after such a long break. Her performance here will have a big impact on the Japanese ladies Olympic scenario.
Other storylines to watch:
Carolina Kostner put down big numbers at Rostelecom after two great skates. I'm interested to see how she is here- can she maintain ( and perhaps even improve upon) that consistency?
U.S. ladies Mariah Bell and Mirai Nagasu are matched up for a third time this season, and the score is currently tied 1-1. Whoever comes out on top here will have a momentum advantage before U.S. Nationals.
Similarly, U.S. men Jason Brown and Adam Rippon meet here, each hoping to establish their footing in a very convoluted men's field for U.S. Olympic spots. Jason can actually seal up a place at the Final with a medal here, while Rippon would also hope to grab one before Skate America.
Canada and Russia each have one clear leader for their Olympic men's spots (Chan and Kolyada, respectively) and then several skaters trying for that second spot. Russians Dimitri Aliev and Sergei Voronov compete here, as well as Canadians Nam Nguyen and Keegan Messing.
U.S. pair Scimeca-Knierim/Knierim are the favorites for the U.S.'s one Olympic pair spot. Though jump inconsistency has plagued them, they are the only U.S. pair to make any impact internationally in the past few seasons. I'm interested to see how they do here and how their scores compare to the other U.S. pairs.
I hope Canada's Seguin/Bilodeau come in fighting this week, after what I believe was a hugely underscored performance in Russia. They are fighting for Olympic spots, and their teammates just won a medal last week. I hope they can rebound well here.
Where Cappelini/Lanotte fit into this season's dance ranking is a bit of a question mark for me. I will be watching to see what their scores look like here in comparison to the rest of the top ice dance teams.
Hubbell/Donohue of the U.S. actually have the highest total score of all American dance teams in the Grand Prix thus far, though by a slim margin. They have an opportunity here to best that performance and put the pressure on their compatriots. They can not afford the kind of mistakes that unfortunately plagued them last season if they want to shake up the U.S. ranks.
So, Cup of Disaster lived up to its name (see the many unexpected finishes in the men's event and its overall messiness). It's so nice to know you can always count on something.
BUSINESS AS USUAL:
Alina Zagitova won the ladies event, as most expected. An uncharacteristic fall from her in the short made it a much slimmer victory than I would've thought, but she won nevertheless. For more on that topic, see "Rants" below. : )
Sui and Han are the best pair skaters in the world, hands down. They are the best at conveying such a sincere and palpable artistry on the ice and they have the technical goods to back it up. I will shout until the day I die that they should still be skating to Bridge Over Troubled Water, but Hallelujah is the perfect selection for them so I'll take it. I really hope these two can stay strong and consistent this season; i really want them to get Olympic gold.
The dance podium played out as most expected it to, but the scores were more interesting than the placements. Papadakis/Cizeron being the first dance team to break 300 makes their battle with Virtue and Moir that much more intriguing; the gap is definitely closing.
Wakaba Higuchi had an absolutely fantastic competition here. Her free skate was my favorite performance from this entire event (perhaps the whole ladies season....yes definitely, of the whole ladies season), and she made a huge statement here. Her spot on the Japanese ladies team *seems* secure, baring disaster at Japanese Nationals (prayer hands emoji). We have yet to see Satoko Miyahara skate yet, but Higuchi beating both Honda and Mihara here was big.
It's really unfortunate that Javi was sick and will be sitting out the Final. Luckily, he doesn't have to worry about competing for an Olympic spot. And now, along with Patrick Chan, he's going to have lots of training time behind him heading to South Korea. That could play to his advantage. Don't worry about Javi; I expect much stronger skates from him this winter.
Kudos to Han Yan for a fantastic comeback and Mikhail Kolyada's quad lutz in the short. KUDOS.
The placements for the American men were a bit of a plot twist. Max Aaron winning a medal here is a huge accomplishment for him personally, but I'm not sure how much impact it has on his overall case for the U.S. Olympic team after such a bad winter last year. It helps, but I don't think it's enough without another strong finish. Vincent Zhou had an uneven performance, with great moments and then big mistakes. The mens selection for the U.S. Olympic team just seems to be getting more convoluted after each event. Brown and Rippon compete this week at NHK, and Aaron and Zhou face off again in France.
Chock/Bates didn't seem thrilled with their marks. I'm not sure either of their programs the right fit, and though they don't have to worry about not making the Olympic team, they may be losing ground nationally. It would be *Very Interesting* to see all three American teams in the Final to get a preview before the U.S. Championships.
What an awesome medal for Kirsten Moore-Towers/ Michael Marinaro. The 2nd and 3rd Olympic spots for Canadian pairs are a toss up, but these two had the strongest competition so far of those in contention. We will see Julianne/ Charlie at NHK and Luba/Dylan in France, but Kirsten and Michael get the last word at Skate America.
I will spare you on this and be brief: the way gold and silver played out in the ladies event here is all the evidence you need that the point system needs some *adjusting*. Wakaba Higuchi deserved to win HANDILY. And she didn't because of the unbeatable- but entirely unbalanced- Russian lady formula. That is all.
On to NHK! JESUS! HOW IS THE GRAND PRIX HALF OVER ALREADY?!?!?
Cup of China lived up to its "Cup of Disaster" name when it came to the men here, but my stats weren't all that bad. I still had 9/12 picks correct, including all of ladies and dance picks. I'm surprised I didn't finish higher but the Javi debacle probably cost a lot of points. It was better than Skate Canada, so at least there's that : )
Javier Fernandez and Boyang Jin will headline the men's event in China, quads in tow. Javier has the PCS to carry him to victory here, but Jin has been making improvements in that area. Booing can, and likely will, capitalize if Javi opens the door.
It’s time for the newest Russian darling to make her GP debut. The latest Eteri prodigy Alina Zagitova had a successful Challenger event earlier this season, and I expect her to tano and backload her way to victory here also. Eyes will also be on Wakaba Higuchi to see if she can back up her Rostelecom bronze with a medal here.
Papadakis/Cizeron are the heavy favorites in dance. They had a solid debut at Finlandia and they should end up on top of the podium here. This will be the first time we will see Chock/Bates this season and I’m very interested to see their new material and what level they are skating at. They had a rough Worlds and a strong performance here would help them set a positive tone for their season.
It’s Sui and Han time! The last of the top pairs to make their season debut, many will be looking to see how the new World Champs are looking this season. Other than compatriots Yu/Zhang, this pairs field is relatively weak, so expect to see two Chinese teams on the podium at home.
Other storylines to watch:
Obviously most of this event will be watched in the middle of the night for me, so here’s hoping I have the stamina and caffeine to watch the whole thing. Enjoy, friends!
Well, when I said we were in for a crazy event, Canada really outdid itself. (Kudos to everyone who made it through that ladies event tbh.) There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll do my best to be brief.
BUSINESS AS USUAL:
Shoma Uno rolled through the men’s event to finish first as expected, along with Tessa and Scott in the dance competition. They should both be well on their way to the Final. Kaetlyn Osmond won as expected in the ladies field, but continued her jump struggles in the free skate. Many see her as the only one close to beating Medvedeva, but she won't come close if she can't put out clean programs consistently before February.
Patrick Chan’s fourth place finish here likely means he's out of the Final. There were some reports that he may pull out of NHK, but I hope he competes. IMO, he'll be better served by getting those programs out there internationally a second time before the Olympics. I think he'll need a boost of momentum to do well in South Korea. But that's just me.
Jason Brown's silver medal here is big for his chances for the Final, as well as sealing the deal on an Olympic team spot.
Alexander Samarin's medal here makes the Russian men's Olympic team selection even more interesting. We'll see how Kolyada responds this week in China. Maxim Kovtun is slated to compete at NHK.
Ashley Wagner beating Karen Chen here is a nice boost to Wagner's case for the U.S. Olympic team and keeps her in the conversation for the Final. Both skate again at Skate America, where the field is less competitive and both could make the podium.
Maria Sotskova is looking good for a spot on Russia's Olympic team after a silver medal here. My heart goes out to Anna Pogorilaya and I hope she rests and heals.
Marin Honda is such a beautiful skater and I love everything about her. It's too bad she bombed the short here, she likely would've been on the podium if not. There have been reports that she's planning to withdraw from Cup of China next week, due to injury. She is still listed on the entries, though.Keep an eye on that situation as the week progresses.
GOD BLESS Weaver/Poje bringing back Je Suis Malade and for getting new short dance costumes. Both elevate them to a new level and bring them solidly back into the conversation for Olympic bronze. Hubbell/Donohue still have some work to do on those programs before NHK. They have silver medal chances there, which would be huge for them.
Duhamel/Radford are back in the pairs conversation after a great competition here in Regina.
Um, ladies technical panel, did you need a nap? That was legit the strictest technical panel I've ever seen. And I was worried about Shin Amano! I will say that at least they were consistent (with the notable exception of Kaetlyn Osmond) and dinged everybody.
Let's hope the Cup of China panels are more friendly; I will be watching in the middle of the night and I'm not sure I can handle that level of drama at 4:00 AM, thank you very much. Happy watching!
L.O.L. Skate Canada. What a wild ride that event was! I tanked fantasy this week, choosing 7/12 picks correct. I ended up tied for 199th for the event, and moved to 73rd overall. I only chose 4/12 podium picks correct. Somehow I feel like I always do bad at this event. MOVING ON...
The Grand Prix series moves to Regina, Saskatchewan this weekend for the second stop of the Grand Prix series. No one supports the home team like Skate Canada, so we're in for a fun weekend: )
Other storylines to watch:
After not being able to watch much of Rostelecom Cup live last week, I am mostly just excited to have two full days free to watch and live tweet. Happy watching!
BUSINESS AS USUAL:
Evgenia did the normal Evgenia thing (minus a completely inconsequential fall in the free). Evgenia got the "normal" Evgenia scores. There really isn't much to say that hasn't already been said. Her march to the top of the Olympic podium continues...
Nathan Chen set a nice precedent here, beating Hanyu with two less-than-clean skates. Obviously, Hanyu was not at his best here either, but this result could be the start of Nathan's climb to overcome Hanyu's typical PCS advantage.
Mariah Bell beating Mirai Nagasu here evens their head-to-head matchups, setting up for a very important third matchup at NHK right before U.S. Nationals. There's a lot of buzz about Nagasu right now, but she has to capitalize on it before she hits the ice San Jose.
I shouldn't have underestimated Carolina Kostner. She was able to score big numbers here, even without her most difficult content, because of her cleanliness and quality. Beautiful skates, Caro.
RUSSIA HATES CANADA APPARENTLY:
Gilles/Poirier got screwed over here. While I'm not in love with either of their programs, their quality is way better than Stepanova/Bukin and they should've medalled. Seguin/Bilodeau were also underscored, especially in the short.
A RANT OR TWO:
1. I am over cheesy pairs. I am over cheesy pair programs. With artists like Wenjing Sui in my life, I have no time for kitsch. Since Tarasova/Morosov will likely not change their god-awful free skate music selection, at least get her a new dress, could ya? Also, I know that Valentina Marchei is a brand unto her own, but they're taking a step backwards with program selection this year, IMO.
2. Why is everyone missing the mark on Olympic music selections this year? I feel like Olympic programs (long programs/ free dances especially) should be built with a MOMENT in mind at the end; you know what I'm talking about...the big spin finale set to a huge crescendo type thing. I feel like the Shibutanis free dance is too close to Evolution and a bit one level emotionally; i just don't see it capitalizing on the big Olympic setting. There are many other skaters/teams I could name as well, but I will spare you.
3. As fans, I feel like we get excited by skaters/teams who can show some dynamism with their skating- something new, something out-of-character, something different from year-to-year. A progression, a development, etc. I'm guessing it's the Olympic year to blame, but so many skaters are giving us similar (if not the literal exact same) packaging they've competed before. I'm missing a spark so far this season. Fingers crossed we see it soon! The field at Skate Canada has good potential for excitement.
On to Regina....
About the Blog:
Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.