MY BEST WEEK OF FANTASY THIS SEASON (And I think my second highest finish overall. ) I finished 9T for the event, which brought me up to 27 overall! I chose 9/12 picks correctly.
My podium predictions were actually pretty off at 5/12 so good thing I do that just for fun and not for points : )
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!
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Reviews, predictions and opinions in the magical, sparkly and dramatic field of figure skating.