Ohmygod U.S. Nationals are THIS WEEK! #anxiety
With some major players out with injuries and all eyes looking towards 2018, what we see this year is skaters setting themselves up for the Olympic year. More important than what happens in Kansas City this week is what happens at Worlds this year or what I like to call "White Knuckling Olympic Spots". Here is a look at the storylines I will be keeping my eye on in Kansas City: (See Part One here)
3. How high will Nathan Chen’s scores get?
Anyone that tells you this title isn’t Nathan Chen’s to lose is lying. His improved components combined with his 10,000 quads have him securely in the frontrunner position in Kansas City. If you remember back to last year, Nathan’s lowballed scores were at the center of the controversial men’s result. Now, with the reigning champion out, the 2015 champ recovering from an injury and a senior Grand Prix Final medal under his belt, the judges have free reign to give Nathan with (deserved) points and I expect crazy high scores.
With one of the World team spots presumably taken by #Slaythan, it could be a tight race for the silver medal. Jason Brown is dealing with an injury that has caused him to miss significant training time. Healthy, Jason is an easy pick for second (with the incredible quality of his programs) but his injury leaves the door open. Max Aaron is coming to Nationals with a new short program that seems more suited to his style. He could ride that momentum and quad or two to another Worlds birth. I’m going to be watching those two skaters scores for some *interesting* marks. While I love Grant Hochstein and Ross Miner’s skating, they haven’t been skating the best. I’m very excited to see what Vincent Zhou can bring to the table here.
4. Can anyone shake up the dance placements?
It’s fairly predictable that the U.S.’s top three internationally ranked teams will be the three teams on top of the podium this week. The Shibutanis come off of two wins on the Grand Prix, a GPF bronze and I’m certain hungry to keep their national title. These two are so consistent and technically precise, they come in as the favorites. Madison Chock/Evan Bates are coming off a disappointing Grand Prix Final, where mistakes left them in last place, behind not only the Shibs but Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue as well. While I think Hubbell/Donohue have the best free dance of the event, their hip-hop short is a liability in my opinion. Can Madi and Zach pull an upset here? Possible. But clean skates from Chock/Bates make a big difference.
Last year, Anastasia Cannuscio/Colin McManus pulled an upset, winning the pewter medal over Kaitlyn Hayawek/Jean Luc Baker. This season, however, Hawayek/Baker have shown much improvement and their free dance is absolutely gorgeous. In the Grand Prix, they averaged roughly 20 points higher than Cannuscio/McManus and beat them at NHK. All signs point to Kaitlyn and Jean Luc grabbing their fourth place U.S. ranking back. I am also looking forward to Progrebinsky/Benoit skating at the senior level this year.
I'll be back on Wednesday with some predictions, then I'm off to enjoy the weekend in Kansas City! I'll be live in the arena for the ladies free, so check me out on Twitter if you want updates!
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