Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cup of China: A Preview

Pairs: This is possibly one of the deeper pairs fields on the Grand Prix so far, Zhang/Zhang, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Moore-Towers/Moscovitch, and Sui/Han likely being the major teams in contention for the podium. Zhang/Zhang led the field after the short program at Skate America and grabbed silver overall, despite not having competed in over a year. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch also medaled at Skate America and will obviously want to repeat that here, but I think it'll be more difficult this with the two Chinese teams and the Russians to contend with. Kavaguti/Smirnov have been World and Olympic medal contenders before and definitely have a good chance win over this field here if they skate well. Sui/Han are a very young team but they did well on the Grand Prix last season and won Junior Worlds for the second year in a row. They may lack finesse, but their big tricks can be absolutely massive, which often helps them shoot up the rankings. Americans Evora/Ladwig are an outside shot for a medal in my opinion, but a solid showing here would be a great way to build confidence going into Nationals.

Ice Dance: World bronze medalists Shibutani/Shibutani are the likely favorites for this event and look to win their first senior title of any kind here . Bobrova/Soloviev will probably be their main challengers for the gold. Beyond that, it's a bit more confusing with Carron/Jones and Coomes/Buckland having been World competitors and Lichtman/Copely who medaled at Junior Worlds last season. The newly formed team of Emily Samuelson/Todd Gilles will also be competing and I'm interested to see where they'll end up (Samuelson's former parter Evan Bates placed 4th at Skate Canada last week with his new partner Madison Chock).

Ladies: Carolina Kostner has to be considered the favorite at this competition. There's a few girls that could defeat her, but for most of them that will probably require mistakes on her part and excellent skates on theirs. Mirai Nagasu should be considered a threat, but her programs this season, especially her freeskate, are lackluster and she displayed very little fire at Skate Canada last week. If Mirai is on, I think she could take Carolina, but like Jeremy, it all depends on what's going on in her head. Kanako Murakami did extremely well on the Grand Prix last season (beating Kostner at Skate America even) and placed at the top 10 at Worlds; she reportedly is having boot problems but if she can fight through that, it's easy to imagine her medaling. Adelina Sotnikova is the 2011 World Junior Champion and will be making her senior GP debut at this event and will likely be a factor if her jumps stay together. Christina Gao will also be making her GP debut; I like her, but I'm not convinced she'll be in it for a medal. She does has a triple flip-triple toe that's been competition tested before though, so I don't think it's entirely out of the question.

Men: The battle for the podium here will be slightly less difficult than it was expected to be, due to Brian Joubert withdrawing because of a back injury he's been dealing with recently. It seems like there will be four main guys in contention, with a few possible spoilers should they falter. Jeremy Abbott is a fantastic all around skater, but how he places here will depend on his mental game; if he keeps it together he could come out with a massive score, but if he doesn't, he could end up off the podium entirely in this field. Artur Gachinski is lacking in some areas but can be a very consistent jumper and has a solid quad under his belt. Yuzuru Hanyu shocked many by placing second behind Daisuke Takahashi at Four Continents last season and while still developing (understandable because he's still only 16), has nice style and some absolutely gorgeous jumps. Nobunari Oda is not planning to attempt a quad here because of a knee injury he was dealing with a few months ago, which could make medaling here significantly more difficult with Gachinski, Abbott, and Hanyu competing; especially with all three planning to quad (to the best of my knowledge).  Kevin Reynolds, as usual, has the potential to play spoiler here as he'll probably be attempting at least two types of quads, but he lacks consistency and often falls apart in the freeskate. Richard Dornbush also has a quad planned and can be a steady competitor, but unless the others really struggle, I think don't think his odds of medaling are great.

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