Smooth’s Podium Picks – Four Continents Championships 2022

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Tallinn, Estonia is once again the setting for this weekend’s figure skating competition.  This season, the Four Continents Championship has turned into a consolation for some skaters who came up short in their quest for national championships and a spot on the Winter Olympic team. It’s also a chance to improve on their programs and get valuable international experience in the hopes for future Grand Prix assignments. Over 55 skaters will compete.

optimizeMen: Junhwan Cha looks like the skater to beat this weekend. The 6-time South Korean champion will be using this competition to improve in preparation for Beijing. This season, he was 3rd at NHK Trophy and finished 5th at 4CC in 2020. His biggest competitors will be from Japan and the United States. Kazuki Tomono finished 5th at nationals and had a 3rd place finish at this season’s Rostelecom Cup. His best finish at 4CC was 7th in 2020. American Camden Pulkinen had a 5th place finish at nationals and finished 11th at 4CC in 2020. Teammate Jimmy Ma was right behind Pulkinen in 6th place at nationals, and had his best finish this season at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in 2nd place. Canada’s Joseph Phan finished off the podium at nationals in 4th place, while teammate and former junior Canadian champ Corey Circelli will skate in his third senior event.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Junhwan Cha (KOR)
2. Camden Pulkinen (USA)
3. Kazuki Tomono (JPN)

zqvcowk5odoatoxisjsnWomen: 20 skaters will compete with a few familiar names. South Korea has a chance to sweep the podium with high flyers. Young You picked up her 4th national title and also had a very successful Grand Prix season, making the podium at Skate America (3rd) and NHK Trophy (3rd). Yelim Kim finished 2nd behind You at nationals, and will skate in her 3rd 4CC event where her best finish was 6th in 2020. Haein Lee took 3rd at nationals, but her Grand Prix season was disappointing, with her best finish at Skate Canada in 7th place. American Gabby Izzo missed the podium at nationals in 4th place two weeks ago, and US Figure Skating gave her the 4CC assignment for international experience. Audrey Shin and Starr Andrews also will compete. Olympic gold medalist Gabby Daleman makes her first 4CC appearance since 2017. The two-time Canadian champ was 2nd in that competition. Japan’s has three entries, including former 2017 4CC champion, Mai Mihara.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Young You (KOR)
2. Mai Mihara (JPN)
3. Gabby Izzo (USA)

gettyimages_1236532053_16_x_9_71Pairs: It will be a battle between American and Canadian teams, three on each side. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov surprised many with a win at Golden Spin of Zagreb, but could not equate that to victory at US nationals, where they finished 3rd. They go into Tallinn as the slight favorites. On the Canadian side, Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud finished 2nd for the third straight time at nationals, but were not selected for the Olympic team in a controversial draw. They will skate this weekend, while still being the 1st alternate. Teammates Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps finished 3rd at nationals and will skate in only their 4th international competition as a team. Stellato-Dudek’s former partner, Nathan Bartholomay also skates this weekend on the American side with his new partner, Katie McBeath. They finished 5th at nationals.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES 

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov (USA)
2. Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud (CAN)
3. Katie McBeath and Nathan Bartholomay (USA)

10242020_2020skam_d_fd_266_caroline_green_michael_parsonsIce Dance: 10 teams from 5 countries participate this weekend. At the top of the list is Caroline Green and Michael Parsons, who missed the podium at US nationals in 4th place. The team’s best finish this season was a 4th place finish at Skate Canada. Canadians Carolane Souisse and Shane Firus also missed the podium at nationals last weekend. They finished 2nd at 4CC in 2018. Americans Cristina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko finished a disappointing 7th at US Nationals and finished 5th in Grenoble for their best Grand Prix placement this season. All eyes will be on former Olympic men’s bronze medalist, Daisuke Takahashi and teammate, Kona Muramoto. They barely missed out on a shot at Japan nationals for ice dance, finishing 2nd. Their best finish this season was at NHK Trophy, where they ended up in 6th place.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES 

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Caroline Green and Michael Parsons (USA)
2. Carolane Souisse and Shane Firus (CAN)
3. Cristina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (USA)

———————–

Results from previous events

Rostelecom Cup

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Men 0/3
Women 1/3 (Kamila Valieva sets a competition record, 1st. )
Pairs 3/3 (CALLED IT! 1-2-3)
Ice Dance 3/3 (CALLED IT! 1-2-3)

——————-

US Nationals

2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships - Day 4

Seniors
Men – 1/3 (Nathan Chen finishing 1st)
Women – 1/3 (Karen Chen finishing 2nd)
Pairs – 0/3 (Knierim/Frazier w/d ruined placements)
Ice Dance – 1/3 (Hawayek/Baker finishing 3rd)

Juniors
Men – 0/1 (Kai Kovar 1st, Will Annis 2nd)
Women – 0/1 (Clare Seo 1st, Ava Ziegler 2nd)
Pairs – 0/1 (Sonia Baram and Daniel Tioumentsev 1st, Martins and Bedard 2nd)
Ice Dance – 0/1 (Leah Neset and Artem Markelov 1st, Ling and Wein 2nd)

——————-

Canadian Nationals

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Seniors
Men – 2/3 (Messing and Sadovsky, 1-2)
Women – 1/3 (Schizas finishing 1st)
Pairs – 0/3 (James/Radford w/d ruined placements)
Ice Dance – 3/3 (CALLED IT! 1-2-3)

Juniors
Men – 0/1 (Anthony Paradis 1st, Grayson Long 2nd)
Women – 1/1 (CALLED IT! Justine Miclette 1st)
Pairs – 0/1 (Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar 1st, Panetta and Thrasher, 5th)
Ice Dance – 1/1 (CALLED IT! Natalie D’Alessandro and Bruce Waddell, 1ST)

——————-

European Championships

ISU European Figure Skating Championships - Tallin

Men – 1/3 (Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs, 3rd)
Women – 3/3 (CALLED IT! 1-2-3)
Pairs – 1/3 (Correctly picked a Russian sweep, but only Mishina/Galliamov picked correctly, 1st)
Ice Dance – 1/3 (Sinitsina/Katsalapov, 1st)

Season to Date

Men: 10/29
Women: 16/29
Pairs: 12/29
Ice Dance: 23/29

Posted in 4CC, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Four Continents, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Predictions, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 European Figure Skating Championships

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Europe’s finest skaters will converge on the Baltic country of Estonia, where the event will take place once again after being cancelled due to COVID. The European Championships were first held in 1891, when only men were allowed to compete. In 1930, women and pairs were added, and in 1954, ice dance was included. The city of Tallinn holds the event for the first time since 2010, and there are two chances for a Russian sweep of the podium.

danil-grassl-isu-gp-final-credit-diego-barbieri-1Men: 34 skaters will vie for spots in the world. However, two contenders won’t be available. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada pulled out due to injury, while Italy’s Matteo Rizzo won’t be skating due to technical issues. That leaves teammate Daniel Grassl as the slight favorite to reach the top of the podium. The four-time Italian champion had a 3rd place finish in the Gran Premio D’Italia in Turin. Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs had four 4th place finishes in Grand Prix action this season and captured his 4th national men’s title. Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili captured the country’s first men’s Grand Prix title at Rostelecom Cup. He looks to return to the podium this weekend, where he finished 3rd at Euros last season. Russia’s best chance for the podium will be from Mark Kondratiuk, who won his first senior national title in December.

Skaters to Watch: France’s Kevin Aymoz is the story for this weekend. During the 2020 Euros, he had a disastrous short program and didn’t make the free skate, finishing 26th and not qualifying for Worlds. He looks to return to form. Russia’s Andrei Mozalev won the men’s World Junior Championship in 2020 and finished 3rd at nationals. This will be his first skate at Euros.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES!

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO)
2. Mark Kondratiuk (RUS)
3. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT)

x33pzaqlqljsq73qa1oaWomen: Russian women have dominated Euros, winning gold the last 7 years, taking the top two spots from 2014-2020 and sweeping the podium in 2015, 2016 and 2020. This year will continue the trend, as Kamila Valieva becomes the overwhelming favorite to win this weekend. Her dominance was evident, capturing Skate Canada, the Rostelecom Cup and winning her first women’s national title. Anna Shcherbakova’s diamond hasn’t sparkled of late, finishing 3rd at nationals, but she did capture Grand Prix titles in Grenoble and Turin this season and will give Valieva a challenge. Not to be undone is Alexandra Trusova. She was having issues with consistency in her short program, but still packs a punch in her quad jumps. She won at Skate America before pulling out of her next scheduled Grand Prix appearance due to injury. If there’s any skater that could disrupt the Russian sweep, with would be Loena Hendrickx. The Belgian skater has steadily gone up the ISU women’s rankings, winning her first Grand Prix medal in Turin, finishing 3rd.

Skaters to Watch: Azerbaijan’s Ekaterina Ryabova is currently ranked 9th in the ISU’s women’s standings. She finished 7th in Grenoble and 10th at Rostelecom Cup. She was 6th at Euros in 2020. Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova finished 10th at Euros and captured her 3rd straight national championship. In Grand Prix competition, her best finish was 9th (Skate America & Rostelecom Cup). There will be 37 entries, in all.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES!

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Kamila Valieva (RUS)
2. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)
3. Alexandra Trusova (RUS)

3017842-61912568-2560-1440Pairs: Another possible Russian sweep looms, as three teams look for continued dominance. Russian teams have won gold eight of the last nine years since 2012, sweeping the podium 5 times during that tenure. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov is the team with the hot streak right now, winning their first national title, and capturing gold at NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup this season. Defending Euro pairs champs, Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii had a bit of a slip in competition this season, finishing 2nd at nationals and 3rd at Skate America, but still managed a Grand Prix win in Grenoble. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have overcome the rise of pairs skaters with their 5th Grand Prix gold at Skate America, and a 3rd place finish at nationals. Italy’s Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini have probably the closest chance to breaking up the Russian dominance. They have two 5th place finishes in Grand Prix competitions this season. Teammates Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise pulled out as a precautionary measure, not due to COVID.

Teams to Watch: Seven-time Austrian pairs champions Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer have some flashes of greatness. However, that hasn’t translated internationally, with a 6th place finish at Euros in 2020. Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nolan Seegert is one of three German teams in Talinn this weekend. The three time national champions were 5th in 2020, and had their best Grand Prix finish this season at Skate Canada, where they finished 5th. 22 teams will be competing.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES!

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS)
2. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (RUS)
3. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)

davis-smolkin-2481Ice Dance: France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron announced this week they would not participate at Euros to avoiding contracting COVID before the 2022 Winter Olympics. That opens up the window for the Russian team of Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. They won their 2nd straight national title and this Grand Prix season won gold at Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy. They beat Papadakis and Cizeron at Euros in 2020 and look for a repeat. Teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were able to win their 2nd national title, after Sinitsina and Katsalapov withdrew this season. They’re looking for their 1st Euro title after finishing 3rd in 2020. Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri are the top ISU team in points this season, and look to return to the podium after a 4th place finish in 2020. This season, they were 2nd at Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup and captured their 4th national title.

Teams to Watch: Keep your eyes on Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin of Russia (Shown above). They finished a surprising 2nd place finish at nationals and picked up a win at the Warsaw Cup last season. Spain has a competition within a competition as their two top teams face off for the lone spot to the Winter Olympics. Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz will duke it out with Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin. The higher position among the two teams wins a trip to Beijing.  29 teams are scheduled to compete this weekend.

FULL LIST OF ENTRIES!

Smooth’s Pick:

1. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA)
3. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (RUS)

Posted in European Championships, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Predictions, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships

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After a year hiatus, the 2022 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships is back. However, the Omicron variant of COVID continue to spread all over Canada. As a result, spectators won’t be allowed into TD Place Arena in Ottawa, where the event is taking place. Novice events have been postponed until a later date. As of Tuesday, there have been minimal withdrawals, having a strict bubble implemented on skaters and officials, but that may change as the week continues.

messingMen: Keegan Messing hinted at retirement in an interview during Skate Canada (where he finished 5th) in October, especially with a marriage and new child under his wing. Winning his first national championship would be the perfect way to end a competitive career, but he has obstacles in his way to make that happen. One is with two-time Canadian national champion Nam Nguyen, who also announced this would be his last competitive season. Internationally, Nguyen hasn’t fared well, finishing 8th at Skate America and 10th at NHK Trophy. 2020 men’s champion Roman Sadovsky faltered on home soil at Skate Canada finishing 12th, but recovered at Rostelecom Cup in 4th. Stephen Gogolev burst on the scene in 2019, coming close to winning in 2nd place, but since then has had injury problems. His return to the ice this season was an 11th place finish at Warsaw Cup.

Skaters to Watch: Joseph Phan has two 4th place finishes at nationals. He won the junior national title back in 2016. Two top junior skaters make their senior debuts. Wesley Chiu finished 2nd in the 2020 junior national championships. This season, he captured the JGP Courchevel title and finished 3rd at JGP Krasnoyrsk. The other, Corey Circelli won junior nationals in 2020. This season, he came in 4th in both of his JGP assignments.

Official Entries Here!

Smooth’s Pick
1. Keegan Messing
2. Roman Sadovsky
3. Stephen Gogolev

SchizasWomen: In years past, women’s individual skating has been competitive. But since the retirement of Kaetlyn Osmond in 2019, Canada has fallen off the path. This year, there’s only one spot for the Winter Olympics, and it could go to any of the ladies this week. The favorite to head to Beijing is Madeline Schizas. This season, she fared best among Canadian skaters in Grand Prix competitions, finishing 6th at Rostelecom Cup. Emily Bausback finally gets the chance to defend her 2020 women’s title, but this season hasn’t been her best, finishing 11th at Skate Canada. Alison Schumacher also struggled in international competitions, finishing 12th at Skate Canada. She finished 2nd at nationals in 2020. The comeback story of the year could be Gabby Daleman. The two-time Olympian was forced to take time off due to her physical and mental health, but posted her best numbers in three years at this year’s Skate Canada Challenge competition, winning the event.

Skaters to Watch: Amanda Tobin makes her return to Nationals after a two-year break, she qualified in 2nd place at the Skate Canada Challenge. Injuries also hindered Veronik Mallet’s progress. She returns after a 3rd place finish at the Skate Canada Challenge. Lia Pereira makes her senior debut. Her best finish was 5th place at the Cranberry Cup this season. Other skaters participating making their return include Alicia Pineault and Michelle Long.

Official Entries Here!

Smooth’s Pick
1. Madeline Schizas
2. Alison Schumacher
3. Emily Bausback

1-4803194Pairs: Only seven teams will compete for two spots to Beijing. However, there are no shoo-ins given the tight race between them. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro would have been considered the favorites this week, but this year’s Grand Prix performance left that in doubt (5th at Rostelecom Cup, 6th at Skate Canada). Three teams could push them off the top two slots. Vanessa James and Eric Radford are in their 1st full season skating together. So far, they’ve jelled into a solid contender, with two 4th place finishes in Grand Prix action (Grenoble and Skate Canada). Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud finished 2nd to Moore-Towers and Marinaro in 2020. Their best Grand Prix finish this season was a 6th place finish at NHK Trophy. Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland will skate in their third nationals, since winning the junior championship in 2018. This season, they were 7th at Skate Canada.

Teams to Watch: Most recently, Deanna Stellato announced on the Instagram page that her partner Maxime Deschamps developed COVID two weeks ago and just recently began to train for nationals. Being on such short notice, their story will be one to watch.

Official Entries Here!

Smooth’s Pick
1. Vanessa James and Eric Radford
2. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro
3. Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud

gilles-piper-poirer-210327-1180Ice Dance: Canadian ice dance has not suffered under the transition of skaters retiring. In fact, it’s gotten better. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier waited a long time before they finally broke thru and win their first national championship in 2020. They’re currently 2nd in the ISU world standings and picked up their 2nd Skate Canada title this fall. Barring injury, they’re the overall favorite to win and head to Beijing with high hopes for a medal. That leaves two other slots among 13 teams. One is Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerenson. Since changing countries three years ago, the team has flourished with two 3rd place finishes on the Grand Prix circuit this season (Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup). Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha were 2nd at Nationals in 2020, and the 2019 junior champs had their best finish was 5th at NHK Trophy. Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus had two consecutive 7th place finishes in Grand Prix action. They finished 3rd at nationals in 2020.

Skaters to Watch: Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker finished off the podium in two consecutive nationals in 2019 and 2020. Their best finish this season was at the Autumn Classic International, where they finished 6th. Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer returns to nationals after qualifying at this year’s Skate Canada Challenge.

Official Entries Here!

Smooth’s Pick
1. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier
2. Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerenson
3. Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha

Juniors: As of this post, there have been no withdrawals, but that may change this week.  Here are our selections on who will win on the Junior circuit.

Men – FULL ENTRIES

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Grayson Long

Women – FULL ENTRIES

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Justine Miclette

Pairs – FULL ENTRIES

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Chloe Panetta and Kieran Thrasher

Ice Dance – FULL ENTRIES

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Natalie D’Alessandro and Bruce Waddell

Posted in Canada, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Predictions, Skate Canada, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 US Figure Skating Championships

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The US Championships return to Nashville for the first time since 1997. That year, a 15 year old named Tara Lipinski became the youngest women’s champion in history, upsetting heavily favored Michelle Kwan. Some great names won gold that year including Todd Eldridge, Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungjen in pairs and Elizabeth Punsalan & Jerod Swallow in ice dance. There have been a number of withdrawals because of COVID and officials have mandated all spectators must have had proof of vaccine before entering.

nathan_chen_at_the_2018_internationaux_de_france_-_awarding_ceremonyMen: This will be Nathan Chen’s redemption tour, as he looks to get the Olympic medal he was supposed to win in PeongChang in 2018. But first, he will go for his sixth National title in Nashville. So far this season, he finished a disappointing 3rd at Skate America, but bounced back with a 1st place finish at Skate Canada. Three skaters are gunning for the other two Olympic slots. Jason Brown was an Olympian in Sochi, Russia back in 2014 and picked up Bronze in the team event. He last won a national title in 2015. This season, Brown finished 2nd at Skate Canada and 3rd in France. Vincent Zhou skates in his seventh senior nationals, finishing 2nd three times. This season, he won Skate America and finished 2nd at NHK Trophy. Tomoki Hiwatashi has made some inroads the last two seasons, finishing in 3rd at Nationals and 4th at Skate America, both in 2020. However, his best finish this season was a 9th place showing at NHK Trophy.

Skaters to Watch: Camden Pulkinen made his mark in 2020 when he finished 4th at Skate Canada and 7th at Nationals. However, this season his best finish was 7th at Rostelecom Cup. Jimmy Ma skates in his 8th senior nationals and has steadily improved each year, from 18th in 2015 to 6th in 2021. Ilia Malinin makes his senior debut this week. He won two JGP events this season and was 2nd at last year’s juniors.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Nathan Chen
2. Vincent Zhou
3. Jason Brown

01232020_2020usch_sen_l_sp_004_alysaliuWomen: There was a lot of uncertainty in US women’s figure skating until last year’s, when Karen Chen and Mariah Bell earned team USA a 3rd spot for Beijing this February by placing in the top 10 at last year’s World championships. Both Chen and Bell are favorites to make the podium this week and secure their spots at the Olympics. Karen Chen looks for her first women’s title since 2017. Her best finish this season was 5th in Grenoble. Mariah Bell looks to finally reach the top of the podium after a 2nd place finish in 2020. Her season’s best was 4th at Rostelecom Cup. After a growth spurt and change in coaches, Alyssa Liu looks to return to the podium after stunning the skating world with her quads. This season, she started strong with three straight Challenger series wins, but fell off with two disappointing Grand Prix finishes (4th at NHK, 5th at Skate Canada). Audrey Shin finished 3rd at Skate America in 2020, but finished 12th in Las Vegas this season. She looks to improve on her 7th place finish at last year’s nationals.

Skaters to Watch: Injuries have forced Bradie Tennell to withdraw this weekend’s competition, the former two-time national champ has been dealing with a recurring foot injury, jeopardizing her chances for the Olympics. Her withdrawal gives a number of skaters a chance for the podium. One is Amber Glenn, who had lost by percentage points at the 2021 Golden Spin of Zagreb. She finished 2nd at last year’s nationals. 2014 Olympian Gracie Gold qualified for Nationals the hard way, winning the USCS Georgia sectional with her best numbers in 5 years. Starr Andrews has struggled this season in Grand Prix competition, finishing 10th at Skate America and a withdrawal in Grenoble. Last season, she was 12th at Nationals. Of the junior skaters making their debut, Isabeau Levito has the most promise to make a surprise this weekend, with a JGP Courchevel win this season.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Alyssa Liu
2. Karen Chen
3. Amber Glenn

knierim_frazier_short_1_croppedPairs: Team USA has two slots available for Beijing this February, with a battle between four highly-talented teams. At the top are defending national champions, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frasier, who finished 7th at last year’s World championships. This season, they reached the podium in Grenoble and finished 4th at Skate America against a highly competitive lineup. Two-time runner ups Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson were unable to skate in last year’s world championships because of a doping suspension. After being cleared, they participated at Skate America, where they finished 5th. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Tim LeDuc finished 3rd at last year’s nationals and were 9th at last year’s Worlds. In Grand Prix action, they finished 3rd at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK Trophy. The surprise of this season is the team of Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov. They pulled off an unlikely win at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in Croatia over the highly ranked Russian team of Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev.

Teams to Watch: Chelsea Liu and Danny O’Shea were a late scratch and was doubtful of their participation after a major injury to both skaters during the free skate at Warsaw Cup. Anastasiia Smirnova and Danylo Siianytsia were supposed to make their senior debut this weekend, but have withdrawn because of COVID. They won the junior national championship in 2021 and in their first senior competition, they were 9th at the Cranberry Cup International. Nathan Bartholomay makes his eighth nationals in pairs with his 4th partner, Katie McBeath. The two placed 7th at last year’s nationals.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frasier
2. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Tim LeDuc
3. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson

madisonsIce Dance: Three spots are available for Team USA in February. In what could be the final battle between the two Madisons, both teams will look towards Beijing and a chance for an Olympic medal. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue are the three-time Ice Dance national champions. They finished 4th at PeyongChang and are the slight favorites to win gold this weekend. This season, they won at Skate America and finished 2nd in Turin. Madison Chock and Evan Bates elected to withdraw from the 2020 Grand Prix due to COVID concerns. The time off didn’t hurt, finishing 2nd at last year’s nationals and two straight 2nd place finishes at Skate America and NHK Trophy. They were 8th at Sochi and 9th at PyeongChang. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker are one team that could spoil the party. Despite withdrawing at NHK Trophy, the team won the Golden Skate of Zagreb. The team has three 3rd place finishes at nationals. Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko make their third appearance at nationals. They last appeared in 2020, finishing 4th. Injuries forced their withdrawal in 2021. This season, they finished 5th in Grenoble and 8th at Skate Canada.

Teams to Watch: Keep a watch on the team of Caroline Green and Michael Parsons. They finished off the podium in 4th place at last year’s nationals and have been competitive in their two Grand Prix assignments this season (4th at Skate Canada, 5th in Turin). Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov were 5th at nationals last year. In their only Grand Prix appearance, they finished 9th at Skate America. Katarina Wolfkostin and Jeffrey Chen were last season’s junior national champions. In their only senior competition this season, they finished 9th at Cup of Austria.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue
2. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
3. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker

Juniors: Ice Dancers Oona and Greg Brown were forced to withdraw after both contracting COVID.  They were the favorites to win this weekend.  Isabella Flores and Dimitry Tsarevski also withdrew for personal reasons. The men’s division are missing three skaters, Lucas Broussard, Samuel Mindra and Matthew Nielsen.  A full list of Junior and Senior skaters available by clicking here.

Here are our picks on the Junior circuit.

Men

gettyimages_1235008291_16x9Will Annis

Women

01212021_2021_usch_jun_l_fs_0006_ava_zieglerAva Ziegler

Pairs

martins_bedard_usch19_spIsabelle Martins and Ryan Bedard

Ice Dance

gettyimages_1235296089_16x9Angela Ling and Caleb Wein

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating, USFSA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nick Colionne, Popular Jazz Guitarist, Passes Away Suddenly.

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Nick Colionne, the guitarist that specialized in smooth jazz and became more popular in recent years, passed away suddenly on New Year’s Day following a brief illness.

According to the official press release sent on his Facebook fan page, Colionne had been celebrating the holidays with family when he complained about pain.  He was taken to Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Elgin, Illinois on Friday afternoon, where he died the next day. No cause of death was released by his publicist or the press release.

Colionne specialty was smooth jazz and he released 11 albums during his career beginning in 1994 with the debut album, “It’s My Turn”. His career took off in 2006, with the release, “Keepin’ It Cool”, where the track, ‘High Flyin’’ received heavy airplay on smooth jazz radio stations. In subsequent years, Colionne’s popularity increased, and his success led to many collaborations with Mindi Abair, Dave Koz and other smooth jazz music artists. In concerts, Colionne was never seen without his familiar “Fedora Hat”.  He was scheduled to perform on the Smooth Jazz Cruise on January 31.

In addition to his music career, Colionne was also an educator, teaching and mentoring elementary school kids about music. He worked at St. Laurence Elementary School in Elgin, Illinois for 15 years as a music teacher and counselor. In 1996, he received the Malcolm X College’s Alumnus of the Year Award for his continued dedication to mentoring students.  In 2008, Nick graciously gave an interview on one of our very first podcasts. On it, he discussed his role as a teacher and how it helped him develop his craft. 

You can listen to the Nick Colionne interview by clicking here.  (Also available for free on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, IHeartRadio or wherever you get your podcasts.)

Colionne leaves a wife, Sue; his mother, brother and an extended musical family.  

Words of praise spread throughout the Twittersphere, on Instagram and on all social media regarding Nick Colionne’s passing.

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Japan Skating Federation Cancels Grand Prix Final Due to Travel Restrictions.

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Today, organizers of the Grand Prix Final in Osaka, Japan decided to cancel the Junior and Senior Grand Prix Final because of travel restrictions due to the Omnicron variant.

The International Skating Union was informed by the Japan Skating Federation about the decision earlier today. The ISU commented that organizers, “…tried their best to find solutions but ultimately concluded that, regrettably, they are unable to organize and hold the event as planned.”

Just today, the Japanese government ordered a stop to all arriving international flights, This, after a 2nd person was diagnosed with the new variant. The Omnicron variant was first discovered in South Africa a few months ago and has been quickly spreading round the world.

The event was scheduled to be held in a bubble with no spectators allowed in.  But the new restrictions made that impossible.  The ISU is still looking for ways to hold the event, possibly after the Winter Olympics or after the regular season.

Posted in COVID-19, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix Final, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Japan, Junior Grand Prix, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Rostelecom Cup 2021

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The final leg of the 2021-22 Grand Prix season stops in Sochi, Russia; where a number of high stakes positions for next month’s Final will be determined among four categories. The event was originally scheduled to be held at its usual location at the Megasport Sport Palace in Moscow, but was the event was relocated in June after the International Ice Hockey Federation adjusted the rink size at the arena. A number of skaters cancelled because of injury or retirement. Most notably, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu withdrew in mid-November because of injury and Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva decided to retire from the sport in September because of chronic back issues.

mikhail-kolyadaMen: Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada has a chance to pick up a second Rostelecom Cup title in his home country. He won in Moscow in 2020 and this season finished 2nd at Gran Premio D’Italia in Torino, Italy. Two skaters are also the top contenders this weekend. Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili is currently ranked 10th in the ISU World standings, but this Grand Prix season, he finished 6th at Skate Canada. Last year in Moscow, he finished 2nd. Italy’s Matteo Rizzo had a 5th place finish at the NHK Trophy earlier this month. His best senior GP finish was 3rd at NHK in 2018 and the Cup of China in 2019. Russia’s Evgeni Semenenko has a chance to hit the podium after a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada. He was 6th last season in this competition.

Full List of Skaters Here!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS)
2. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO)
3. Evgeni Semenenko (RUS)

1600_1000_maxWomen: Russian women will be the rage this weekend, as each have a chance to sweep the podium. The leader of the pack is Kamila Valieva, who skates in only her 2nd senior Grand Prix competition, but has shown poise and style in her performances, winning at Skate Canada in October. Teammate Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continues to turn back the clock in her skating, having placed 2nd behind Valieva in Vancouver. She is a wildcard at next month’s Russian Nationals with such a deep field of women skaters. Maiia Khromykh stunned current World Champion, Anna Shcherbakova by winning in Budapest early this fall. But she was unable to equal the feat in Grand Prix action, finishing 2nd at Gran Premio D’Italia. She still figures to contend this weekend. One skater who can break the Russian women logjam is Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx. She picked up her first Grand Prix medal, finishing 3rd at Gran Premio D’Italia and just last week won her country’s national championship.

Full List of Skaters Here!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Kamila Valieva (RUS)
2. Maiia Khromykh (RUS)
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)

603bae6602e8bd06b753526aPairs: The field is dominated by Russian pairs teams, with two of the three looking to battle it out. At the head is Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, who can punch their ticket to Osaka, Japan with another win. They took home gold at NHK Trophy. Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin have had three 2nd place finishes in a row in Grand Prix competition, the most recent was at Skate Canada. Iasmina Kadyrova and Ivan Balchenko only have three international competitions under their belt. They were 4th in Moscow last season. International teams contending includes Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (6th at Skate Canada) & Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (4th at Gran Premio D’Italia).

Full List of Skaters Here!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS)
2. Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin (RUS)
3. Iasmina Kadyrova and Ivan Balchenko (RUS)

victoria-sinitsina-and-nikita-katsalapov-1-1Ice Dance: Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov look to capture their third Rostelecom Cup ice dance gold this weekend. Another win puts them back in the Grand Prix Final for the third time in four years. This, after picking up gold at NHK Trophy. Winning a 5th straight GP competition gold won’t be easy for them with 7 other teams skating. Their biggest competitors are from Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, who were 2nd at Skate Canada and just won gold at the Cup of Austria Challenger Series last weekend. Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen finished 2nd in the same competition and were 3rd at Skate America. Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, who have a 2nd place finish at Skate America last season. Of the two other Russian teams, Anastasia Skoptcova and Kirill Aleshin have the best chance to medal, having finished 3rd in Moscow last season.

Full List of Skaters Here!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA)
3. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 1/3
Women: 2/3
Pairs: 3/3
Ice Dance: 3/3

Season to Date

Men: 6/15
Women: 9/15
Pairs: 8/15
Ice Dance: 14/15

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Rostelecom Cup, Skating, Sochi | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Internationaux de France 2021

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The fifth stage of the senior Grand Prix takes us to Grenoble, France; where six spots in the Final will begin to take shape. A number of skaters will clinch their position next month, and there will also be chances to prefect their programs for their respective national championships and eventually, the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Men: Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama made a huge comeback in the free skate to win the Gran Primo D’Italia two weeks ago. He comes to Grenoble with a chance to clinch a spot in the Grand Prix Final. But he has a number of competitors to watch out for. American Jason Brown finished 2nd at Skate Canada, and a win could put him into the final. Kevin Aymoz is France’s best hope for a medal this weekend. He was 3rd in this competition and also finished 3rd in the GP Final both back in 2019. Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs and Canada’s Keegan Messing also are contenders for the podium.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Picks
1. Yuma Kagiyama (JPN)
2. Jason Brown (USA)
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA)

Anna ShcherbakovaWomen: Russia has another chance to sweep the podium, as they have their top skaters competing this weekend. Reigning World Champion Anna Shcherbakova worked out her difficulties in the free skate and won at Gran Primo D’Italia. Teammate Alena Kostornaia missed an opportunity to improve her 3rd place finish at Skate Canada, but will be a contender to rival, Shcherbakova. Kseniia Sinitsyna made her senior debut at Skate America and skated well in the short program in 3rd place, but faltered in the free skate to finish 5th. Americans Mariah Bell and Karen Chen are the best hope to break the Russian juggernaut.

Full List of Skaters Here!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)
2. Alena Kostornaia (RUS)
3. Mariah Bell (USA)

Aleksandra-Boikova-and-Dmitrii-KozlovskiiPairs: Many of the top teams have already skated in other Grand Prix assignments, leaving this weekend’s competition to be anyone’s to win. Russia’s Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii were expected to win the pairs event at Skate America, but a poor free skate dropped the team from 2nd to 4th, as they finished 3rd. On the flip side, Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier had an outstanding free skate, jumping from 5th to 2nd, just missing the podium in 4th. Russia’s Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev had a great free skate at Gran Premio D’Italia and found the podium in 3rd place. A familiar face returns to France, as Vanessa James hooks up with a new partner, Eric Radford skating for Canada. This will be their 3rd competition, the last was a 4th place finish at Skate Canada.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Picks
1. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (RUS)
2. Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev (RUS)
3. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)

Gabriella Papadakis and GuillaumeIce Dance: Home favorites, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron returned to the ice to capture the Gran Premio D’Italia title, and they look to skate their way to another Grand Prix Final this weekend. Their main competition comes from two teams, Canadians Piper Giles and Paul Poirier won their 2nd Skate Canada crown and another win this weekend clinches their way to the GP Final. The other, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin finished 3rd at Gran Premio D’Italia and need a win to reach their 3rd straight Final. Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius were a late add after the withdrawl of Russia’s Tiffany Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro for health issues.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Picks
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Piper Giles and Paul Poirier (CAN)
3. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (RUS)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 3/3
Women: 0/3
Pairs: 0/3
Ice Dance: 2/3

Season to Date

Men: 5/12
Women: 7/12
Pairs: 5/12
Ice Dance: 11/12

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

By Adding Triples and Quads, Are Skaters Risking Their Health?

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Russia’s Daria Usacheva had to withdraw from this weekend’s NHK Trophy because of a bad fall in warmups. She had been dealing with muscle pain in the back of the thigh, but the injury allowed her to train at a moderate pace. She attempted a double flip, but hit the ice extremely hard and had to be carried back to the dressing room for medical treatment.

From rt.com;

“During the execution of the jumping element, the athlete had a ligament tear of one of the internal muscles of the right leg in the growth zone of the femur, which is a fairly common case in world sports practice and is typical for athletes aged 13-17,” it said in a statement.

Upon further evaluation, doctors said that Usacheva suffered a trochanteric fracture of the hip. Daria status for next month’s Russian Nationals is unknown and there is no timetable on recovery.

Daria was one of four skaters who had to withdraw last weekend. Her teammate, Alexandra Trusova had to pull out of NHK Trophy at the advice of her doctors because of a foot injury she was rehabbing. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Rika Kihira also had to skip the competition for their own injuries.

The inclusion of triple and quad axels in figure skating programs has had an immediate effect on the sport, giving skaters the ability to challenge who can do more for the chance to get better technical marks. It also has given a considerable risk to skaters. A few skaters had to retire because of injury.

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbayeva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in a senior competition, completing a quadruple Salchow at the 2019 World Championships in Saitama in Japan, en-route to winning the silver medal.

However, this year a back injury forced her to retire at the age of 21.

“I decided to end my career as a professional athlete, it is not easy for me to share this news with you,” said Tursynbaeva, a Winter Olympian who finished 12th at Pyeongchang in 2018, on Instagram (In Russian).

“Many of you know that my back has been bothering me for a long time.

“Unfortunately, I did not manage to overcome this injury to the end, and therefore fully-fledged training became impossible.”

Elizabet was expected to compete at the Winter Olympics at Beijing in February, 2022.   It should also be noted that both Usacheva and Tursynbaeva were trained by Eteri Tutberidze.

Should triples and quads continue be allowed in competitions for health and safety concerns? It’s certainly possible for skaters to have exceptional programs without having them, as Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx displayed at Gran Premio d’Italia in November, 2021.  She finished with her first ever Grand Prix medal and the first for her country in the women’s Grand Prix.

All in all, it’s all about risk, and like other high-risk sports, figure skating is no different in testing the dangers of what skaters can and can’t do on the ice.

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – NHK Trophy 2021

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The ISU Grand Prix heads to the other side of the world this weekend, as the competition begins in Tokyo, Japan. The big story here is the withdrawal of Russia’s Alexandra Trusova. She was considered the heavy favorite in the women’s competition, but under the advice of medical staff was told not to compete to continue rehab on her foot. She overcame the injury to win at Skate America last month. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu and women’s contender Rika Kihira also withdrew because of injury. Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker were also a late scratch due in ice dance to a concussion suffered by Hawayek.

shoma-uno-1Men: With Hanyu out, the top contenders will be a rematch between two skaters who fought it out at Skate America. American Vincent Zhou won gold after one of his best Grand Prix performances, almost topping out at 300 points. Japan’s Shoma Uno was 15 points behind, good enough for silver. However, the home crowd may favor Uno this time around. It will be a log jam for the final podium spot between these three skaters. Russia’s Makar Ignatov finished off the podium at Skate Canada in 4th, American Camden Pulkinen skates his first GP event of the season, his best finish was at Skate Canada in 2019 where he finished 4th and South Korea’s Junhwan Cha, who was 5th at last week’s Grand Premio D’Italia in Turin, Italy.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Shoma Uno (JPN)
2. Vincent Zhou (USA)
3. Junhwan Cha (KOR)

oly22_fslad_usachevafs_211024Women: The loss of Trusova puts the spotlight on another bright contender. Russia’s Daria Usacheva made her senior Grand Prix debut a successful one, as she took silver at Skate America last month. Although her numbers aren’t as high as teammates Trusova and Kamila Valieva, she’s still a favorite to make the podium this weekend. South Korea’s was not too far behind Usacheva, finishing 3rd in the same event, but we will see the two battle it out. American Alysa Liu’s senior debut wasn’t as great, as she had a poor short program at Skate Canada and finished 5th overall, but still has 3A and a quad in her program to keep her in contention. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto is a dark horse in the mix, having won the competition last year, but with almost no international competitors. She finished 4th at Skate America last month.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Pick
1. Daria Usacheva (RUS)
2. Young You (KOR)
3. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)

oostjs1ahq6uzsuhll7lPairs: Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are the overall favorites, having captured gold at Skate America last month. This will be their first time at NHK Trophy. Their competitions comes from an unlikely duo, Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara stunned the judges with a beautiful free skate at Skate America, good enough to finish behind Tarasova and Morozov in 2nd place. It was only their 2nd Grand Prix event and 6th competition together. Americans Ashley Cain-Gribble and Tim LeDuc continue to improve their international status with a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada. Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov will make their 2021 Grand Prix debut this weekend. They were 3rd at NHK Trophy back in 2019.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Pick (UPSET SPECIAL!!!!!)
1. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (JPN)
2. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
3. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS)

victoria-sinitsina-and-nikita-katsalapov-1Ice Dance: This weekend marks the return of reigning Ice Dance champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia. Despite only one competition since last year (2020 Rostelecom Cup, 1st), they’re still considered the favorites to win this weekend. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are right behind the Russians in contention. They came up short on the podium at Skate America last month, finishing 2nd. Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Olympic men’s bronze medalist, Daisuke Takahashi make their second appearance at NHK Trophy. He looks to make a triumphant return to the Winter Games, this time as an ice dancer. Russia has an ice dance team in waiting with Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko. They were 4th at Nationals and finished 7th at NHK Trophy in 2019.

Full List of Skaters Here! 

Smooth’s Picks
1. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
3. Sofia Shevchenko and Igor Eremenko (RUS)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 0/3
Women: 3/3
Pairs: 2/3
Ice Dance: 3/3

Season to Date

Men: 2/9
Women: 7/9
Pairs: 5/9
Ice Dance: 9/9

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, NHK Trophy, Skating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment