Smooth’s Podium Picks – World Team Trophy 2017

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The final skating event of the year takes place in Tokyo, where 6 countries vie for the top spot in figure skating. This event is more for the fans rather than the skaters. But don’t kid yourself. The skaters want to be at their best for next season, and it will be all on the line in Korea for the Winter Olympics.

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American Jason Brown looks to win one for Team USA

Men

Analysis – Japan comes in as heavy favorites in this division, as two of the best skaters in the world will compete this weekend. Yuzuru Hanyu is fresh off re-gaining his world championship after a three year drought. Shoma Uno had an outstanding free skate at worlds to finish 2nd. Their main competitors will be from the United States. Nathan Chen had a disappointing performance at worlds, finishing 6th. He’ll look to gain valuable international experience this weekend. Jason Brown’s season started with promise after a 2nd place finish at Skate America, but collapsed after disappointing showings at Nationals (3rd), 4CC (6th) and last month’s worlds (7th). Canada’s Patrick Chan comes off his second straight 5th place finish at worlds. Kevin Reynolds is finally skating health after two years of injuries.

Skaters to Watch – China’s Boyang Jin had a great comeback season, capped with a 3rd finish at worlds. Teammate Tangxu Li will compete in his first senior international competition this weekend. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun could give the country valuable points with top 5 finishes. France enters the tournament with Chafik Besseghier and Kevin Aymoz.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)

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Elena Radionova was a late add by the Russian Skating Federation.

Ladies

Analysis – Two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and gives Russia what could be “a lock’ on this weekend’s competition. However, teammate Elena Radionova hasn’t skated in international competition since February (1st at Winter Universiade). It could be to Russia’s benefit. The United States are their biggest competition, led by veteran skater Ashley Wagner. She comes off a disappointing 7th place finish at worlds. Teammate Karen Chen saved the Americans third spot for the Winter Olympics with an outstanding free skate and a 4th place finish at worlds. Canada’s Gabby Daleman was part of the historic 2-3 finish at world, giving the country an extra spot in Korea next year. That spot could go to teammate, Alaine Chartrand, who gets a chance at redemption after a disappointing Grand Prix season.

Skaters to Watch – This is the post-Mao Asada era for Japan, as two young and upcoming skaters get the chance to follow their dreams with her retirement. Mai Mihara could be the heir apparent, after winning the 4CC title in February and finishing 5th. Teammate Wakaba Higuchi had a rough senior debut, but has a triple axel in her arsenal and could hit it for valuable points this weekend. China’s Zijun Li, finishing 21st at worlds. Teammate Xiangning Li fared better, finishing 14th. France’s Laurine Lecavelier and Mae Berenice Meite look to get valuable points for contention.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Gabby Daleman (CAN)
3. Karen Chen (USA)

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Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc get a chance to compete in international competition.

Pairs

Analysis – Six teams look to take advantage this weekend. The favorites this weekend are Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won the Grand Prix Final and had a 3rd place finish at worlds. France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres could give them a run for their money after a 3rd place finish at Europeans. China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin finish their first season together as national champions and 2nd place finishes on the Grand Prix circuit.

Skaters to Watch – Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc get the chance to showcase their talents after being looked over at worlds by US Figure Skating officials. They do have a 9th place finish at 4CC. Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro had an injury plagued season, but recovered in time for nationals and finished 3rd, good enough for an international placement. Despite winning Japan’s national championship, Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet have struggled in international competition, finishing 17th at worlds.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
2. Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA)
3. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (CHN)

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Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dimitri Soloviev look to win in a competitive ice dance field.

Ice Dance

Analysis – Most of the top teams participated at worlds, but there are few holdovers making it an interesting matchup. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the slight favorites this weekend. Despite a drop in the internationals standings, Chock and Bates finished no worse than 2nd at nationals since 2012. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have also experienced a drop due to the return of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. However, they haven’t finished lower than 3rd in their Grand Prix careers. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won their 6th national championship and despite injuries, finished 5th at worlds.

Skaters to Watch – Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed complete their second year as national champions, but have struggled on the international circuit, finishing 23rd at worlds. China’s Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu improved on their performance at worlds, climbing from 22nd in 2016 to 16th in 2017. France’s Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac finished 21st at worlds last month.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
3. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN)

Smooth’s Team Winners
1. Russia
2. United States
3. Canada

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2017 World Figure Skating Championships

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The World converges on Helsinki, Finland; as the top figure skaters look to take an advantage going into next year’s Winter Olympics in Korea. A few skaters will be looking to add more medals to their trophy case while others will attempt to start their own collection.

Two skaters have already withdrawn from this week’s competition due to injury. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, will miss the world championships due to lingering effects of a hip injury. She was expected to medal this weekend, but her absence puts Japan’s hopes for three slots in Pyeongchang in jeopardy. The other is China’s Han Yan. He’s out of World’s after suffering a shoulder dislocation. He’s struggled to find his 2015 form this season.

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With American Nathan Chen, we could be heading towards the beginning of a new era of men’s figure skating. 

Men

Analysis – Spain’s Javier Fernandez will have the toughest competition of his career. He’s coming off another European championship and the two-time World champion looks to make it a “three-peat”, but it won’t be easy. He’ll need flawless programs ensure victory. American Nathan Chen is considered the odds-on favorite based on him becoming the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in one program. His 307.46 points at US Nationals is a season high. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu has missed competitions for the last three months due to illness, but he plans three quads in his two programs. Teammate Shoma Uno has shown this season that he has the goods, landing four quads in competition, making his a contender for the top spot.

Skaters to Watch – Canada’s Patrick Chan has been in this position before, having won the World championship three times. But maybe it’s best to fly under the radar. Don’t look past him to medal. Also contending is Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten, who is coming off an injury-plagued season, but does have a 2nd place finish under his belt at Trophee de France in Paris. 2016 World bronze medalist Boyang Jin won his 4th straight Chinese nationals title and finished 2nd at Cup of China this season. He plans five quadruple jumps in his Free Skating this week.

Smooth’s Pick – I’ve been wrong twice on Javier the last two seasons. But with Chen on fire, it’s hard not to pick him.
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)

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After an 18 month ban, Italy’s Carolina Kostner looks to redeem herself this weekend. 

Ladies

Analysis – Last year, Russian ladies finished in two of the top three spots at Worlds. This year, that task of repeating the feat will be tough, but still very much possible. One thing is certain, defending champion Evgenia Medvedeva is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champion. Her season’s best 229.71 points, puts her way ahead of her nearest competitor. Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya has been very consistent, winning two Grand Prix events and finishing third in the Final. American Ashley Wagner has been a savior for US skating, guaranteeing a third spot at this year’s worlds after taking silver last year. This year marks the return of Italy’s Carolina Kostner. After an 18 month suspension, she’s looking for redemption, and may get it after a top three finish at Europeans.

Skaters to Watch – Canada’s two skaters have had strong showings on the international stage. Kaetlyn Osmond finished 4th at the Grand Prix Final this season, but fell off after a disappointing performance at Four Continents. Gabby Daleman looks to finish the season with a strong finish at worlds. Russia’s Maria Sotskova will skate in her first World Championships after taking third at nationals. The loss of Japan’s Satoko Miyahara gives 2017 Four Continents Champion Mai Mihara a chance on the big stage. Her replacement will be Wakaba Higuchi, who had a strong Grand Prix season this year. Also, keep your eyes on Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva, who has a triple axel in her repertoire.

Smooth’s Pick – This is really Medvedeva’s gold to claim, as no one has come close.
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)

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Canada’s Meagan and Eric Radford look to get a quick start and defend their titles this weekend.

Pairs

Analysis – What was pretty much a lock has turned into a wide open affair with a strong group of contenders. At the top are two-time and reigning World Champions, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada. This season hasn’t been a steady as in year’s past, having finished 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. They’re still the slight favorites this week. Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov have steadily climbed to the top of the pairs division, defeating Duhamel and Radford at the GP Final this season. China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han have finished 2nd twice and the World Championships in a row and will look to climb over the top. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot have been solid all season. However and injury to Savchenko prevented them from participating at German nationals and the GP Final.

Skaters to Watch – France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres performed their best skate this season at Europeans, finishing 3rd. China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang have had surprising success in their 1st year together, winning Cup of China and finishing 2nd at the GP Final. Three teams making a comeback due to injury are Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau & Americans Alexa and Chris Knierim.

Smooth’s Pick – This is a crapshoot. The top 10 teams can take this competition. However, I give the edge to the defending champions, despite their problems.
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
3. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER)

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France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron find themselves as the underdogs again this week. 

Ice Dance

Analysis – This weekend could either see the return of the king and queen of ice dance or the continuation of a dominant team. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron have dominated Worlds the last two seasons. However, the landscape has changed drastically with the return of Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They’ve been on a tear since returning from a two year break, winning every competition they’ve entered. Fast on their heels are Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani, who have continued their upward trek in the division, winning twice in GP competitions and finishing 3rd in the final. Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the title in 2014, but since then have settled for 3rd or 4th in Grand Prix competition.

Skaters to Watch – There is such a logjam in the ice dance division that any of these teams could find their way to the podium. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are 2016 World bronze medalists, . Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev are 2016 European bronze medalists. Canada has two other teams that could make the top 10 in Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier & Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. Other teams looking to make the podium are Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, & Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko of Israel.

Smooth’s Pick – Since returning, Virtue and Moir have been unstoppable. But they may have met their match this weekend.
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
3. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2017

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The skating stars of the future are in Taipei, as the World Juniors take place. Over 130 skaters representing 30 countries will take part this weekend.  Some skaters have senior experience in their national competitions, but haven’t either reached the legal age or were given the spot to gain valuable international experience.

Unlike our usual picks, we’re selecting who will take the top spots.  Here’s who we think will come out on top this weekend.

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Men – Jun Hwan Cha (KOR)

This skater won gold at Korean Nationals this season, finished 5th at the Youth Olympic Games and 3rd at this year’s Junior Grand Prix Final. Coached by Brian Orser, this skater could become the next big thing in Pyeongchang at next year’s Winter Olympics.

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Ladies – Polina Tsurskaya (RUS)

Part of the new Russian juggernaut of ladies figure skaters, she was undefeated at Junior Grand Prix competitions this season.  Having finished 4th at the senior level in 2016, Russian figure skating sent her to juniors to get more experience, and it may pay off this weekend.

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Pairs – Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson (USA)

In a weakened field of 16 teams, this pick could surprise this weekend. Having been together for four years, they’ve slowly improved their international standing with 7th and 5th place finishes at the Junior World level the last two years.

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Ice Dance – Rachel and Michael Parsons (USA)

This team haven’t lost all season long, beating the defending champions and American teammates, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter along the way. Expect them to continue their win streak and a possible sweep of the podium.

World Championship Podium Picks in two weeks.

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Approximately one year from now, the world will converge on Pyeongchang, Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Figure skating will be the main draw for the Olympics, as the events will take place in the morning, Korea time.  However, the ice skating world with take a “test drive” of the new facilities this weekend, as more than 100 skaters will compete in this international event.

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Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu is one of four skaters looking to medal.

Men

Analysis: This weekend’s event is looking like a preview of Worlds, with four of the top skaters taking part. 9-time Canadian champion and three time 4CC defending champion, Patrick Chan has a tough task if he intends to get a fourth. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who had to withdraw from nationals with a bout of the flu in December, but will compete this weekend and at Worlds in March. 2017 Japanese champion Shoma Uno takes his quadruple flip into competition this weekend and is an instant contender for the podium. American Nathan Chen wowed the crowd with 5 quads in his free skate last month and could surprise the judges with a clean program.

Skaters to Watch: China’s Boyang Jin came up short in Grand Prix competition this season, but could be in the top 5 this weekend. Teammate Han Yan tries to improve on his performance after a lackluster GP season. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka will try to add on his 2017 Universiade silver medal from two weeks ago. American Jason Brown continues to improve after an injury plagued 2016 and a third place finish at 2017 US Nationals.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)

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American Mirai Nagasu looks to medal for the second straight year.

Ladies

Analysis: Defending champion Sakoto Miyahara pulled out of this weekend’s competition due to injury. That leaves the field wide open, with plenty of skaters ready. Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond has been on a roll the last two international competitions. She regained her Canadian title for the third time and is the favorite to medal this weekend. American Mirai Nagasu finished second last year and will look to the top of the podium after a strong 4th place finish at US Nationals. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi had an excellent Grand Prix season, just missing the Final on points. Canadian Gabrielle Daleman looks to improve on her 7th place finish from last year.

Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Rika Hongo takes over for the injured Miyahara and will look to medal for the 3rd straight year. Teammate Mai Mihara made waves with a couple of surprise podiums, most notably at Skate America in the fall (3rd). China’s Zijun Li, American Mariah Bell and Canadian Alain Chartrand also look to make the podium, as well.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
3. Mai Mihara (JPN)

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Americans Alexa and Chris Knierim make their season debut this weekend.

Pairs

Analysis: Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford continue their quest to be three time World champions with a tune up this weekend. The team looked sharp at last month’s Canadian nationals. China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han will compete in their first event this season, Wenjing recovered from foot surgery. Teammates Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang along with Cheng Peng and Yang Jin look to possibly get a sweep of the podium, although the strength of Duhamel and Radford makes that highly unlikely to happen.

Skaters to Watch: Americans Alexa and Chris Knierim skate in their first competition of the year after surgery by Alexa knocked them out of Grand Prix and US Nationals. They finished 2nd last season. Teammates Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier along with Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc lead a strong pairs field. Canadians Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch as well as Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro took to gain valuable international experience.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang (CHN)
3. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)

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Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani stand in the way of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s comeback.

Ice Dance

Analysis: Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continue they comeback trail with a win in the Grand Prix Final, their 7th Canadian national title and a chance to take on the top two teams in the world this weekend. Their challenge will come from reigning Four Continents Champions Maia and Alex Shibutani. Both have steadily improved over the last two seasons and have resulted in two straight US titles and a 2nd place finish at last year’s Worlds. Teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates seemed to have lost their edge with a 6th place finish at the Grand Prix final, but a 2nd place finish at US Nationals puts them right back in the hunt for a medal. Like Chock and Bates, Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have taken a step back due to the return of Virtue and Moir. But as two-time Four Continents Champions, they’re a strong candidate to medal this weekend.

Skaters to Watch: Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue tasted victory once before at Four Continents in 2014. They continue to with a 2nd straight Grand Prix Final appearance (5th) and a 3rd place finish at US Nationals. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier placed second at 4CC in 2014, but have dropped off in the last two years. Other challengers include Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed, along with Emi Hirai and Marien De La Asuncion.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
2. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2017 European Figure Skating Championships

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All eyes will be on Ostrava in the Czech Republic, where for the first time in the city’s history, the European Figure Skating Championships will take place. Three reigning European Champions are back and hope to defend their titles against a host of skaters looking to make the podium.

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez looks to add a 5th European championship to his trophy case.

Men

Analysis – Spain’s Javier Fernandez is looking for his fifth consecutive Men’s title. He’s the odds on favorite being the defending champ. But his 4th place finish in the Grand Prix final leave a bit of an opening for a challenge. The best chance comes from 2016 European silver medalist Alexei Bychenko of Israel. He gave the country its first international medal in figure skating and is a favorite to medal this year. Russia’s newly crowned national champion Mikhail Kolyada has an inside chance. However, he has a 4th place finish at Rostelecom Cup and finished 5th at NHK Trophy. Teammate Maxim Kovtun has medaled twice at Europeans and is currently 6th in the ISU men’s standings. He had a disappointing Grand Prix season, finishing 7th each time at Skate America and Cup of China.

Skaters to Watch: 2013 European bronze medalist Michal Brezina is counting on a home advantage to return on to the podium. His best finish this season was a 4th place finish at Skate Canada. Other contenders include 2016 World Junior Champion Daniel Samohin if Israel, who was 7th last year at Eurpeans. Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx , who’s best finish was 6th at Trophee de France. 2016 ISU Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist Alexander Samarin of Russia and Alexander Majorov of Sweden.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
2. Alexei Bychenko (ISR)
3. Michal Brezina (CZE)

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A Russian sweep is not certain, but Evgenia Medvedeva is the favorite to keep her title.

Ladies

Analysis – Russian Ladies are aiming at a third consecutive podium sweep this weekend. But it may not be so easy this year, as returning five-time European Champion Carolina Kostner of Italy returns from suspension in an attempt to re-gain her title. However, reigning World and European Champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia is the odds on favorite to take the top spot this weekend. She continues to be at the top of her game, winning all competitions this season, including the Grand Prix Final. Teammates Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova each have had successful seasons so far. Pogorilaya had 1st place finishes at Rostelecom Cup and NHK and was 3rd in Marseille. Sotskova had a 2nd place finish at Trophee de France, a 3rd place showing at NHK and finished 5th in the Grand Prix final.

Skaters to Watch: Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson looks to improve on her 9th place performance from last year. Her best placement was 4th in 2015. Latvia’s Angelina Kuchvalska finished 4th in last year’s Europeans. French champion Laurine Lecavelier has a top 10 finish in Europeans the last two years, while German champion Nathalie Weinzierl looks to improve on her 7th place finish from last year.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)

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Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov is one of three Russian teams that could challenge for the pairs championship.

Pairs

Analysis: It’s looking like a fight between Russian and German skate teams. Defending champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia are not competing this season as she is expecting a baby in February. Two-time and reigning European bronze medalists, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia look like the favorites following their win at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final. Defending European silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany won both their two Grand Prix events, but then were sidelined when Savchenko injured her ankle at Trophée de France in November. They had to withdraw from the Grand Prix Final. 2014 Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia also had injury problems, as Stolbova recovered from injury. They were able to win the Russian pairs championship last month. Teammates Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert finished 2nd at Rostelecom Cup, 4th at Trophee de France and qualified for the GP Final, finishing 4th.

Skaters to Watch: France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres had a strong Grand Prix season, finishing 4th at Skate America and 3rd at Trophee de France, just missing the GP Final. Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise finished 6th at Europeans last year. Teammates Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek look to improve on their 5th place finish from last year.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
2. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER)
3. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (RUS)

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France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron try to make it three in a row verses tough competition.

Ice Dance

France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are looking for their third consecutive title, but it won’t be easy. Their 2nd place finish at the Grand Prix Final could lead to an opening for Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte to slip in to the top spot. Last year’s 2nd place finishers had a slight set back when they didn’t qualify for the Grand Prix final. There are three Russian teams that could fight for the third spot on the podium. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev look like strong contenders after winning their 6th Russian ice dance championship. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin have a 2nd place finish at Russian nationals and were 5th at Europeans last year. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were 4th at Europeans and look to take a spot on the podium this year.

Skaters to Watch: Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri are ranked 7th in the world and have two 4th place finishes in Grand Prix competition this season. They picked up their 7th 2nd place finish in a row at Italian Nationals. Israel’s Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko are looking to give the country it’s first top 5 finish at Europeans. They were 10th last year and 12th at 2016 Worlds.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA)
3. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)

Posted in Figure Skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, ISU, Skating, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks: 2017 US Figure Skating Championships

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For the first time since 1985, Kansas City becomes the host of the US Figure Skating Championships. That year, Brian Boitano and Tiffany Chin claimed the ice.  400 of the top figure skaters, from juvenile to senior will make their way to capture glory. The brand new Sprint Center will take the main events, while the others will skate at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/other-sports/article126253919.html#storylink=cpy

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Nathan Chen looks to take advantage of injuries by the top skaters this weekend.

Men

Analysis – 2016 champion Adam Rippon won’t be in Kansas City to defend his title due to injury. That leaves a host of skaters who look to grab the mantle this weekend. At the top of the list is Jason Brown. However, he’s been nursing an injury of his own after the Grand Prix season, where he was 2nd at Skate America and 7th at NHK Trophy. If he’s unable to be at 100 percent, look for Max Aaron to take full advantage. He’s tasted the high-life in 2013 with a US championship and was 2nd in 2016. Nathan Chen could be the breakthrough skater of the weekend. He had a 2nd place finish at NHK Trophy and a first ever appearance at the Grand Prix Final where he finished 2nd. Though he took a step back in Grand Prix this season (two 11th place finishes), Grant Hochstein is still very capable of finding his way to the podium this weekend. He was 4th at nationals last year.

Skaters to Watch – Ross Miner had a productive Grand Prix season finishing 12th at Skate Canada and 9th at Cuo of China. Former junior champion Vincent Zhou looks to improve is 8th place standing from last year. He’ll look to improve for senior international competition next year. The window may be closing for Timothy Dolensky and Sean Rabbitt, as they need to have impressive showing this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Nathan Chen
2. Max Aaron
3. Jason Brown

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Gracie Gold look to put away a disappointing fall season by contending for a national title.

Ladies

Analysis – All eyes will be on Ashley Wagner this weekend, as she goes for her 5th US Championship. She had an outstanding Grand Prix season, winning Skate America, but falling short of the final, placing 6th at Cup of China. He biggest competitor will be Gracie Gold. Despite her poor showing this season (5th at Skate America, 8th at Trophee de France), she’s still a major threat to take the crown, having won twice. Mirai Nagasu continues to surprise the critics on whether this is her last year of skating. She hasn’t won the crown since 2008. But with Polina Edmunds out of this year’s nationals due of injury, she has a great chance to make the podium this year, or even pulling off the upset. Courtney Hicks is the wild card this weekend. She finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup this season, but hasn’t had much luck at nationals the last few years, with her best finish in 2013 (4th).

Skaters to Watch – Karen Chen lost her spark since her 3rd place finish in 2015. She was 7th at Cup of China and 6th at NHK Trophy. Mariah Bell took a major step forward in her senior development this season, finishing 2nd at Skate America. A top 5 would be enormous. Angela Wang has enough international experience to make the top 6, but will need a huge showing this weekend to break from the pack. Other skaters looking to break into the top 6 are Bradie Tennell, Caroline Zhang, Hannah Miller and Amber Glenn.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Ashley Wagner
2. Mirai Nagasu
3. Courtney Hicks

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Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea find themselves the favorites after Alexa and Chris Knierim withhdrew because of injury.

Pairs

Analysis – A huge loss in the pairs competition, as Alexa and Chris Knierim withdrew from this weekend’s competition because of injury. That makes defending champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea the team to beat. However, their Grand Prix showing this season (6th at Skate America, 4th at NHK) could make them vulnerable to an upset like they did last season. That could come from Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who finished 2nd at Skate America and 2nd at nationals last season. Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran are another team that could climb to the top. They finished 3rd last season and were 5th at Trophee de France in Grand Prix season. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson will skate in seniors for the first time and could surprise the judges. They were 2nd in junior nationals last season and they have a 3rd place finish at JGP Czech State this season.

Skaters to Watch – Eight other teams vie for a spot for world teams. Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan finished 7th last season and have an 8th place showing at Cup of China. Erika Smith and AJ Reiss make a return to nationals after finishing 6th last season. Ashley Cain switches to pairs with partner Tim LeDuc, and Deanna Stellato-Dudek makes a return to the ice after 16 years with new partner, Nathan Bartholomay. Both teams qualified via Eastern sectionals.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier
2. Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea
3. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson

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Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue look to continue their climb to the top of the podium this weekend.

Ice Dance –

Analysis – American ice dance continues to gain in stature, as six teams are capable of winning the top podium spot. Three of the teams skating this weekend are in the top five in the ISU rankings. Defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani continue to show their dominance with two 1st place finishes at Skate America and Cup of China, as well as a 3rd place showing in the Grand Prix final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates lost a bit of their step in recent competitions (6th at Grand Prix final), but are still on the Shibutani’s heels for the top spot this weekend. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have really made great strides in their programs and the results were a 2nd straight appearance in the Grand Prix final, where they finished 5th. 2014 world junior ice dance champions Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker could make it interesting this weekend, as they’ve also continued to improve in international competitions, finishing 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK.

Skaters to Watch – Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus have improved their standing at nationals the last three years. They look to break the podium from their 4th place finish last season. Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit have finished 3rd twice at junior nationals, and performed in Grand Prix competitions this season, finishing 7th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup. Charlotte Maxwell and Ryan Devereaux best finish was 8th at last year’s nationals and have limited international experience.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates

And here’s our selections for the Junior categories.

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Men – Alex Krasnozhon

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Ladies – Alexia Paganini

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Pairs – Vanessa Chen and Eric Hartley

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Ice Dance – Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, Skating, Uncategorized, USFSA | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks: 2017 Canadian National Skating Championships

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Canadian nationals are this weekend in the nation’s capital, in celebration of the country’s 150th birthday.  Novice, Junior and Senior disciplines will be decided this week, with the top skaters battling this weekend for spots on the World team representing the “True North”.  Injuries have taken their toll on some skaters this week, making the competitions in some categories wide open.

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Patrick Chan goes for his 6th Canadian National championship this weekend.

Men

Analysis – Canadian men’s skaters have some setbacks due to injury. But this year will be better, as the top three skaters return. At the top, Olympic silver medallist, Patrick Chan who had a strong Grand Prix season, winning Skate Canada and Cup of China. The numbers game dropped him to 5th in the Grand Prix Final. He’s the heavy favorite to win in Ottawa this weekend. The rest of the field will play for 2nd and 3rd. Nan Nguyen is his closest rival, but his international display has been reduced use to injuries. He finished 6th at Skate America and 8th at NHK Trophy. Kevin Reynolds is also returning to the ice due to injuries. He’s only competed in on Grand Prix event, finishing 3rd at Skate Canada. Liam Firus finished 2nd in Halifax last year and also has two 3rd place finishes at Canadian nationals and is a threat to medal.

Skaters to Watch – Roman Sadovsky has an outside chance at the podium, his best finish was in 2015, where he finished 4th. Elladj Balde had a poor Grand Prix season, finishing 6th in Moscow and 10th at NHK Trophy. Keegan Messing’s best finish at nationals was 5th in 2015. Former junior champ Nicolas Nadeau makes his second appearance in seniors competition. He finished 5th last year.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Patrick Chan
2. Kevin Reynolds
3. Liam Firus

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Despite a poor Grand Prix season, defending champion Alaine Chartrand looks to keep her crown at home.

Ladies

Analysis – Lots of excitement, as the top three skaters in Canada (Each of them, national champions) look to take the crown. 2014 champion Kaetlyn Osmond looks to get back her title after years of debilitating injuries. She had a great Grand Prix season, with two 2nd place finishes at Skate Canada and Cup of China and a 4th place finish at the Grand Prix final. 2015 champion Gabby Daleman had a solid Grand Prix season with two 4th place finishes at Skate America and Trophee de France and will look to regain her crown. But the current Canadian champion has other ideas. 2016 champ Alaine Chartrand had a disappointing Grand Prix season (5th at Skate Canada and 10th NHK Trophy), she’s been extremely focused and looks to defend her crown on home ice. Injuries have taken out other top contenders, but Sarah Tamura is one that could make a splash this weekend. The former junior champion will skate for the first time on the senior level.

Skaters to Watch – Other skaters looking to crack the top 5 have limited experience on the international level. Alicia Pineault finished 2nd last year as a junior and had a 10th place finish at JGP Czech Skate. Larkyn Austman finished 6th at last year’s nationals and is a former junior champion (2013). Kim Decelles makes her senior debut this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Kaetlyn Osmond
2. Gabby Daleman
3. Alaine Chartrand

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Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford look to regroup for Worlds after a disappointing Grand Prix season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Pairs

Analysis – Eight teams will determine who will take the top three spots for Worlds this weekend. The overwhelming favorites are two-time world champions, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. However, this season saw some surprising turns in their season. They stumbled in their three Grand Prix competitions. Despite coming back to win in two, they finished 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. Two teams could do the unthinkable this weekend. Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau scored their 2nd straight Grand Prix Final appearance (finishing 5th) after 1st at Skate America and 5th at Rostelecom Cup. Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch had a strong Grand Prix season with 3rd place finishes at Skate Canada and Cup of China, just missing the GP Final on points. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro had to sit out of the Grand Prix circuit due to injury, but they are expected to contend for a podium spot this weekend.

Skaters to Watch – Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan started the season off with promise, taking the non-GP US International Classic title. But then stumbled to a 7th place finish at Skate Canada. Camille Ruest and Andrew Wolfe competed in their first events as a team this season, finished 6th at Rostelecom Cup. The rest of the field, Angelina Ekaterinina & Sebastian Arcieri and Sydney Kolodziej & Maxime Deschamps make their debuts at nationals.

BREAKING: Skate Canada just announced that Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau have withdrawn from nationals.

Séguin sustained a concussion in late December for which she has been receiving care, and is improving. “She has been able to resume practices, but has not yet been cleared to return to full practices or competition. Her progress has been on track, and is expected to continue,” explained Dr. Tatiana Jevremovic, Skate Canada Chief Medical Advisor.

The team will still be in consideration for the 2017 ISU Championship events.

Adjusted our picks for this weekend to reflect the last minute change.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
2. Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch
3. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro

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Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continues on the comeback trail as they look to re-gain their titles this weekend.

Ice Dance

Analysis – In what stands to be the highlight of the competition, the return of Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir to Canadian nationals. After taking a year off, the team left off right where they started, winning at Skate Canada, NHK Trophy and the Grand Prix Final. This puts the pressure on the current Canadian champions, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, whose status has dropped from the ISU World rankings (currently 4th). They finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup and 2nd at Cup of China, and will most certainly be fighting champions this weekend. The projectory for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier has been moving steadily upward, with two 3rd place finishes, at Skate Canada and Trophee de France.

Skaters to Watch – The ending partnership between Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam along with a string of injuries has opened up a spot for a contender this weekend. Six other teams look to take that next step in their careers. A few make their senior debuts this weekend. Carolanne Soucisse and Shane Firus have only two international competitions under their belts. Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker best finish was 4th at last year’s junior nationals.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
2. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
3. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

Posted in Canada, Figure Skating, Ice Skating, Skate Canada, Skating, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment