The third leg of the international skating tour brings us to Beijing, home of the 2008 Summer Olympics, where 51 skaters will hit the ice to impress the judges. With less than 100 days before Sochi, many of them will be trying to impress the judges this weekend. There were some last minute replacements. Polina Korobeynikova withdrew and was replaced by Nikol Gosviani. Geng Bingwa withdrew and was replaced by Guo Xiaowen.
Analysis: Kazakstan’s Denis Ten makes his season debut in Beijing this weekend. After sitting out Skate America two weeks ago due to an injury, the reigning World silver medalist will try to improve his standing for the Olympics. His main opposition this weekend will be Florent Amodio of France, who has a national title and a world junior title to his credit. Kevin Reynolds, Canada’s only men’s entry, withdrew from the competition on Wednesday, leaving the field wide open. Of the skaters that figure to compete for medals, Richard Dornbuch of the US and Takahiko Kozuka of Japan will be fighting it out.
Skaters to Watch: China is fielding three skaters this weekend, which may figure into the race for the podium. Of the three, Han Yan may be their best hope, having been ranked 22nd in the world by the ISU rankings.
1. Denis Ten (KAZ)
2. Florent Amodio (FRA)
3. Takahito Kozuka (JPN)
Analysis: Also making their debut this season is Italy’s Carolina Kostner. The current #2 ranked skater in the world continued to shine, despite losing to Yu-na Kim in the Worlds and will be one of the favorites to medal in Sochi. There are a number of skaters that will give her a run for the money, including Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who has a few top three finishes in Grand Prix competitions and 2013 World Junior bronze medalist Anna Pogorilaya. Another is Japan’s Kanako Murakami, who is also debuting this weekend. Agnes Zawadzki of the US also figures to compete for the three slots this weekend, despite not placing well in recent Grand Prix competition.
Skaters to Watch: Like the men’s counterparts, China also has three skaters competing. Of those three, Zijun Li, last year’s national champion is their best hope for a medal.
1. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
2. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
3. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)
Analysis: After dominating the previous two years, Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took a step back, finishing 2nd at last year’s worlds. This year, they face a tough road to Olympic Gold. They make their debut and will take on three Chinese pair teams that will be tough to beat. Qing Pang and Jian Tong have been skating forever (since 1997) and will be one of the favorites to win. The other two teams, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang and Xuehan Wang & Lei Wang are considered to be the future of Chinese pair skating. France’s Daria Popova & Bruno Massot have struggled in Grand Prix competition, but can still place on the podium.
Skaters to Watch: The Americans will field two teams this weekend. Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim and Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay each have limited international experience, but have shown some spark in each of their competitions.
1. Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN)
2. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER)
3. Daria Popova & Bruno Massot (FRA)
Analysis: In one of the more compelling fields of the Grand Prix competitions, Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev looks like the clear favorites. The three time national champions will be looking to bring home Gold in Sochi. However, France’s Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat won this event last season and will look to defend their title this season. Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates surprised many with a second place finish at nationals and a third place finish at 4CC last season. They may surprise this weekend.
Skaters to Watch: Of the three Chinese teams, Xintong Huang & Zheng and national champions Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang stands to make the most impressions this weekend.
1. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUDS)
2. Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA)
3. Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)