The last competition before the Grand Prix final takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia; where more than 50 skaters will compete for the final slots. The big story this weekend is the withdrawal of Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond. Ms. Osmond is still recovering from a hamstring injury In October suffered during the short program at Skate Canada International last month. “It was a difficult decision, but Kaetlyn and her coach felt it was important to get back to a full training regimen to be prepared for the next events in the season,” said Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s Director, High Performance.
Analysis: The field in this week’s competition is sparse, as most of the top skaters have already participated in the last few competitions. This leaves the door wide open for any skater to win. Spain’s Javier Fernandez gave a poor showing at the NHK Trophy a few weeks ago. His 5th place finish puts him outside the GP Final and he’ll need to win this weekend for any chance to compete. His competition this weekend is American Richard Dornbush, who also didn’t fair well, finishing 5th at Cup of China in October. Russia’s Artur Gachinski also had a poor showing at Skate America, finishing 8th. That leaves Japan’s Tatsuki Machida to win outright. Last month, he won at Skate America.
Skaters to Watch: American Joshua Farris will look to better his 5th place finish at Skate Canada International last month. Also, Russia has two skaters that will look to contend this weekend, Maxim Kovtun, who finished 2nd at Cup of China and Konstantin Menshov, who will try to improve on his 8th place finish at NHK Trophy.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Artur Gachinski (RUS)
Analysis: Despite the loss of Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond this weekend, the ladies competition looks pretty competitive. Italy’s Carolina Kostner will look to do better than her 3rd place showing at Cup of China. Meanwhile, there are three other skater that could give her trouble. Japan’s Kanako Murakami, who finished in 4th place at Cup of China, Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who had disappointing 4th place finish at Skate America and her teammate, Julia Lipnitskaia, who dazzled the judges, winning Skate Canada.
Skaters to Watch: Russia’s Nikol Gosviani skates in her second senior Grand Prix event. She finished a respectable 5th at Cup of China. Two Americans will skate in St. Petersburg this weekend, Mirai Nagasu who finished a disappointing 8th at NHK Trophy, and Agnes Zawadzki who also struggled in 7th place at Cup of Canada.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
2. Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
3. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
Analysis: Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy gave a strong performance at Cup of China to win 1st place two weeks ago. They’ll look to keep pace with their Russian rivals, Volosozhar & Trankov in the ISU point totals. Even though they’re not skating this weekend, their other two Russian teams are. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov are coming off a 3rd place finish at Skate America and Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov finished 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard last weekend in Paris. One team that will contend is Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch, who finished 2nd at State America early last month.
Staters to Watch: The Russian team of Julia Antipova & Nodari Maisuradze will skate in their first senior Grand Prix competition weekend. The team skated in non-GP events this season, finishing in 4th at Cup of Nice and 2nd at the Bavarian Open at Bavarian Open in Oberstdorf, Germany. Americans Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim (5th at Cup of China) and Lindsay Davis & Rockne Brubaker (6th at Skate Canada) both continue to gain valuable international experience towards US Nationals and beyond.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER)
2. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)
3. Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)
Analysis: With the top three teams already skated the last two competitions, this weekend will see a thrilling ride between “backup squads”. Russia’s second ranked team of finished in 2nd place at Cup of China and will look to bring home Gold for the home country. Canada’s 2nd place national team of Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje made a successful return to the ice with a 2nd place finish at Skate Canada. Meanwhile, America’s second place team of Madison Chock & Evan Bates will look to contend after finishing 3rd at the Cup of China two weeks ago.
Skaters to Watch: Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko missed out on the podium at Skate Canada last month finishing 4th, but will look to contend this weekend. Another Russian team, Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin may get a close look from the judges, but their 6th place showing at Trophee Eric Bombard may make them think twice. Also, Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier will look to improve on their 6th place finish at NHK Trophy last month.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)