The fifth stage of the Grand Prix series leads us to Bordeaux, France; where skaters will compete to qualify for the Grand Prix final. A number of skaters who were supposed to compete this weekend pulled out, most notably, Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. The World ice dance champions wanted to re-evaluate their routine after a disappointing 3rd place finish at Cup of China. They will concentrate now on the Europeans and the Worlds.
Here are our picks for this weekend.
Analysis: China’s Han Yan will compete this weekend. This, after a freak accident with Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu two weeks ago. Hanyu is still recovering from injury and is out of the Grand Prix series. Yan will compete against Japan’s Tatsuki Machida. Machida is clearly the favorite this weekend after winning at Skate America in October. His main competition will be from Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan. Ten is coming off a disappointing 4th place showing at Skate America, but a convincing win could place him in the GP final. Also competing will be Maxim Kovtun of Russia, who comes in a gold medal victory at Cup of China and Cup of China bronze medalist Richard Dornbush of the United States.
Skaters to Watch: France’s has two entrants in this competition. Florent Amodio and Chafik Besseghier are not expected to medal at this event. But a good showing will work well for their international experience. One skater may find the podium is Russia’s Konstantin Menshov, who finished 5th at Skate Canada and could make things interesting for the judges.
1. Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
2. Denis Ten (KAZ)
3. Maxim Kovtun (RUS)
Analysis: This is highly competitive division that will excite many this weekend. Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia took silver in Shanghai and is eyeing a Grand Prix final berth. Her competition will be from teammate Elena Radionova, who took gold at Skate America and also wants to secure her spot in the Final. The Americans have three strong skaters competing this weekend. Ashley Wagner had a strong showing at Skate Canada, finishing 2nd, Courtney Hicks could have easily made the podium at Skate Canada had it not been for a disappointing short program, and Samantha Cesario had a strong showing at Skate America, finishing 4th.
Skaters to Watch: Keep an eye out on Canadian Veronik Mallet. Last month at Skate Canada, she had a very good short program, but faltered in the long in only her second GP competition. She could do well at Canadian Nationals this season. One skater we haven’t talked about much is Mae Berenice Meite of France. A mid-level skater, she’s looking to improve on last year’s 5th place finish.
1. Elena Radionova (RUS)
2. Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS)
3. Courtney Hicks (USA)
Analysis: Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov won their home tournament last weekend, and will try to make it two in a row in France. They’ll have their work cut out for them from two Chinese teams, Wenjing Sui & Cong Han who took silver at Skate Canada and Xuehan Wang & Lei Wang, who claimed bronze at Cup of China. Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres of France want to improve on their 5th finish at Skate Canada.
Skaters to Watch: Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro had a nice debut at Skate Canada last month finishing 6th. They’ll try to improve their performance as they prepare for Canadian Nationals. Americans Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim finished 4th at Skate America and an unlikely win this weekend will put them into the final.
1. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)
2. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
3. Xuehan Wang & Lei Wang (CHN)
Analysis: With the reigning world champions withdrawing, this is an open competition among the remaining 8 teams. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron surprised many at Cup of China by winning gold. They’ll be hard pressed to repeat the feat this weekend in their home tournament. Their main competition will be from Skate Canada silver medalists Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier and Skate Canada bronze medalists, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue of the United States. Canadians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam, coming off a 5th place finish, could medal with a good performance this weekend.
Skaters to Watch: Of the three remaining teams, the ones who could make the most movement is Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy, who finished 6th at Skate America and won a series of non-Grand Prix events within the last 2 years. Korea’s Rebeka Kim & Kirill Minov and Spain’s Sara Hurtado & Adrian Diaz won’t really figure into the podium slots, barring an impressive showing this weekend by the two teams.
1. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN)
2. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA)
3. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)