The second leg of the Gran Prix series stops in Lethbridge, Alberta, where the return of two Canadian skaters highlight the competition. If last week’s Skate America is any indication, then this weekend’s competition stands to be a classic. Here are our predictions.
Men – Canadian Patrick Chan took a year off after the Sochi Olympics to re-focus his skating career. It was unknown if he would come back to competition, but this weekend, he made his intentions known that he is back. He finds himself looking at a different landscape and facing a familiar adversary, 2014 Olympic and World Champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Hanyu defeated him in Sochi for Gold, and Chan will get that long awaited rematch this weekend. Hanyu easily won last month’s Skate Canada Autumn Classic in Barrie, Ontario. Chan will also have to contend with the challenge of current Canadian champion Nam Nguyen. Nguyen also skated in Skate Canada Autumn Classic and finished 2nd. One other contender is Japan’s Daisuke Murakami. He’ll be attempting a comeback after finishing a disappointing 7th at nationals. He won at Coupe de Printemps in Luxemburg last month.
Skaters to Watch – American Adam Rippon is a skater that will contend for the podium this weekend. He finished 2nd at US Nationals and was a 2nd place finisher at Finlandia Trophy last month. Alexander Petrov of Russia makes is senior GP debut this weekend. He’s the current Russian Junior Men’s champion and has a few regional competition victories under his belt. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic has been inconsistent in his skating career, but figures to be in the mix for a podium spot this weekend.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
- Patrick Chan (CAN)
- Daisuke Murakami (JPN)
Ladies – This weekend marks the return of former Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond. It’s been a long road for her, as she comes back from a serious leg injury. All signs are go, as she won her first competition in over a year at Nebelhorn Trophy last month. Now she has another mountain to climb, as she must take on current World Champion, Elizaveta Tukamysheva of Russia. Last year was a comeback for Tukamysheva, winning virtually every competition she’s entered. She continues the streak with a come-from-behind win at Cup de Nice last month. US Champion Ashley Wagner make her season debut this weekend, along with fellow American and 2015 Four Continents Champion, Polina Edmunds. 2014 Four Continents Champion Kanako Murakami of Japan had a rough start to the season at US International Classic in Salt Lake City, finishing 4th, but she will contend for the podium this weekend.
Skaters to Watch – Keep an eye out on current Canadian champion Gabrielle Daleman. How she finishes this weekend could well determine this year’s Canadian nationals. Gabby had a weak start to the season finishing 4th at Nepela Trophy. Other contenders include Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson, who was given the torch to lead by sister Viktoria who retired last season and Russia’s Alena Leonova, who gave Elizaveta Tukamysheva a run for her money at Cup de Nice, winning the Short Program and finishing 2nd overall.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Elizaveta Tukamysheva (RUS)
- Alena Leonova (RUS)
- Ashley Wagner (USA)
Pairs – Current World champions Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford compete in their third Skate Canada. Last year, the team ran away with the title in BC. This year, they began with a convincing win at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic in Barrie, Ontario. They’re the overwhelming favorites to win this weekend, with their main competition being Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov. Tarasova & Morozov’s new coach is former five-time World Pairs Champion, Robin Szolkowy. Italian Champions Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek will contend for a medal this weekend, coming off a win at Lombardia Trophy. Russia’s Vera Bazarova & Andrei Deputat have had limited success, finishing 3rd at Lombardia Trophy.
Skaters to Watch – Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer of Austria already have to non-GP competitions under their belt, their best result is a 2nd place finish at Cup de Nice. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro are in their second year of their partnership. The growing pains are beginning to subside, as they delivered a 3rd place finish at US International Classic last month. Fellow Canadians Vanessa Grenier & Maxime Deschamps look to improve their international status after a 4th place finish at US International Classic.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
- Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
- Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer of Austria (AUT)
Ice Dance – Four teams stand out in this competition, each have a chance to win the top spot. The main contenders are Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje. The current 2015 World bronze medalists got their season started with a win at Finlandia Trophy last month. The brother/sister team of Maia & Alex Shibutani from the United States are their main competitors this weekend. Currently ranked 3rd in the world, the team had a 3rd place finish at Nepela Trophy. Canadians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam also will contend for the podium. The started their season with a 2nd place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev enter their first competition in a year this weekend. They were Russian national champions before a knee injury to Soloviev ended their season in 2014.
Skaters to Watch – Denmark’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen are making their senior GP debut this weekend. They’ve had success in non-GP competitions, including a 2nd finish at the US International Classic and a 3rd place finish at Finlandia Trophy. Also competing are Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin of Russia. This team has flown ‘under the radar’ with some impressive finishes, including a couple of 1st place finishes in JGP competitions and an 8th place at last year’s Worlds.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)
- Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
- Maia & Alex Shibutani (USA)