After two weeks in North America, the ISU Grand Prix series heads to Bejing, China; where a few former world champions will make their season debuts. Some may punch their ticket to Barcelona after this weekend. Here are our picks.
Analysis – The reigning World Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain makes his season debut this weekend. After coming close the last few seasons, he finally hits his mark, defeating Olympic champ Yuzuru Hanyu last year. With an uneventful off-season, he’s considered the favorite. His main competition should come from 2015 Four Continents bronze medalist Han Yan of China. He looks to improve on his fourth place finish at Skate America two weeks ago. Last year’s GP Final bronze medalist Sergei Voronov of Russia is also looking to medal at the podium. He got some work in a few weeks ago with a 3rd place finish at Finlandia Trophy. Canada’s Elladj Balde is looking to parlay is 1st place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy into a successful GP effort. His best GP finish was 6th at NHK Trophy last season.
Skaters to Watch – Michael Christian Martinez will represent the Philippines, only the second time the Asian nation has had a representative in a Grand Prix competition. He was at Skate America last year, finishing 10th. Nan Song of China will compete for the podium, along with American Richard Dornbush and Misha Ge of Uzbekistan, who has had problems competing due to visa issues.
Smooth’s Picks –
1. Han Yan (CHN)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Elladj Balde (CAN)
Analysis – After a year-long sabbatical, Three-time World Champion Mao Asada of Japan returns to competition. The 2010 Olympic silver medalist will face the top two Russian skaters, 2015 World bronze medalist Elena Radionova and 2015 European bronze medalist, Anna Pogorilaya. Radionova makes her debut this weekend, while Pogorilaya had two competitions under her belt (1st at Mordovian Ornament and 2nd at O. Nepela Troph). 2015 Four Continents bronze medalist Rika Hongo of Japan won the Finlandia Trophy and will look to be in the top four.
Skaters to Watch – American Courtney Hicks has had a lot of potential and with a new triple axel under her belt could make the judges weekend difficult if she attempts it. She finished 3rd at Nebelhorn Trophy. Other Americans to watch is Karen Chen, who finished a respectable 5th in her first senior GP event and Hanna Miller, who competes in her first senior GP competition. Zijun Li is China’s top entry this weekend and is a four-time Chinese national champion.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Elena Radionova (RUS)
2. Mao Asada (JPN)
3. Rika Hongo (JPN)
Analysis – This is a competition between two strong Chinese teams and two strong Russian teams. The top pairs team is Wenjing Sui & Cong Han. Their performance at Skate America two weeks ago put current champions Duhamel and Radford on notice. A win this weekend automatically sends them to Barcelona. 2015 European Champions Yuko Kavagut & Alexander Smirnov of Russia is their main competition. They had a pre-GP event at Mordovian Ornament, winning the competition. ISU Grand Prix finalists Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin of China will skate for the first time this season since their win at Winter Universiade in February. Despite their 7th place finish at Skate America, Kristina Astakhova & Alexei Rogonov still should be considered a threat to take the podium.
Skaters to Watch – Germany’s Mari Vartmann & Ruben Blommaert only skated in three competions in their career, but they’ve been successful, reaching the podium twice (1st at Cup de Nice and 2nd at Ice Challenge). Canadians Lubov Iliushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch also have limited experience, with a 4th place finish at O. Nepela Trophy.
1. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
2. Yuko Kavagut & Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
3. Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin (CHN)
Analysis – Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates look to securing their spot for the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona. They breezed to victory at Skate America two weeks ago and look for a second straight gold. Their competition should come from 2014 World Champions Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy. Last year, they pulled out of GP competition after last year’s Cup of China to regroup. Russians Champions Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin look to improve on their syncronicity in their second year as a team. They won at Mordovian Ornament a few months ago. 2014 World Junior Champions Kaitlyn Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker of the US look to improve on their 4th place finish at Shake America two weeks ago.
Skaters to Watch – Of the three Chinese teams, the one with potential to medal are Shiyue Wand & Xinyu Liu. However, they finished 8th at Skate America and are currently ranked 25th in the ISU standings. Federica Testa & Lukas Csolley of Slovakia has had some success in non-GP events, winning at Volvo Open Cup and Warsaw Cup in 2014. However, they haven’t been able to do better than a 4th place finish recently at O. Nepela Trophy. Their best GP finish was 7th at Skate America last year.
1. Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)
2. Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS)
3. Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)