The Grand Prix circuit heads east to Moscow, Russia; where more than 55 skaters will continue their quest for a spot at the Final in Barcelona. There is some uncertainty in regards to last weekend’s cancellation of the Trophee Bompard competition in Bordeaux, France. Russia has made a proposal to allow the short program results stand, but make slots for two more skaters and teams. It’s unknown at this time whether the ISU will go along with the proposal. Here are our picks!
Analysis – Reigning world champ Javier Fernandez of Spain easily took Cup of China two weeks ago and will look to punch his ticket to Barcelona this weekend. He’s expected to cruise to victory, but it won’t be easy. His main competition is from Russia’s Sergei Voronov, who will look to ride the home ice advantage. He struggled though at Cup of China, finishing 5th. Canada’s Nam Nguyen looks to grab a spot on the podium, as well. His 5th place finish at Skate Canada was a bit of a disappointment to start the season. American Adam Rippon just barely finished on the podium at Skate Canada, finishing 4th, but is a contender for a spot this weekend.
Skaters to Watch – Russia’s two other contenders are skaters that may make waves this weekend. Adian Pitkeev is currently ranked 19th in the ISU standings and has a 6th place finish at Skate America this season. Mikhail Kolyada has some on the JGP circuit, with two 2nd place finishes. This will be his first senior GP event. American Ross Miner and Germany’s Peter Liebers are the only other notables in this field.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
2. Sergei Voronov (RUS)
3. Adam Rippon (USA)
Analysis – The long awaited return of Olympic gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova is the highlight of this field. She’s been away from the ice for almost a year and will compete in the Grand Prix for the first time since 2013. She’ll have mountain to climb, as some heavy competition awaits, the biggest from her teammates. Elena Radionova had a strong comeback at Cup of China, finishing with a 2nd place free skate and 3rd place overall. Evgenia Medvedeva surprised everyone, except this writer with a win at Skate America in October. Japan’s Rika Hongo is the skater that could possibly ruin Russia’s chance at a clean sweep of the podium. She finished 2nd at Cup of China two weeks ago.
Skaters to Watch – Canada’s Alaine Chartrand won her first ever Grand Prix medal in this competition last year, finishing 3rd. She’ll have to pick up her game after a disappointing 12th place finish at Skate America in October. Italy’s Roberta Rodeghiero took a 2nd place finish in the short program into last weekend’s Trophée Eric Bompard competition until last weekend’s terror attacks in Paris cancelled the competition. She’ll get another chance to medal this weekend. Other contenders include American Polina Edmunds and Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Elena Radionova (RUS)
3. Rika Hongo (JPN)
Analysis – Three strong Russian teams dominate the field this weekend, with top contenders Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov being the favorites. They ride a wave of success, winning at Cup of China two weeks ago. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov are currently ranked higher in the ISU standings (4th), but a 4th place finish at Skate America leaves them a slight underdog this weekend. Natalja Zabijako & Alexander Enbert teamed up in spring 2015 and will compete in their first GP event. They had a 2nd place finish at the Mordovian Ornament competition. China’s Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang look to break up the juggernaut on the podium. They were 4th last weekend at Trophée Eric Bompard before last weekend’s cancellation.
Skaters to Watch – Italy’s Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek will skate in their first GP competition of the year. This is their second year skating in pairs and have a win at Lombardia Trophy earlier this season. Other contenders include Americans Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea (6th at Skate America) and Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro (3rd at Skate Canada).
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
2. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)
3. Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang (CHN)
Analysis – This is a highly competitive field, with any of the teams able to win this weekend. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje have the edge in this competition with their win at Skate Canada and their number one overall ranking in the ISU standings. Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte made a move to improve their ISU ranking (currently 6th) with a victory against Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates at Cup of China two weeks ago. Russia’s Elena Ilinykh & Ruslan Zhiganshin continue to improve their standing as well with a 3rd place finish at Cup of China. They’ll have to fend off their teammates Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov, who had a big 2nd place finish at Skate America.
Skaters to Watch – Russia’s Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin have an outside chance to make the podium this weekend based on their home ice advantage, but they’ve struggled in past GP competitions, with only a 2nd place finish at NHK Trophy last year out of 5 GP competitions. Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri finished outside the podium in 4th place at Skate Canada last month.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)