It’s that time of year again, figure skating season is here. Regionals are currently taking place in the first steps to nationals. It’s also an Olympic year. That means the best of the best skaters will be competing for all important spots they’ve been training years in. The focus this weekend will be in Moscow, where over 40 skaters will compete for Grand Prix points. The big stories so far this short season is the sudden withdrawal of American Gracie Gold, who has taken time off due to personal issues. Russia’s Julia Lipniskaya has retired due to health-related issues. There are a few skaters who will make their mark this weekend and will look to focus on PeyongChang this winter.
Analysis – This will be a battle between Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and American Nathan Chen. Hanyu is the reigning Grand Prix title holder and didn’t begin his season right, as he lost to Spain’s Javier Fernandez at the Autumn Classic in Montreal. Chen began his season with a victory at the US International in Salt Lake City. Russian Dimitri Aliev is the reigning Junior Grand Prix champion and makes his senior debut in this event. Teammate Mikhail Kolyada captured the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in September, but finished 4th at Finlandia. Israel’s Daniel Samohin looks to continue last year’s success.
Skaters to Watch – Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten has fallen off the radar in the last 12 months due to injuries, but this being an Olympic year, look for him to bounce back. Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge also looks to grab a spot along with American Grant Hochestein, Canadian Nam Nguyen and Japan’s Kenji Tanaka.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2. Nathan Chen (USA)
3. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS)
Analysis – There’s an outside chance of a Russian sweep this weekend. At the top of the list is the reigning two-time world champion, Evgenia Medvedeva, who shows no sign of stopping her success. teammate, Elena Radionova will figure into the other two slots this weekend. She finished third at Ondrej Nepela Trophy last month. There are two contenders for the third spot. Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi surprised many with a 2nd place finish at Lombardia, upsetting Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who came in 3rd. Kostner also had a 2nd place finish at Finlandia.
Skaters to Watch – If American Mirai Nagasu hits her triple axel and has a clean skate in both programs, then all bets are off on who will take the last two podium spots. She placed 2nd at US International at Salt Lake City. Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva has shown signs of improvement last season and fionished 3rd at Skate Canada’s Autumn Classic. Others to watch are American Mariah Bell, Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto and France’s Mae Berenice Meite.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Elena Radionova (RUS)
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
Analysis – eight teams will compete in Moscow this weekend. At the top of the contenders are Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who are the defending Grand Prix champions. They just cam off a victory at Nebelhorn Trophy. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are also contender for the top spot. They were past Grand Prix Pairs champions in 2015 and are coming off a two year stretch due to injury. Canada’s Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau have a very good chance at the podium, as they bounce back from a series of injuries late last season. They finished 3rd at the Autumn Classic. Hot of their heels are Italy’s Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek, who finished 3rd at Lombardia Trophy.
Skaters to Watch – Russia’s Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov givesthe country an outside chance for a sweep this weekend. They have a 2nd place finish at Ondrej Nepela and a 5th place finish at Finlandia. Americans Marisa Castelli and Mervin Tran continue their international trek, with a 4th place finish in the Autumn Classic. Other teams include Japan’s Sumire Suto & Francis Boudreau-Audet and Austria’s Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
2. Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau (CAN)
3. Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek (RUS)
Analysis – The competition should be fun to watch with 10 teams skating this weekend. At the top are Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani. This will be their first competition of the season and they’re the reigning bronze medalists in last year’s Grand Prix Final. Their challenge will be with Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, who started their season with a victory at Ondrej Nepela last month. Teammates Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin will also figure into this weekend’s competition. They had a 2nd place finish at Finlandia to start their season. Americans Rachel and Michael Parsons begin their careers on the senior circuit this season. They’re the reigning junior Grand Prix champions and began their season with two 2nd place finishes at Lake Placid and Ondrej Nepela.
Skaters to Watch – Keep your eye on Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri. They won two pre-GP events at Golden Spin and Lombardia and could make wave this weekend. Don’t forget Canadians Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier who look to break out this season. They have a 2nd place finish at the Autumn Classic and two third place finishes in Grand Prix competitions last season. Turkey’s Alisa Agafonova and Alper Ucar and France’s Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac also will contend this weekend.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
3. Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier (CAN)