The Grand Prix series continues as we head to Regina, Saskatchewan for this year’s Skate Canada International. A couple key matchups in pairs and in the men’s division stand to make this weekend interesting. Canada may have a big weekend in store, as they look to solidify their standing in world competition.
Here’s our picks for this weekend.
This weekend’s competition squares on Canadian Patrick Chan. He has won this tournament seven times and is the favorite. But Japan’s Shoma Uno is Chan’s biggest competitor this weekend. He’s come on strong last year with victories at Skate America and a third place Grand Prix Final and could give Chan a run for his money. American Jason Brown is the lone American man this weekend, he looks to improve his standing from last year, where he stumbled to a 7th place finish at NHK, which ruined his Grand Prix Final plans. Japan’s Takahito Mura finished 8th at last year’s Skate Canada and will look to improve this weekend.
Skaters to Watch – Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx could be making a push as an elite skater this season. He won two pre-GP tournaments and finished 2nd at Nice few weeks ago. Canadian Keegan Messing is also on the move with a 3rd place finish at the Autumn Classic. Russian Alexander Samarin makes his senior debut this weekend along with Canadian Nicolas Nadeau.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Shoma Uno (JPN)
2. Patrick Chan (CAN)
3. Jorik Hendrickx (BEL)
This is a highly competitive field with Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond the front-runner for gold. The reigning World silver medalist hasn’t won since 2012, so she’d due for a victory. Three skaters will vie for the top spot. American Ashley Wagner is a perennial contender in any competition. She’ll be making her season debut this weekend. Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya is also a contender, but we’ll have to see how her health is after withdrawing from Russia Cup due to injury. She should be at 100% percent. Another American, Karen Chen will be debuting a new program this weekend. She was 3rd at the US International Classic last month.
Skaters to Watch – Russia’s Maria Sotskova won at Finlandia last month and could surprise the field. American Courtney Hicks has found the podium in previous GP competitions (Rostelecom Cup last season, NHK in 2015). Canadian Alaine Chartrand struggled last season in International competition, but could do well with a fresh start. Japan’s Marin Honda and Riko Hongo are also contenders for the podium.
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN)
2. Ashley Wagner (USA)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
All eyes will be on the former two-time World pairs champs, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. Last year was one to forget, as they were taken off the top spot with a disappointing 7th place finish. Some concern, as they finished 2nd at the Autumn Classic, but they’re still considered the home favorites this weekend. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot are their main rivals this weekend. Last season, the team had do withdraw from the Grand Prix Final due to injury. China only has one team competing this weekend with Cheng Peng and Yang Jin. They have two 2nd place finishes in the GP last season and an early victory at Finlandia last month. French pairs skaters Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès has seen their fortunes climb recently. A 3rd place showing at Trophee de France and a surprise win at the Autumn Classic could give them a strong showing for the judges this weekend.
Skaters to Watch – Canadians Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch were there to carry the team when Duhamel and Radford fell. They finished 3rd at last year’s Skate Canada and will figure into this year’s tournament. Americans Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have two 2nd place finishes in GP competitions, both at Skate America. Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert have two early wins (Lombardia and Ondrej Nepela Trophy) and are contenders this weekend. Canadians Sydney Kolodziej and Maxime Deschamps make their senior debuts in Regina.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (CHN)
3. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER)
It’s a far-gone conclusion that barring a catastrophe, Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are a lock for the top spot this weekend. But don’t be surprised if there’s an upset. If, by chance, it does happen it could come from two teams. Teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were on a trajectory for the top spot in the world until Virtue and Moir announced their comeback last season. They finished 2nd to them at the Autumn Classic and will be waiting in the wings for a stumble. The other team is Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. The team made back-to-back Grand Prix finals and won the US International Classic last month. Teammates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker are former world Junior Ice Dance champs, but because of a log-jam in the US field, they will have to improve internationally on the senior circuit. They finished 2nd to Hubbell and Donohue in Salt Lake last month.
Skaters to Watch – Turkey is not known as a figure skating powerhouse, but they’ve sent a team to Skate Canada this weekend. Alisa Agafonova and Alper Uçar din’t fair well last weekend at Rostelecom Cup, finishing 9th, but they’ll get another go this weekend for Olympic preparation. Russia only sends one team with Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd making their senior debut this weekend. They finished 2nd at the Junior Grand Prix final last season. Poland’s Natalia Kaliszek and Maksym Spodyriev make only their third GP start this weekend. Their best finish is 5th at Cup of China last year.
Smooth’s Pick –
1. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA)