Smooth’s Podium Picks 2022 – MK John Wilson Trophy

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It’s hard to believe that a country rich in figure skating tradition, from John Curry to legendary ice dancers, Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, has never hosted a senior Grand Prix event. That all ends this week, as Sheffield makes that dream a reality. Thanks to an opening in the schedule, the ISU brings it all together. Great Britain will have three singles skaters and one team in each division participating.

morisi-kvitelashviliMen: Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili makes his 2022-23 Grand Prix season debut this weekend. He’s the odds-on favorite in the men’s division, having just missed the podium at last year’s world championships and a gold medal win at Rostelecom Cup in 2021. Lots of competition heads his way, with Italy’s Daniel Grassl standing in his way for gold. Grassl missed a spot on the podium at Skate America in October. Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs also is a contender despite a poor showing at Skate Canada, where he finished 10th. Japan’s Shun Sato competes for the second week in a row and looks to gain position for the Grand Prix Final. He finished 2nd at the Internationaux de France last weekend.

Skaters to Watch: Canada’s Roman Sadovsky had a 5th place finish at Skate America and can pull a spoiler with a good showing. American’s Jimmy Ma and Tomoki Hiwatashi each can do the same. Great Britain has two entries in the men’s competition in Edward Appleby and Graham Newberry. Both make their senior Grand Prix debuts.

FULL ENTRIES: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO)
2. Daniel Grassl (ITA)
3. Shun Sato (JPN)

FSKATE-FOUR

Women: American Isabeau Levito leads a 12-skater field of ladies. She almost pulled off the upset at Skate America, finishing 2nd in only her third senior international competition and her first senior Grand Prix. Japan’s Mai Mihara comes into Sheffield at the healthiest she’s been since 2020. Injuries affected her performances, having finished 4th twice in Grand Prix action in 2021. South Korea’s You Young skated to a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada last month and is a contender for the top spot. American Gabby Izzo skates in her 1st senior Grand Prix event and has shown lots of promise in the Challenger Series, having finished 3rd at the US International Classic in 2021.

Skaters to Watch: American Bradie Tennell had to make the heartbreaking decision to pull out of last year’s US Nationals due to injury. In fact, he’s been dealing with injuries since 2020. But she makes her triumphant return to the ice this weekend. Her best finish was at Skate America, where she finished 2nd twice in 2019 and 2020. Canada’s Gabby Daleman was well on her way to a podium spot at Skate Canada, when she suffered a disastrous free skate which dropped her from 2nd to 10th. Great Britain’s entry is Natasha McKay, who is a 5-time national champion and is making her senior Grand Prix debut.

FULL ENTRIES: CLICK HERE! 

Smooth’s Picks
1. Isabeau Levito (USA)
2. Mai Mihara (JPN)
3. You Young (KOR)

Knierim_Frazier_021922_1440x810_UpdatedWorldsPairs: Only seven teams will compete this weekend, with Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frasier the heavy favorites. The defending World pairs champs, cruised to victory at Skate America in October. They face a challenge from two teams this weekend. Italy’s Sara Conti and Noccolo Macii skated to their first senior Grand Prix podium, a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada. Germany’s Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster had a very good short program at Skate America, but errors in the free skate dropped them from 3rd to 7th place. Americans Katie McBeath and Nathan Bartholomay make their Grand Prix debut this weekend. The team looks to improve on their 5th place showing at nationals.

FULL ENTRIES: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frasier (USA)
2. Sara Conti and Noccolo Macii (ITA)
3. Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster (GER)

Lilah FEAR Lewis GIBSONIce Dance: This weekend’s ice dance shapes up to be an exciting competition, with the top to teams in the ISU standings squaring off. Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri have been on a roll, having won at Grand Prix de France last weekend and look to make it two in a row. But the home country will have a large crowd presence with Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson. The British team finished 2nd at Skate Canada, and a win will bring them closer to their first Grand Prix Final. Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha put together their best performance in senior Grand Prix competition with a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada. Americans Oona and Gage Brown took home a World junior ice dance championship and finished 2nd at Nationals last season. Their first senior Grand Prix event will determine whether they are ready.

Teams to Watch: Canada has two young teams that could contend for position. Alicia Fabbri and Paul Ayer finished 7th at Canadian Nationals and will skate in their first senior Grand Prix event, while Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker have three Grand Prix appearances, all at Skate Canada with their best finish in 9th. Americans Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko hasn’t reached the podium in a Grand Prix event since 2020, when they finished 3rd.

FULL ENTRIES: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Picks
1. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson (GBR) * This is my upset special! *
2. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA)
3. Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha (CAN)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 0/3 – All skaters picked were on the podium but in different slots.
Women: 1/3 – Correctly picked the “Birthday Girl” for the win.
Pairs: 1/3 – Stellato-Dudek becomes the oldest Grand Prix medalsist.
Ice Dance: 2/3 – Two out of three ain’t bad, especially the top two.

Season to Date

Men: 3/9
Women: 2/9
Pairs: 4/9
Ice Dance: 7/9

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Great Britain, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Predictions, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks 2022 – Grand Prix de Internationaux de France

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The Grand Prix series moves east across the ocean and into the beautiful city of Angers. Located in the western portion of France beside the Maine river at the edge of the Loire Valley, this city has the look of medieval buildings, castles and traditional European style architecture.  This will be the first Grand Prix without home favorites, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who have scaled back their competitions after winning Olympic gold in Beijing.  Also missing is men’s skater Kevin Aymoz, who earlier pulled out of Skate America last month due to injury. A total of 58 Skaters/Couples representing 15 ISU members have been entered for this event.

Men: This is an open field with no clear favorites. Japan’s Kazuki Tomono has success in the senior Grand Prix, finishing 2nd at NHK in 2020 and 3rd at Rostelecom Cup in 2021. This season, he won at Coupe du Printemps and finished 4th at Nebelhorn. Teammate Sota Yamamoto makes his fifth entry in the Grand Prix with three NHK Trophy appearances. This summer, he finished 3rd at the Challenge Cup in Tilburg, Netherlands. France’s Adam Siao Him Fa looks to bring home a medal in his home tournament. He finished 8th at last year’s Internationaux de France.

Skaters to Watch: Canada’s Wesley Chiu competed at Skate America two weeks ago and finished 6th. South Korea’s Lee Sihyeong makes his first appearance in the senior Grand Prix. He has a 2nd place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy. Ivan Shmuratko will be skating for more than a medal; he’ll be skating for pride for his native Ukraine.

FULL LINEUP: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Kazuki Tomono (JPN)
2. Adam Siao Him Fa (FRA)
3. Sota Yamamoto (JPN)

ISU World Figure Skating Championships - Montpellier

Women: Reigning World silver medalist Loena Hendrickx headlines the field in the Women’s division in hopes to become the first Belgian skater to win an ISU Grand Prix event. She began her season by winning at Nebelhorn Trophy. Her main competition should come from 2022 Four Continents silver medalist Lee Haein of South Korea. She just missed the podium at Skate America, finishing 4th. Teammate and Four Continents bronze medalist Kim Yelim started her 2022-23 season strong by winning the US International Classic and at Finlandia Trophy. Japan’s Mana Kawabe won silver at last year’s NHK Trophy and began her season with a bronze at the US International Classic.

Skaters to Watch: France’s Mae Berenice Meite has been besieged with injury the last 18 months, but this weekend, she returns to the ice. This is her 13th year in senior Grand Prix action with her best finish being two 5th place finishes at the former Trophee Bompard in 2012 and 2013. American Audrey Shin is not to far long from her surprise 3rd place finish at Skate America in 2020. She won at the Cranberry Cup this summer. Japan’s Rino Matsuike looks to make the Grand Prix podium for second time in her career. She finished 3rd at NHK in 2020.

FULL LINEUP: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Loena Hendrickx (BEL)
2. Lee Haein (KOR)
3. Kim Yelim (KOR)

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime DeschampsPairs: Canada’s Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps captured silver in last month’s Skate America, and are the favorites heading into the third Grand Prix event. A win will inch themselves closer to qualifying for the Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy in December. Their challenge should come from Karina Safina and Luka Berulava of Georgia. The reigning World Junior Champions came close to making the podium in last year’s senior World Championships, finishing 4th. Germany’s Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel won pairs gold at this season’s Finlandia Trophy. They also found the podium at the Nebelhorn Trophy, finishing 3rd. Americans Maria and Ivan Mokhova barely missed the podium with a 4th place finish at Skate America in their 4th competition as a pairs team. Italy’s Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini started their season off with two wins this season (US International Classic and John Nicks Pairs Challenge).

FULL LINEUP: CLICK HERE!!

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps (CAN)
2. Karina Safina and Luka Berulava (GEO)
3. Maria and Ivan Mokhova (USA)

Ice Dance: Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri look to finally get a break thru after four 2nd place finishes in Grand Prix competitions over a five-year stretch. The two-time ISU European bronze medalists lead a 10-team Ice Dance field and are the favorites to win this weekend. Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen are just one team that stand in their way. They began this season by winning the Finlandia Trophy title. Finland’s Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis will be skating in only their third Grand Prix event since 2018, when their best finish was 6th in Helsinki. Georgia’s Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya were World Junior silver medalists in 2020. This will be their first senior Grand Prix event.

Teams to Watch: Americans have two teams making the trip across the Atlantic. Eva Pate and Logan Bye have three 2nd place finishes this season (Lake Placid, US International and Ondrej Nepela Memorial). Katarina Wolfkostin and Jeffrey Chen had personal bests at Budapest Trophy, where they finished in 3rd.

FULL LINEUP: CLICK HERE!!

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (ITA)
2. Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen (CAN)
3. Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya (GEO)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 2/3 – Japan men go 1-2.
Women: 1/3 – Rinka jumps 6 places to win. Starr Andrews wins her first GP medal.
Pairs: 1/3 – Japan pairs continues their hot streak.
Ice Dance: 3/3 – CALLED IT, 1-2-3!!

Season to Date

Men: 3/6
Women: 1/6
Pairs: 4/6
Ice Dance: 5/6

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Grand Prix, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks 2022 – Skate Canada International

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The Grand Prix Series moves north of the border to Mississauga, Ontario; just west of Toronto.  This will be the 5th Skate Canada International competition, with the last event taking place in 2016.  That year, Patrick Chan won his 6th and final men’s Skate Canada title, while Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won their 3rd of 4 pairs titles.  Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their 6th of seven Skate Canada ice dance titles that year.   Canadian women haven’t won at Skate Canada since 2017, when Kaetlyn Osmond won the event in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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Men: Olympic bronze medalist Shoma Uno of Japan hasn’t been on the radar much since winning his first world championship in March. That downtime may be the best thing for him, as he comes into the event as the favorite. The field will be stacked with contenders, beginning with teammate Kao Miura, who nearly pulled off an upset at last weekend’s Skate America, finishing 2nd. Canada has two chances for gold with Keegan Messing, who started his season with a win at Nebelhorn. Stephen Gogolev has dealt with a number of injuries since 2021. He gets a fresh start this weekend. Internationally ranked Jin Boyang of China was a late scratch after recovering from surgery. He was expected to compete for a medal this weekend, and no skater will replace him.

Skaters to Watch: Italy’s Matteo Rizzo won in Budapest, making it his 2nd win in the Challenger Series event. His best finish in Grand Prix action was in 2019, where he finished 3rd at Cup of China. Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs had two 4th place finishes in 2021 Grand Prix action and was 3rd at last year’s Europeans. The United States has two entries this weekend in Camden Pulkinen and Jimmy Ma.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Shoma Uno (JPN)
2. Kao Miura (JPN)
3. Keegan Messing (CAN)

SchizasWomen: New and familiar faces compete this weekend. Olympian Madeline Schizas of Canada started her season with disappointing finishes in the Cranberry Open (4th) and Nebelhorn Trophy (5th). Still, she is the slight favorite going in this weekend. South Korea’s You Young tries to improve on her two-3rd place Grand Prix finishes last season. She finished 2nd at the US International this summer. American Lindsay Thorngren has three competitions under her belt this summer, with two 2nd place finishes in Tiburg and Philadelphia. She finished a disappointing 6th at Finlandia. Japan’s Rika Kihira had been dealing with a serious hip injury that kept her off the ice for a year. She makes her triumphant return to the Grand Prix series this weekend.

Skaters to Watch: Keep your eye in Japan’s Rinka Watanabe. She has a triple axel in her arsenal and has two 1st place finishes in senior events this summer.  American Ava Marie Ziegler finished 2nd in last season’s junior nationals. She won in Budapest this fall. Canada’s Gabby Daleman also makes a return to Grand Prix action after a three-year hiatus. She finished 10th at 2019’s Skate Canada.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Rinka Watanabe (JPN)
2. You Young (KOR)
3. Madeline Schizas (CAN)

icetime2.1026-e1635246809406Pairs: Only eight teams will be competing this weekend. The favorites are from an unlikely country in pairs, Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan. Last season, the pairs team finished 2nd at the World Championships and found the Grand Prix podium twice (2nd at Skate America, 3rd at NHK). Their main competition will be from Canada’s Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier, who finished 3rd in last weekend’s Skate America. Canada also has a 2nd team, Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar make their senior Grand Prix debut this weekend. Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe have some impressive finished this summer with 2nd place at the John Nicks Pairs Challenge and the US International Classic.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (JPN)
2. Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier (CAN)
3. Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe (USA)

gilles-piper-poirier-210918-1180Ice Dance: Canada’s Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier has won Skate Canada twice in their competitive careers, and they look to win their 3rd straight title this weekend. Their biggest challenge will come from Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain, have been on a successful run winning four straight competitions this young season. Their best Grand Prix finish was at Skate Canada in 2019 and at NHK in 2021. Competition from within comes from Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, who are former world junior champions in 2019. They finished 6th at Skate Canada in 2019. Teammates Marie-Jade Laurault and Romain Le Gac finished 3rd in last week’s Skate America.

Teams to Watch: Japan’s Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto compete at their first Skate Canada event. Their best Grand Prix finish was a Covid-affected win at NHK Trophy in 2020. Americans Caroline Green and Michael Parsons sed the podium at last year’s Skate Canada. They did win the Four Continents Championship earlier this year.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier (CAN)
2. Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson (GBR)
3. Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha (CAN)

Last Week’s Results

Men: 1/3 (Ilia Malinin pulls off a historic win.)
Women: 0/3 (Sakamoto held off a Levito challenge to win the event.)
Pairs: 3/3 (CALLED IT, 1-2-3)
Ice Dance: 2/3 (Americans and Canadians go 1-2)

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Predictions, Skate Canada, Skating | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Email Marketing isn’t, SPAM, Dude!

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Smooth Jazz and More depends on our listeners to continue broadcasting. Much of our outreach is thru “word of mouth,” ads and promos on our web stream and website, and email marketing and distribution. I use the latter constantly generate interest in our radio station and, more importantly, try to raise funds to keep our internet radio station afloat. I also look to independent artists to provide them with an outlet to present their music.

I’ve been using Mailchimp for the station’s email marketing for about a year and a half now. It’s been a very valuable tool to get the message to getting our station noticed.  After I send a newsletter, I receive a report that tells me how many readers opened it, how many clicks on the links I provided, when an email cannot be delivered to an email server and whether the reader has unsubscribed.

It’s not a big deal for me when a reader decides to unsubscribe from the newsletter.  It may be because they no longer want to follow anymore.  But when a music artist decides to target our internet radio station’s email marketing for SPAM abuse, that really pisses me off, because it threatens our future to stay afloat.  Now I don’t know why they would do that, other than they simply don’t know.

Usually, when you unsubscribe from an email, Mailchimp gives you a few reasons why you’re doing so. Choosing SPAM as the reason for unsubscribing automatically sends a message to the user that the email provider may target the account for abuse. In our case, it also may prevent the sender from sending future emails to their servers.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you know who your allies are, and who your enemies are. I won’t expose the person, but for the record, their music won’t be broadcast on my radio airwaves again. Their music was crap to begin with, so it’s no loss.

Posted in email marketing, SPAM | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks 2022 – Grand Prix Series, Skate America

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The new cycle of figure skating actually began with the end of the Winter Olympics, where skaters and teams either retired, or decided to take a break from competition.  The war in Ukraine forced the International Skating Union to take a stand against Russia and Belarus, banning their skaters from competing.  As a result, there is a heavy drop off in competition for this season’s senior Grand Prix.  However, this is a chance for a new generation of skaters to gain valuable international experience in anticipation of the next Winter Olympics in 2026.   The first edition of the senior Grand Prix series takes place in Norwood, Massachusetts; where for the first time in three years, the event won’t be in a bubble.

10242020_2020skam_l_fs_016_ilia_malininMen: Late word last week that 2022 Olympic silver medalist Yugi Kagiyama of Japan pulled out of this season’s Grand Prix competition because of injury. That leaves the men’s field wide open. At the top of the list is American Ilia Malinin. Lots of buzz this summer over his successful quad axel at the US International Classic in Lake Placid, a competition he won easily. South Korea’s Cha Junhwan is the highest ranked men on the ISU World Standings. In the Challenger Series, he captured the Finlandia Trophy and finished 2nd at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Slovakia. Italy’s Daniel Grassl also has quads in his arsenal. He finished seventh at last year’s Skate America in Las Vegas. Canada’s Roman Sadovsky started his season with a successful 3rd place finished at Nebelhorn Trophy.

Staters to Watch: Keep your eye on Donovan Carrillo. He was the first Mexican skater to qualify for the Winter Olympic Games in 30 years. His spirited performance garnered new fans worldwide. He finished 8th at US International Classic. Japan’s Koshiro Shimada finished 2nd at Lombardia Trophy in Italy. His best Grand Prix finish was 9th at NHK Trophy in Sapporo.

Full Entries:CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Ilia Malinin (USA)
2. Cha Junhwan (KOR)
3. Daniel Grassl (ITA)

gettyimages-1345699789-e1640711827240Women: Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto has been on a whirlwind since winning bronze in Beijing back in February. She parleyed that success into a World Championship the next month. She could finally win a Skate America title after finishing 4th twice. Her biggest competitor will be from American Isabeau Levito, who started her senior international career with two competition wins (Philadelphia and Ondrej Nebela Memorial). South Korea’s Lee Haein skated in four events this year, including a 1st place win at the Triglav Trophy & Narcisa Cup. Japan’s Rino Matsuike makes her second Grand Prix appearance. She skated at the Rostelecom Cup, where she finished 8th.

Skaters to Watch: American Gracie Gold makes her first Grand Prix appearance in three years. The 2014 Olympian had an outstanding performance in Philadelphia this summer, finishing in 3rd place. Amber Glen also skates this weekend for the United States. She finished 3rd at the Cranberry International this summer. Germany’s Nicole Schott skates in what could be her final competitive season. This will be her first appearance at Skate America after six Grand Prix events. Her best finish was 7th place at GP Internationaux de France in 2017 and ’19.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Isabeau Levito (USA) *Upset Special!!*
2. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)
3. Lee Haein (KOR)

alexa_and_brandon_4Pairs: The lack of Russians and Chinese pairs makes this event a one team race. Last year, Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier won the country’s first World Championship since 1979. They go into Norwood as the favorites this weekend. However, they do have challengers. Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada captured the top spot at Nebelhorn Trophy this summer. It was Stellato-Dudek’s first title since 1999, when she won gold at the Junior Grand Prix Final as a singles competitor for the United States. A log jam is expected for the 3rd spot on the podium, with Canadians Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier, Americans Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez; and Letizia Roscher & Luis Schuster aiming for position.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)
2. Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps (CAN)
3. Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier (CAN)

downloadIce Dance: Americans look to make a rare sweep of the podium this weekend, with Madison Chock and Evan Bates as the favorites to win it all. A win would give them their first Skate America title since 2015. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker make their return State America since 2020. That year, they finished 2nd. Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiradonov have skated in three competitions this summer with their best finish in Lake Placid. The rare sweep could be broken up by Canadians, Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus, who finished 3rd at Nebelhorn Trophy this past September.

Team to Watch: Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi stunned many by finishing 2nd at the Four Continents Championships early this year. However, that performance was followed up with a 16th place finish at the World Championships. This weekend will be their first competition of the season. Canadians Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac will skate in their second Skate America competition. They last skated in 2019, where they finished 9th.

Full Entries: CLICK HERE!

Smooth’s Pick –
1. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
3. Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus (CAN)

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skate America, Skating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 World Championships

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The Russian aggression in Ukraine has resulted in the International Skating Union to ban all of their skaters from participating in this year’s event, which will take place in the French Riviera city of Montpelier. Also not participating is China, which decided on not fielding a team this year. The loss of those country’s skaters has opened the door to a new for a number of skaters looking to make their case for a world championship.

a7rpqqfg832ro6nzqzq5Men: 2022 Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen was scheduled to compete for his 3rd World championship this week, but was forced out of action due to injury. That leaves Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama as the heavy favorite to win. The 18-year-old from Japan took home the Olympic silver medal last month in Beijing, and looks to continue his hot skating streak. Competition will come from his teammate, Shoma Uno, who picked up his second consecutive Olympic medal (Bronze) at last month’s Winter Olympics. South Korea’s Cha Junhwan finished off the podium behind Yuzuru Hanyu in 5th place. This week will be a chance to redeem his shortcomings in Beijing with an outstanding skate. Italy’s Daniel Grassl performed a strong free skate in the Olympics to finish 7th overall.

Skaters to Watch: American Ilia Malinin stunned audiences with an incredible performance at his first senior event at nationals to finish 2nd. US Figure Skating wound up selecting Jason Brown for the Olympic team. Malinin will look to prove the USFSA’s decision was wrong. Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili was in contention for a medal in Beijing, but a poor free skate dropped him from 5th to 10th overall. The home crowd will look to Kevin Aymoz to root for. The French national champion finishe 12th at the Olympics. Other contenders are Canada’s Keegan Messing (11th place in Beijing) and Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs (13th in Beijing).

FULL LIST OF SKATERS HERE!

Smooth’s Picks: Japan will dominate the field, and an heir apparent to Yuzuru Hanyu will look towards 2026. Calling an “Upset Special” with Malinin to medal.
1. Yuma Kagiyama (JPN)
2. Shoma Uno (JPN)
3. Ilia Malinin (USA)

Figure Skating - Team Event - Women Single Skating - Free Skating

REUTERS/Phil Noble

Women: The loss of the highly touted Russian women skaters may actually a good thing for this competition, as it opens the field to new line of contenders. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto put together the best skate of her career in Beijing and was rewarded with Olympic bronze. She’s clearly the favorite to win this weekend. Teammate Wakaba Higuchi finished 5th at the Winter Olympics and will also contend for the top spot. South Korea’s Young You put together a much better skate in Beijing than she did at 4CC, to finish in 6th place. American Alysa Liu made her first Winter Olympics a memorable one, finishing in 7th place.

Skaters to Watch: Keep your eyes on Loena Hendrickx of Belgium. The 2022 European Women’s bronze medalist didn’t quite matchup in at the Winter Olympics finishing in 8th place, but with less pressure, she’s has the most to gain with the loss of Russian skaters. Americans Mariah Bell (10th at Beijing) and Karen Chen (16th), along with Canada’s Madeline Schizas (19th) could also pose a threat.

FULL LIST OF SKATERS HERE!

Smooth’s Picks: Look for Japanese and South Korean to dominate the fiel
1. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)
2. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
3. Young You (KOR)

9d651d60-9155-11ec-bfff-f1fec6b9b2fePairs: Like in Women’s skating, there will be no Russian sweep. There won’t be a Chinese champion, either. Which means, this may be an opportunity to see a team from the United States win their first pairs title since 1979. That year, Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner benefited from the withdrawal of a powerful Russian pairs team. Americans get two cracks at it, first with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. Their performance in the team event helped the US win silver in Beijing. They finished 6th in the pairs competition. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc is the other team that could win gold. They finished 8th at the Winter Olympics last month. Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara have become a force to be reckoned with, after their successful Grand Prix season. Their 7th place finish in Beijing puts them in contention. Karina Safina and Luka Berulava could make history as the first pairs team from Georgia to win gold. They were 9th in Beijing.

Teams to Watch: Canada’s Vanessa James and Eric Radford finished a disappointing 12th at the Winter Olympics last month. However, they should be at 100% percent, health-wise, going into this weekend’s event. Teammates Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud were left off the Canadian Olympic team in favor of James and Radford. They finished 2nd at nationals after James and Radford pulled out due to COVID.

FULL LIST OF TEAMS HERE!

Smooth’s Picks: This is a wide-open competition and the most likely for a surprise finish.
1. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)
2. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara (JPN)
3. Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc (USA)

6207cbdf2c0000224adf6cf5Ice Dance: There’s only one real solid lock in this week’s competition, and that’s the presence of Olympic gold medalists, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. In what could be their final performance, they look to take home their 5th World championship this weekend. Their competition will be from a couple of American teams. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have confirmed this will be their final competitive skating performance after winning Olympic bronze last month. Madison Chock and Evan Bates missed the podium in Beijing in 4th place, but will look to play spoiler this week. One team that could make a breakthrough is Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy. The two-time European bronze medalists finished 5th in Beijing and is poised for a top 3 finish, baring a slip-up by any of the top three teams.

Teams to Watch: Piper Gillies and Paul Poirier of Canada didn’t have the Winter Olympics expected from them, having finished 7th last month. They look to recover with a strong performance for Worlds. Teammates Laurence Fornier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen also look for better luck after finishing 9th in Beijing.

FULL LIST OF TEAMS HERE! 

Smooth’s Picks: The home crowd will send the Olympic champs to a roaring send off.
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA)
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 Winter Olympics (Figure Skating Results)

So…how did we do with our figure skating predictions for the Winter Olympics?  Not bad.  Four for five in gold medal winners, however that may change pending the outcome of the investigation into Kamila Valieva’s doping for the Team Event.

Medal Winners in BOLD.

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Team Event: 3/3 (Pending doping investigation by the ROC)

G: ROC
S: USA
B: Japan

4th: Canada

Men: 1/3

G: Nathan Chen (USA)
S: Yuma Kagiyama (JPN)
B: Shoma Uno (JPN)

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Women: 0/3

G: Anna Shcherbakova (ROC)
S: Alexandra Trusova (ROC)
B: Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)

4th: Kamila Valieva

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Pairs: 1/3

G: Sui Wenjing and Han Cong (CHN)
S: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (ROC)
B: Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (ROC)

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Ice Dance: 2/3

G: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
S: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (ROC)
B: Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue (USA)

Overall: 7/16

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 Winter Olympics (Pairs Competition)

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With the dust settled on the disastrous Women’s skate, the final competition of the 2022 Winter Olympics takes place.  Chinese and Russian teams face to face with a fight for the top spot. Sui Wenjing and Han Cong have dominated pairs the last three years, with only one loss, a 2nd place finish at the 2021 World Championships. They took silver at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and look to add Olympic gold to their collection.

07pair-skatingThey may have trouble getting just that, with defending World Champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (Shown Left) looking to take gold for themselves. This season, Mishina and Galliamov took wins at NHK Trophy and Rostelecom Cup, and also won their first European pairs title. Teammates Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov finished off the podium in 4th place at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the three-time World Champions would like to improve their status from four years ago. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii brings in the possibility of a ROC sweep at the podium. This season, they won the Grand Prix competition in Grenoble and finished 3rd at Europeans.

ex2lm7jigva37febtq6l2u3qayTeams to Watch: China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin will skate in their 2nd Winter Olympic Games. In 2018, they finished 17th, but in four years the team has very competitive, winning two Chinese national championships and finishing 2nd at Grand Prix Turin. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were inconsistent this season, finishing 5th at Rostelecom Cup and 6th at Skate Canada. But they recovered and won their third Canadian pairs championship. Americans have two teams competing. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (Shown Right) put together a strong performance to guarantee silver in the Team Event last week. They were selected by US Figure Skating after Frazier contracted COVID and both were forced to pull out of nationals. Eventual US Champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc will look to improve from their 9th place finish at last years’ World Championships.

FULL LINEUP HERE!

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Smooth’s Pick: China is due for a home win in figure skating, and will finally get it weekend.  2nd and 3rd will be the real battle.

Gold: Sui Wenjing and Han Cong (CHN)
Silver: Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (ROC)
Bronze: Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (ROC)

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – 2022 Winter Olympics (Women’s Competition)

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The figure skating world was rocked by the discovery of Russian skater Kamila Valieva’s positive drug test last Tuesday. On Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport gave her the ‘green light’ to compete in this Tuesday’s short program at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. The 15-year-old skating prodigy is considered to be the overall favorite for Olympic gold. She won both Grand Prix events this season, captured the Russian national title and won the European title.  We all know what she’s capable of doing, but her mental and physical state of mind will be a key factor on if she performs at the level she’s been at since becoming a senior skater.

eufiaidxmaeywd_The ROC is expected to dominate the field. Anna Shcherbacova is the next top skater on the Russian team. She finished 3rd at nationals and picked up Grand Prix victories in Turin and Grenoble. She also finished 2nd in the Grand Prix Final in 2019. Teammate Alexandra Trusova overcame an injury which kept her out of the NHK Trophy to place 2nd at nationals. Prior to pulling out, she captured the women’s Skate America title in October, 2021. All three skaters have quads in their programs and are expected to utilize them.

Skaters to Watch: 27 other skaters have a chance to reach the podium. One skater poised to make news this week is Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx. Since her 16th place finish in 2018, she has steadily improved her skating programs, and despite numerous injuries during that time, she’s managed to win her first medal in Grand Prix competition with a 3rd place finish in Turin. She barely missed the podium at this year’s European Championships, finishing 4th.

Figure Skating - Team Event - Women Single Skating - Free SkatingJapan secured three spots at this year’s games. The best of the three is Kaori Sakamoto (shown left), who won her second national championship and picked up her 2nd Grand Prix win at NHK Trophy. Teammate Wakaba Higuchi finished 2nd at nationals and was 2nd at the 2018 World Championships. South Korea has two contenders in Young You and Yelim Kim. You had a disappointing 6th place finish at the Four Continents Championship last month after beating out Kim for her 4th national title. Kim finished 3rd at 4CC last month.

Americans have three contenders in Mariah Bell, Karen Chen and Alysa Liu. Chen finished 11th in PyeongChang in 2018. At 25, Bell became America’s oldest women’s national champion, while Liu was picked by US Figure Skating for the Olympic team after being diagnosed with COVID in January.

FULL LINEUP HERE! 

Smooth’s Pick: Will there be a Russian sweep of the Olympic women’s podium? I’m predicting there will be. But for all intents and purposes, that sweep will be tainted.  The IOC announced, there will be no medal ceremony if she places on the podiumI’ve made my feelings known about this situation in a prior blog entry.  It’s important to note that Kamila Valieva has NOT been cleared of doping. She’s just been cleared to compete this week. She will still likely face a full doping hearing after these Games are concluded and could be banned, meaning she could be stripped of any medals she wins. Thus, my picks will include a 4th skater, if and when that happens.

Gold: Kamila Valieva (ROC)
Silver: Anna Shcherbacova (ROC)
Bronze: Alexandra Trusova (ROC)

4th Place: Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)

Next Event: Pairs

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – Winter Olympics 2022 (Ice Dance Competition)

ice dance teams

23 teams will participate in the Figure Skating Rhythm Dance session this Saturday. Four of the top teams will vie for the top spot. At the top of the list are Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Ciceron of France. In 2018, the team came up short against Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, having to settle for silver. This time, with COIVD still lurking around, the seven-time national champions are not taking any chances. They bypassed this season’s Europeans Championships and self-quarantined themselves until the Olympics. They did manage to solidify their standings in Grand Prix events this season, winning in Turin and Grenoble.

ROC’s Nikita Katsalapovov had back issues prior to the Team Event, as he was walking around the Olympic village with a back brace. Still, he and partner Victoria Sinitsina were able to complete both sessions enroute to a gold medal. (As of this publication, the IOC and the ISU held up the medal ceremony due to a positive test to one of the ROC participants.) The Americans have two teams that look to land on the podium.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates looked sharp in the Team Event earlier this week and may have the edge over Sinitsina and Katsalapovov. Chock and Bates skate in their third Olympics, where they finished 8th in 2014 and 9th in 2018. They won their 3rd national championship back in January, defeating their rivals Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue. Hubbell and Donahue were also three-time national champions, and also won at Skate America this season. They missed the podium in PyeongChang, finishing in 4th place.

oly22_fstem_3765_canicedance_hlf_220207-1440x810-1Teams to Watch: Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier (shown left) took the over reigns of Canadian ice dancing success and they didn’t disappoint, winning their second Skate Canada title and capturing their 2nd national title. They finished 8th at PyeongChang in 2018. Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri have had a strong Olympic season so far. They have two 2nd place finishes in Grand Prix competition and found the podium at Europeans, finishing in 3rd place. This is their 3rd Olympic appearance, where the finished 14th in Sochi and 10th in PyeongChang.

smart-diaz-17fd-rr-3215ROC’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were unable to get to Beijing in time for the Team Event, but are in for the Ice Dance. They finished 3rd twice in Grand Prix events (Torino and Grenoble) and were 2nd at Europeans. Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson makes their Olympic debut. They were 7th at last year’s Worlds and 5th at Europeans this season.  Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz (shown right) beat out teammates Sara Hurtado and Kirii Khaliavin for the lone Olympic spot. They found the podium at State Canada in 3rd place and finished 4th at Europeans.

FULL LINEUP HERE!

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Smooth’s Pick: Like four years ago, this event will be a fight to the finish. But this time around, it’s the French team’s moment to shine.

Gold: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Ciceron (FRA)
Silver: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapovov (ROC)
Bronze: Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)

Next Event: Women’s Individual Skating

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