Smooth’s Podium Picks: 2017 US Figure Skating Championships

01-14-17-usfs-vi-860x460-c4e7ad02ec

For the first time since 1985, Kansas City becomes the host of the US Figure Skating Championships. That year, Brian Boitano and Tiffany Chin claimed the ice.  400 of the top figure skaters, from juvenile to senior will make their way to capture glory. The brand new Sprint Center will take the main events, while the others will skate at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/other-sports/article126253919.html#storylink=cpy

nathan-chen

Nathan Chen looks to take advantage of injuries by the top skaters this weekend.

Men

Analysis – 2016 champion Adam Rippon won’t be in Kansas City to defend his title due to injury. That leaves a host of skaters who look to grab the mantle this weekend. At the top of the list is Jason Brown. However, he’s been nursing an injury of his own after the Grand Prix season, where he was 2nd at Skate America and 7th at NHK Trophy. If he’s unable to be at 100 percent, look for Max Aaron to take full advantage. He’s tasted the high-life in 2013 with a US championship and was 2nd in 2016. Nathan Chen could be the breakthrough skater of the weekend. He had a 2nd place finish at NHK Trophy and a first ever appearance at the Grand Prix Final where he finished 2nd. Though he took a step back in Grand Prix this season (two 11th place finishes), Grant Hochstein is still very capable of finding his way to the podium this weekend. He was 4th at nationals last year.

Skaters to Watch – Ross Miner had a productive Grand Prix season finishing 12th at Skate Canada and 9th at Cuo of China. Former junior champion Vincent Zhou looks to improve is 8th place standing from last year. He’ll look to improve for senior international competition next year. The window may be closing for Timothy Dolensky and Sean Rabbitt, as they need to have impressive showing this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Nathan Chen
2. Max Aaron
3. Jason Brown

gracie gold.jpg

Gracie Gold look to put away a disappointing fall season by contending for a national title.

Ladies

Analysis – All eyes will be on Ashley Wagner this weekend, as she goes for her 5th US Championship. She had an outstanding Grand Prix season, winning Skate America, but falling short of the final, placing 6th at Cup of China. He biggest competitor will be Gracie Gold. Despite her poor showing this season (5th at Skate America, 8th at Trophee de France), she’s still a major threat to take the crown, having won twice. Mirai Nagasu continues to surprise the critics on whether this is her last year of skating. She hasn’t won the crown since 2008. But with Polina Edmunds out of this year’s nationals due of injury, she has a great chance to make the podium this year, or even pulling off the upset. Courtney Hicks is the wild card this weekend. She finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup this season, but hasn’t had much luck at nationals the last few years, with her best finish in 2013 (4th).

Skaters to Watch – Karen Chen lost her spark since her 3rd place finish in 2015. She was 7th at Cup of China and 6th at NHK Trophy. Mariah Bell took a major step forward in her senior development this season, finishing 2nd at Skate America. A top 5 would be enormous. Angela Wang has enough international experience to make the top 6, but will need a huge showing this weekend to break from the pack. Other skaters looking to break into the top 6 are Bradie Tennell, Caroline Zhang, Hannah Miller and Amber Glenn.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Ashley Wagner
2. Mirai Nagasu
3. Courtney Hicks

tarah-kayne-and-daniel-oshea

Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea find themselves the favorites after Alexa and Chris Knierim withhdrew because of injury.

Pairs

Analysis – A huge loss in the pairs competition, as Alexa and Chris Knierim withdrew from this weekend’s competition because of injury. That makes defending champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea the team to beat. However, their Grand Prix showing this season (6th at Skate America, 4th at NHK) could make them vulnerable to an upset like they did last season. That could come from Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who finished 2nd at Skate America and 2nd at nationals last season. Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran are another team that could climb to the top. They finished 3rd last season and were 5th at Trophee de France in Grand Prix season. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson will skate in seniors for the first time and could surprise the judges. They were 2nd in junior nationals last season and they have a 3rd place finish at JGP Czech State this season.

Skaters to Watch – Eight other teams vie for a spot for world teams. Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan finished 7th last season and have an 8th place showing at Cup of China. Erika Smith and AJ Reiss make a return to nationals after finishing 6th last season. Ashley Cain switches to pairs with partner Tim LeDuc, and Deanna Stellato-Dudek makes a return to the ice after 16 years with new partner, Nathan Bartholomay. Both teams qualified via Eastern sectionals.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier
2. Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea
3. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson

madison-hubbell-and-zachary-donohue

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue look to continue their climb to the top of the podium this weekend.

Ice Dance –

Analysis – American ice dance continues to gain in stature, as six teams are capable of winning the top podium spot. Three of the teams skating this weekend are in the top five in the ISU rankings. Defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani continue to show their dominance with two 1st place finishes at Skate America and Cup of China, as well as a 3rd place showing in the Grand Prix final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates lost a bit of their step in recent competitions (6th at Grand Prix final), but are still on the Shibutani’s heels for the top spot this weekend. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have really made great strides in their programs and the results were a 2nd straight appearance in the Grand Prix final, where they finished 5th. 2014 world junior ice dance champions Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker could make it interesting this weekend, as they’ve also continued to improve in international competitions, finishing 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK.

Skaters to Watch – Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus have improved their standing at nationals the last three years. They look to break the podium from their 4th place finish last season. Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit have finished 3rd twice at junior nationals, and performed in Grand Prix competitions this season, finishing 7th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup. Charlotte Maxwell and Ryan Devereaux best finish was 8th at last year’s nationals and have limited international experience.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates

And here’s our selections for the Junior categories.

krasnozhon20jmfs3975

Men – Alex Krasnozhon

alexia-paganini-copy

Ladies – Alexia Paganini

img_2895_todzjvja_cqbbg8ww

Pairs – Vanessa Chen and Eric Hartley

mcnamara-and-carpenter

Ice Dance – Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter

Posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, Skating, Uncategorized, USFSA | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks: 2017 Canadian National Skating Championships

image

Canadian nationals are this weekend in the nation’s capital, in celebration of the country’s 150th birthday.  Novice, Junior and Senior disciplines will be decided this week, with the top skaters battling this weekend for spots on the World team representing the “True North”.  Injuries have taken their toll on some skaters this week, making the competitions in some categories wide open.

patrick-chan

Patrick Chan goes for his 6th Canadian National championship this weekend.

Men

Analysis – Canadian men’s skaters have some setbacks due to injury. But this year will be better, as the top three skaters return. At the top, Olympic silver medallist, Patrick Chan who had a strong Grand Prix season, winning Skate Canada and Cup of China. The numbers game dropped him to 5th in the Grand Prix Final. He’s the heavy favorite to win in Ottawa this weekend. The rest of the field will play for 2nd and 3rd. Nan Nguyen is his closest rival, but his international display has been reduced use to injuries. He finished 6th at Skate America and 8th at NHK Trophy. Kevin Reynolds is also returning to the ice due to injuries. He’s only competed in on Grand Prix event, finishing 3rd at Skate Canada. Liam Firus finished 2nd in Halifax last year and also has two 3rd place finishes at Canadian nationals and is a threat to medal.

Skaters to Watch – Roman Sadovsky has an outside chance at the podium, his best finish was in 2015, where he finished 4th. Elladj Balde had a poor Grand Prix season, finishing 6th in Moscow and 10th at NHK Trophy. Keegan Messing’s best finish at nationals was 5th in 2015. Former junior champ Nicolas Nadeau makes his second appearance in seniors competition. He finished 5th last year.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Patrick Chan
2. Kevin Reynolds
3. Liam Firus

Alaine+Chartrand+2014+Canadian+Tire+National+X66LMOAx40Il

Despite a poor Grand Prix season, defending champion Alaine Chartrand looks to keep her crown at home.

Ladies

Analysis – Lots of excitement, as the top three skaters in Canada (Each of them, national champions) look to take the crown. 2014 champion Kaetlyn Osmond looks to get back her title after years of debilitating injuries. She had a great Grand Prix season, with two 2nd place finishes at Skate Canada and Cup of China and a 4th place finish at the Grand Prix final. 2015 champion Gabby Daleman had a solid Grand Prix season with two 4th place finishes at Skate America and Trophee de France and will look to regain her crown. But the current Canadian champion has other ideas. 2016 champ Alaine Chartrand had a disappointing Grand Prix season (5th at Skate Canada and 10th NHK Trophy), she’s been extremely focused and looks to defend her crown on home ice. Injuries have taken out other top contenders, but Sarah Tamura is one that could make a splash this weekend. The former junior champion will skate for the first time on the senior level.

Skaters to Watch – Other skaters looking to crack the top 5 have limited experience on the international level. Alicia Pineault finished 2nd last year as a junior and had a 10th place finish at JGP Czech Skate. Larkyn Austman finished 6th at last year’s nationals and is a former junior champion (2013). Kim Decelles makes her senior debut this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Kaetlyn Osmond
2. Gabby Daleman
3. Alaine Chartrand

Meagan Duhamel  Eric Radford

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford look to regroup for Worlds after a disappointing Grand Prix season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Pairs

Analysis – Eight teams will determine who will take the top three spots for Worlds this weekend. The overwhelming favorites are two-time world champions, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. However, this season saw some surprising turns in their season. They stumbled in their three Grand Prix competitions. Despite coming back to win in two, they finished 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. Two teams could do the unthinkable this weekend. Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau scored their 2nd straight Grand Prix Final appearance (finishing 5th) after 1st at Skate America and 5th at Rostelecom Cup. Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch had a strong Grand Prix season with 3rd place finishes at Skate Canada and Cup of China, just missing the GP Final on points. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro had to sit out of the Grand Prix circuit due to injury, but they are expected to contend for a podium spot this weekend.

Skaters to Watch – Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan started the season off with promise, taking the non-GP US International Classic title. But then stumbled to a 7th place finish at Skate Canada. Camille Ruest and Andrew Wolfe competed in their first events as a team this season, finished 6th at Rostelecom Cup. The rest of the field, Angelina Ekaterinina & Sebastian Arcieri and Sydney Kolodziej & Maxime Deschamps make their debuts at nationals.

BREAKING: Skate Canada just announced that Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau have withdrawn from nationals.

Séguin sustained a concussion in late December for which she has been receiving care, and is improving. “She has been able to resume practices, but has not yet been cleared to return to full practices or competition. Her progress has been on track, and is expected to continue,” explained Dr. Tatiana Jevremovic, Skate Canada Chief Medical Advisor.

The team will still be in consideration for the 2017 ISU Championship events.

Adjusted our picks for this weekend to reflect the last minute change.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
2. Lubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch
3. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro

tessa_virtue_and_scott_moir_at_2010_world_championships_5

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continues on the comeback trail as they look to re-gain their titles this weekend.

Ice Dance

Analysis – In what stands to be the highlight of the competition, the return of Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir to Canadian nationals. After taking a year off, the team left off right where they started, winning at Skate Canada, NHK Trophy and the Grand Prix Final. This puts the pressure on the current Canadian champions, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, whose status has dropped from the ISU World rankings (currently 4th). They finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup and 2nd at Cup of China, and will most certainly be fighting champions this weekend. The projectory for Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier has been moving steadily upward, with two 3rd place finishes, at Skate Canada and Trophee de France.

Skaters to Watch – The ending partnership between Alexandra Paul and Mitch Islam along with a string of injuries has opened up a spot for a contender this weekend. Six other teams look to take that next step in their careers. A few make their senior debuts this weekend. Carolanne Soucisse and Shane Firus have only two international competitions under their belts. Haley Sales and Nikolas Wamsteeker best finish was 4th at last year’s junior nationals.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
2. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
3. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier

Posted in Canada, Figure Skating, Ice Skating, Skate Canada, Skating, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Nobex Partners with Smooth Jazz and More for Radio App

screen696x696

Ever since the demise of Live365, I’ve been hoping to develop an app similar to what our former broadcast partner put together for its broadcasters. Well, I have some exciting news!

After putting the launch off for six months, I’m proud to announce that the Smooth Jazz and More Radio App is live!

This is a partnership with Nobex, the industry’s leading radio app developer. What I’m really excited about is the return of the thumbs up/thumbs down option for listeners. This will allow me to track the music they like and hate.

Right now, the app is only available for iPhone users. However, we are in the process of making the app available for Android and Blackberry users. We hope to have if published in the next few weeks. I encourage my former broadcasters to check out the app and give me some feedback.

Download the app here!

 

Posted in app, Apple IPhone, Apple iTunes Store, Internet Radio, Internet Radio Station, Radio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Live365 Returns to Broadcasting, Our Status of Returning is Undecided

live365_bclogo2_light-bg

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, our pioneering internet broadcast provider has returned.  Live365 made its return to internet broadcasting this week, nearly a year after the company was forced to shut down due to rising royalty costs for recorded music.  The company was purchased in bankruptcy court by a young entrepreneur with previous experience running web streaming.

The website provided visitors a message proclaiming, “We’re Back”.  There are no stations currently being broadcast as of this post, however potential broadcasters are able to start their own internet radio stations.

15822936_662163850637095_1985141303392342972_n

Live365’s website proclaims they are back in business. 

The new cost structure isn’t cheap. The three-tier package has starting broadcasters paying $59 dollars a month for 25GB storage.  Listeners and bandwidths are unlimited. However, the maximum total listening hours (TLH) are 1500 in the US. Other packages are $99 and $199 per month. The good news is that music licensing is covered and there is the potential for monetizing the station’s audiences.

Smooth Jazz and More began broadcasting with Live365 in 2000.  We enjoyed many years of service with the company.  However the prices being proposed doesn’t make it an option to return at the current time.  That may change pending the outcome of any legal issues with Radionomy.

 

 

Posted in Copyright Royalties, CRB, Internet Radio, Internet Radio Station, Live365, Radio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Grand Prix Final 2016

screenshot_20161011-213518-1038x584

The final Grand Prix event of the season takes place in the beautiful city of Marseilles, France. The top 6 skaters in each division will skate for bragging rights going into national competitions. Up to now, the top skaters haven’t met up in competition until now, making this weekend all the more exciting.

yuzuru-hanyu

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu has his work cut out if he is to defend his Grand Prix Championship. (Photo – Japan Sports)

Men – Reigning World Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain and three-time World Champion Canadian Patrick Chan lead the charge, finishing 1st in each of their respective competitions. lead the Grand Prix standings with two victories on the circuit. Fernandez achieved a seasons best of 292.98 points at Rostelecom Cup while Chan has 279.72 points from Cup of China. Last year’s champ, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan has struggled this GP season, but was able to finish with a strong showing at NHK Trophy. It will be a tough go for him, if he is to defend his crown. Japan’s Shoma Uno is back to the Final after winning Skate America and a 2nd place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Americans Nathan Chen and Adam Rippon each qualified for their first Final (senior level) and are looking to improve moving into nationals next month.

Smooth’s Pick

1. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
2. Patrick Chan (CAN)
3. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)

15055776_1254183827973862_730976133632878358_n

Can Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya break through and beat teammate, Evgenia Medvedeva? (Photo – Marisha-amber)

Ladies – Russian ladies have dominated the Grand Prix circuit and are in a good position to sweep the podium this weekend. They have four skaters representing the country this weekend. Reigning World and ISU Grand Prix Final Champion Evgenia Medvedeva tops the Ladies standings and comes in with a seasons best of 221.54 points from Trophee de France to Marseille. She’s still undefeated since last year’s Russian Nationals. Anna Pogorilaya returns to the Final after missing out last season. She dominated the competitions, winning Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy. Elena Radionova will compete in her fourth consecutive Final, after winning Cup of China and a 2nd place finish at Rostelecom Cup. World Junior silver medalist Maria Sotskova had a successful senior GP debut, qualifying for the Final with 2nd and 3rd place showings this season. The two skaters looking to break the Russian log jam are very worthy of winning. Kaetlyn Osmond became the first Canadian to make the GP Final since Joannie Rochette. Two 2nd place finishes gives her a fighting chance. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara qualified among a tough field and finished 2nd in last year’s Grand Prix Final.

Smooth’s Pick

1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
3. Elena Radionova (RUS)

Figure Skating: Skate Canada International

Despite skating in only two competitions, China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang made it to the Grand Prix Final.

Pairs – Two-time reigning World Champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada had a rough go of it this Grand Prix season. But they hung tough and were able to lead in Pairs. Their main competition are from two Chinese teams.
Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang had a successful GP season, despite teaming up in two competitions together. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin return to the Final after switching partners in between them. They have two 2nd place finishes this season. Canadians Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau return to the GP Final after winning Skate America. Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov reached their first Grand Prix Final with 2nd and 3rd place finishes. One team not performing this weekend are Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, who withdrew due to injury. They’ll be replaced by Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert, who had a 2nd place finish in Moscow and a 4th place finish at Trophee de France in Paris.

Smooth’s Pick

1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang (CHN)
3. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (CHN)

chock-and-bates

Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates look to get back to the podium, despite long odds.

Ice Dance –

The most anticipated Ice Dance event since the 2014 Olympics features the return of Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. After a two year break, they picked up right where they started, winning Skate Canada and NHK Trophy. Two-time World Champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France have their work cut out for them. They missed last year’s final due to injury, but are back, winning Trophee de France and finishing 2nd to Virtue and Moir in Sapporo. Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani continue their upward trajectory in Ice Dance, winning Skate America and Cup of China. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev have proven to be a tough out for a podium slot and will contend after a win this GP season (Rostelecom Cup). Americans have an outside chance of a podium sweep, but highly unlikely. Madison Chock and Evan Bates have fallen off slightly, but still have come in 2nd in four consecutive Grand Prix competions. Madison Hubell and Zachary Donohue have come on strong this season, also finishing 2nd in two GP events. They finished 6th in last year Final.

Smooth’s Pick

1. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
2. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
3. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)

And here are our picks for the Junior Grand Prix Gold Medalists this weekend.

alexander-samarin

Men – Alexander Samarin (RUS)

polina-tsurskaya

Ladies – Polina Tsurskaya (RUS)

anastasia-mishina-and-vladislav-mirozoev

Pairs – Anastasia Mishina and Vladislav Mirozoev (RUS)

lorraine-mcnamara-and-quinn-carpenter1

Ice Dance – Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter (USA)

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – NHK Trophy 2016

fs-gp6-website-eventlogo

This weekend marks the 6th and final competition of the Grand Prix season. The stage is set for Tokyo, where over 40 skaters will participate in the remaining slots for the Grand Prix Final.

alexei-bychenko

Will Israel’s Alexei Bychenko make history with his country’s first ever Grand Prix final berth?

Men

Analysis – Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu leads the field in his home competition. He came up short against Canada’s Patrick Chan at Skate Canada last month. He’ll look to get a rematch with a win this weekend in Tokyo. His main competition will come from American Jason Brown, who finished 2nd at Skate America and Israel’s Alexei Bychenko, who is gunning to give the country its first ever Grand Prix Final entry. He finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup earlier this week. Former Junior GP Final winner Nathan Chen is also in the mix with a 4th finish at Trophee de France in Paris two weeks ago.

Skaters to Watch – Japan has two other entries this week. Keiji Tanaka has a 7th place finish at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. Ryuju Hino is making his senior GP debut this weekend. He finished 8th at Japan Nationals this year. Other contenders are Canadians Nam Nguyen (6th at Skate America) and Elladj Balde (6th at Rostelecom Cup).

Smooth’s Pick
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2. Alexi Bychenko (ISR)
3. Jason Brown (USA)

Satoko Miyahara of Japan performs during the ladies free skating program at the Skate America figure skating competition in Milwaukee

Japan’s Satoko Miyahara looks to breakup a possible Russian 1-2 finish.

Ladies

Analysis – Russian ladies could go 1-2 in event, guaranteeing at least 3 spots in the Grand Prix final. Anna Pogorilaya is the odd on favorite to make the top of the podium. She has a 1st place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Maria Sotsokova made the most of her senior debut, placing 2nd at Trophee de France. Japan has a chance to stop that from happening with two elite skaters. Satoko Miyahara finished 3rd in a tough field at Skate Canada. Wakaba Higuchi also had a strong senior debut at Trophee de France, finishing 3rd.

Skaters to Watch – The rest of the field is capable of making the podium this weekend. Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva has a 5th place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Canadian Alaine Chartrand has plenty of international experience (5th at Skate Canada) and can make a run for the top three spots. Americans have two shots of making the podium this weekend. Mirai Nagasu has placed at NHK Trophy previously, finishing 3rd. She has a 9th place finish at Skate Canada last month. Karen Chen finished 7th at Cup of China last weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
2. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)

meagan-duhamel-and-eric-radford

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford look to clinch a berth into nthe Grand Prix Final.

Pairs

Analysis – Only 7 teams will participate this weekend. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Manaro were a last minute withdrawal due to injury. Teammates Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford will participate and look to punch their ticket to Marseilles next month. They won Skate Canada last month. The other two spots will be up for grabs. China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin finished 2nd at Cup of China last weekend in only their 2nd senior GP event. Teammates Xuehan and Lei Wang finished in 4th in the same event. Austria’s Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer have the close edge. They finished 6th at Trophee du France.

Skaters to Watch – The other three teams are looking for valuable international experience for future competitions. Germany’s Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert finished 7th at Cup of China last weekend. Americans Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea have a 6th place finish at Skate America. Japan’s Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau Audet will be making their senior GP debuts this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
2. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (CHN)
3. Xuehan and Lei Wang (CHN)

papadakis-ciceron

France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron look to defend against a returning champion.

Ice Dance

Analysis – The highlight of this weekend’s competition will be the battle of the previous world champions with the current world champions. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron proved to the world why they’re the top team in the world with Gold at Trophee du France. Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir never missed a step after a one year layoff to win Skate Canada. Italy’s former world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte have proven to be worthy of top podium contention, finishing 4th at Skate Canada. Russia’s Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are on their heels with a 4th place finish at last week’s Cup of China.

Skaters to Watch – Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed is one of two teams skating this weekend. The current Japan national champions have an 8th place finish at Skate America. The other, Emi Hira and Marien De La Asuncion are making their season debut this weekend. Their best finish was 8th twice at NHK Trophy in 2014 and 2015. Americans have Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus (7th at Cup of China) & Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker (6th at Skate Canada) looking to contend this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (FRA)
3. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (ITA)

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Cup of China 2016

coc

The Grand Prix circut heads east with a weekend of skating in Bejing, China. Five of six competitions will be in the books by the end of this weekend and we’ll have a clearer picture of who will be in the Grand Prix Final next month.

boyang-jin

Can China’s Boyang Jin recover from a tough skate at the beginning of the season?

Men

Analysis: Canadian Patrick Chan continues to shine this season, having won at Skate Canada and now on the verge of another Grand Prix Final berth. A win this weekend will clinch it. He faces a couple of strong hometown favorites. China’s Boyang Jin is having a disappointing GP season thus far, having placed 5th at Skate America. A win might move him up the standings. Teammate Han Yan won this competition in 2013, but has struggled to regain his stature (10th at Skate Canada). Russia’s Maxim Kotvun won Cup of China in 2014 and is a threat to medal this weekend.

Skaters to Watch: There are a few skaters that missed the podium in their previous competitions and could squeeze in this weekend. American Max Aaron placed 5th at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic had a 4th place finish at Skate Canada. Russia’s Sergei Voronov also finished 4th at Skate America in October. China’s Runqi Liu makes his debut in senior competition.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Patrick Chan (CAN)
2. Boyang Jin (CHN)
3. Maxim Kotvun (RUS)

zijunliisufourcontinentsfigureskatingni5nszzpuhgl

China’s Zijun Li looks to make the podium this weekend.

Ladies

Analysis: Eight skaters have a chance to top the podium this week in a highly competitive division. At the top of the list is American Ashley Wagner, who surprised everyone and won Skate America in October. She’ll have two Russian skaters to fend off for the top spot. Elena Radionova finished 2nd Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. Teammate Liza Tuktamysheva just missed the podium at Skate Canada, but is a real threat to medal this weekend. China’s Zijun Li is the top local skater that could medal this weekend. She finished in 4th place at

Skaters to Watch: American Courtney Hicks has picked up some valuable international experience, and it has paid off with a 3rd place finish at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. She has an outside chance at the GP Final with a win this weekend. Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond faces her biggest challenge of the season, as she also guns for a place in the GP Final with her 2nd place finish at Skate Canada. Japan’s Mai Mihara surprised the judges in her first senior GP event at Skate America, finishing 3rd. Teammate Rika Hongo is also a contender, but had a tough GP debut with a 6th place finish at Skate Canada.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Ashley Wagner (USA)
2. Elena Radionova (RUS)
3. Mai Mihara (JPN)

yuko-kavaguti-and-alexander-smirnov

Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov hope to break up a Chinese sweep at the podium.

Pairs

Analysis: Only eight pairs teams compete this weekend, three from China. At the top of the list is Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang, who made their debut as a team and took 2nd at Skate Canada. A win could put them in the Grand Prix Final. Xuehan and Lei Wang have two 4th place finishes at Cup of China and could medal this weekend. The other team, Cheng Peng and Yang Jin are making their senior debuts this weekend. Of the teams that could break a possible sweep are Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who have won this competition in 2015. Their season got off to a rough start with a 5th place finish at Skate Canada.

Skaters to Watch: The other four teams are looking to improve their world rankings and possibly squeeze into a podium slot. Canada’s Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch started their season with a strong performance at Skate Canada, finishing 3rd. Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise finished 6th at Skate Canada. Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert finished 6th in China last year and are making their GP season debut this weekend. Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan have only one GP competition under their belt, an 8th place finish at last year’s Skate America.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang (CHN)
2. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
3. Xuehan and Lei Wang (CHN)

kaitlyn-weaver-and-andrew-poje

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje looks to get back their winnings ways this weekend in Bejing.

Ice Dance

Analysis: This could be a real treat, with two of the three top teams competing this weekend. Maia and Alex Shibutani are still flying high after continuing their winning ways, placing 1st at Skate America. A win this weekend will punch their ticket to the GP Final. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje stand in their way of perfection. They lost for the first time in Grand Prix competition since 2013 with a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are currently ranked 10th by the ISU, but a 5th place finish at Skate Canada threatens to put them out of the top 10. Teammates Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov make their season debuts this weekend and are a strong contender to medal. They have 2nd and 3rd place finishes at last year’s Grand Prix competitions. (Skate America and Rostelecom Cup).

Skaters to Watch: Two teams could make a move up the ISU standings this weekend. Americans Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus are prepping for a run at US Nationals and a good performance this weekend could benefit them with the judges in their season debut. Canada’s Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam could fall victims to the numbers game at Nationals, but a strong showing will also help them at Canadian Nationals. They have an 8th place finish at Skate Canada last month. China has three teams participating, two of which, lacking international experience. Their best chance to medal is with Shiyue Wand and Xinyu Liu, but they have a 9th place finish at Skate Canada this season and finished 6th twice in this event.

Smooth’s Pick
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)

Posted in bejing, China, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment