Olympic Podium Picks – Team Event


Every athlete’s lifelong dream begins this week with the opening of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. The opening ceremony takes place on Friday 6am Eastern Time (20:00pm KST). CBC in Canada will broadcast the event live, NBC will defer to its prime time lineup later that evening. It’s a forgone conclusion that the cauldron lighter will be Olympic gold and silver medalist, Kim Yu-na. Yu-na is a legendary figure, having won the hearts of Koreans and the figure skating world.

Figure skating will be our sole focus during the next two weeks, with the Team event beginning Thursday. To accommodate viewers in the US, the events will take place on at 10:00am KST, making all the event during prime time.

Full Daily Schedule Here –> https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/game-time/results/OWG2018/en/figure-skating/daily-schedule.htm

10 countries qualified for the team event at the Olympics. At the top was Canada, followed by the Olympic Athletes from Russia, and the United States in 3rd.

rank Team 2016–2017 2017–18 Total
1  Canada 3776 2308 6084
2  Olympic Athletes from Russia 3533 2391 5924
3  United States 3021 2034 5055
4  Japan 2674 1671 4345
5  China 2724 1507 4231
6  Italy 2172 1629 3801
7  France 2076 1576 3652
8  Germany 1602 1204 2806
9  Spain * 1222 636 1858
10  Israel 1015 506 1521
11  South Korea 1064 333 1397

* Failed to qualify for the Olympics



Men: Japan leads the way with Shoma Uno and Keiji Tanaka.  Yuzuru Hanyu will not be participating and will devote his time looking to defend his gold medal won at Sochi.   Canada will have Patrick Chan and Keegan Messing.  The USA will have their top skater, Nathan Chen along with Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou.  Look out for Israel, who has Alexei Bychenko and Daniel Samohin. OAR will have Dimitri Aliev and Mikhail Kolyada. China sends Boyang Jin and Han Yan.

Smooth’s Pick: It will be a battle between Uno and Chen in a preview of the Men’s final.

  1. Nathan Chen (USA)
  2. Shoma Uno (JPN)
  3. Patrick Chan (CAN)

Ladies: OAR will have three skaters to choose for their team, Evgenia Medvedeva, Maria Sotskova and Alina Zagitova.  The USA will chose between Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu and Karen Chen.  Canadians will have Kaetlyn Osmond, Gabby Daleman and Larkyn Austman. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto are poised to fight for the podium.  Carolina Kostner and Giada Russo will look to get valuable points for Italy.  Host nation Korea will have Dabin Choi and Hanul Kim to play spoiler.

Smooth’s Pick: All three OAR skaters could take the top spot, depending on who skates.

  1. Evgenia Medvedeva (OAR)
  2. Gabby Daleman (CAN)
  3. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)

Pairs:  Canada has three teams to chose from; Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro and Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau.  OAR also have the benefit of three teams with Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert and Kristina Astkhova & Alexei Rogonov.  China will choose from Weijin Sui & Cong Han, Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang and Cheng Peng & Yang Jin.  The wild card in this is Germany’s Ajona Savchenko & Bruno Massot, who could give the country it’s only chance for points.

Smooth’s Pick: Look for Canada and China to grab the other two slots.

  1. Ajona Savchenko & Bruno Massot (GER)
  2. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
  3. Weijin Sui & Cong Han (CHN)

Ice Dance: The USA has the strong showing in this event with three teams; Maia & Alex Shibutani, Madison Chock & Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donahue.  Canada also leads the way with three teams; Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir, Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje and Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier.  Look for France to gain their best chance for points with Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.  Italy gets its shot with Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte.  OAR will have Ekaterina Bobrova & Dimitri Soloviev.

Smooth’s Pick: Canada and France will fight it out for the top spot.

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

Team Podium Pick: In the end, Canada is in the best position to pick up its first Olympic gold medal in the team event.

Gold – Canada
Silver – USA
Bronze – Japan

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

Celebrating the 16th Anniversary of my 39th Birthday!


The great comedian Jack Benny wasn’t too fussy about celebrating birthdays after he turned 39.  He celebrated on his radio program and thought it was so much fun, he decided to do the same thing the next year, because “There’s nothing funny about 40.” Jack would continue to celebrate his 39th birthday, 41 times. In 1974 when Jack Benny passed away, the headlines read, “Jack Benny Dies – at Age 39?”

Unlike his character on the radio, who was cheap, vain, petty, and self congratulatory, I wouldn’t consider myself as having those characteristics. But I never was thrilled with celebrating birthdays. It just seemed to be a reminder that nothing continues to be the same.

I’m not looking forward to getting older. As we all get older, our bodies become harder to manage. We look back at the years and ask each other, “how did we get this old?” Some people grow graceful. I, for one, am taking the time to get everything I’ve always wanted to do out of the way before it all goes to shit.

Today, I’ll just enjoy my favorite meal, Chicken Parmesan with some pasta and a slice of carrot cake. Maybe later this year I’ll treat myself to something special, like a trip somewhere exotic.

Here are some folks who were also born on this day!

ariel winter.jpg

Actress Ariel Winter in 1998.

Golden State Warriors Point Guard Andre Iguodala in 1984.

Elijah Wood
Actor Elijah Wood, of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in 1981.

Singer Nick Carter, formerly of the Backstreet Boys in 1980.

WWE Superstar, Sheamus in 1978.

joey fatone
Singer Joey Fatone of the group, NSYNC in 1977.


Rapper Rick Ross in 1977.

Sarah McLachlan
Singer Sarah McLachlan in 1968

Rapper Rahim in 1968.

Figure Skater Denise Beillemann in 1963.


Liberal Radio Talk Show Host Randi Rhodes in 1959.


Movie Director Frank Darabont (The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.) in 1959.


Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 1955.

Model Barbi Benton in 1950

greg poppovich
Gregg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach in 1949

Actress Susan Howard from the TV show, Dallas in 1944

carlos slim

Businessman Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world in 1940.

Alan Alda
Actor Alan Alda who played “Hawkeye” in the TV series, M*A*S*H in 1936.

Space Shuttle Challenger
On This Day In History: The space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center in 1986. The images to this day still haunt me.

challenger crew.jpg
Seven crew members perished, including Christa McAuliffe, who was trying to become the first school teacher in space.

On this day in 1956, Elvis Presley made his first TV appearance.

After this performance, censors would televise Elvis’ next performance from the neck up.

Also born on this day were,

Painter, Jackson Pollock in 1912

Arthur Rubinstein
Pianist & Composer, Arthur Rubinstein in 1887

henry VII

and Henry VII who would rule England during the “House of Tudors”, in 1457.  His son, Henry VIII would succeed him.

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – Four Continents Championship 2018


In the final event before the Olympics next month, skaters converge on Taipei to hon their programs and in some cases, finish their season strong. This is the fourth time Taiwan has hosted the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.


Japan’s Shoma Uno looks to get ready for Pyeongchang.

Men: Japan’s Shoma Uno leads the field this weekend, as he tunes up for the Olympics next month. He won his second national championship and finished 2nd in the Grand Prix Final this season. His main challenger is Boyang Jin of China, who is ranked 6th in the world by the ISU. He’s also heading to Pyeongchang next month having won his 4th national title and finished 2nd at Cup of China. Jason Brown of the United States missed the podium at nationals with a 6th place finish, thus missing out on the Olympics. In Grand Prix action, he finished 2nd at Skate Canada. Uzbekistan’s Misha Ge is the country’s lone representative this weekend and he’s one of the contenders for the podium. He grabbed his first top three finish in Grand Prix competition with a 3rd place finish at Internationaux de France.

Skaters to Watch – 26 other skaters participating this weekend have a chance to improve their standing internationally. Others look to get ready for next month’s Olympics, including 2014 Olympic Bronze medalist, Denis Ten, who has struggled since then with 8th (Internationaux de France) and 9th (Rostelecom Cup) place finishes in Grand Prix competition this season. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka also will get ready for the Olympics with this competition. He was 2nd at nationals and his best finish was 7th at Cup of China. Max Aaron had a poor showing at nationals, finishing 9th, but will look to get back on his game this weekend. Canada’s Kevin Reynolds looks to end his skating career with a strong showing this weekend. Other skaters looking to make the podium includes China’s Han Yan, Canada’s Nam Nguyen and Japan’s Takahito Mura.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Shoma Uno (JPN)
2. Boyang Jin (CHN)
3. Misha Ge (UZB)


Japan’s Satoko Miyahara looks to lead a sweep in the ladies competition.

Ladies: Japan’s Satoko Miyahara is about to realize her Olympic dream next month. But first, she’ll skate at 4CC, where she’s the favorite this weekend. She won her 4th national title. However, teammate and defending 4CC champion Mai Mihara looks to finish strong after missing out on her Olympic dream. The prospect of a Japanese sweep is possible with the addition of world junior bronze medalist, Kaori Sakamoto, who finished 2nd at Skate America this season. However, American Mariah Bell may have something to say about it, as she was 6th at last year’s 4CC. Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva also looks to get ready for the Olympics. Her best finish was 5th at Internationaux de France.

Skaters to Watch – American Ashley Wagner withdrew from her 4CC assignment, so this will be the first appearance in senior international competition of Starr Andrews. She wowed the crowd in the free skate at nationals earlier this month. Dabin Choi of Korea looks to carry the tradition left by Yuna Kim for her home country’s Olympics. She finished 9th at Cup of China. Canada’s Alaine Chartrand leads a contingent of three ladies looking to medal. Michelle Long and Alicia Pineault skate in their first senior competitions this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
2. Mai Mihara (JPN)
3. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN)


North Korea’s Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim look to make a historic performance in pairs.

Pairs: The most anticipation this weekend will from the team from Australia. Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor put the country on the map for figure skating as they won the first championship in the country’s history at the Junior Grand Prix Final. They look to continue the hot streak this weekend as they skate in their first senior competition. The other story of this weekend will be the appearance of North Korea’s Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim. The IOC approved their participation at the Winter Olympics and this week’s competition will be a warm-up for the two skaters. They were 7th at 4CC in 2016. Canada’s Liubov Ilyushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch missed out on a trip to Pyeongchang with a 4th place finish at nationals. They look to finish their season with a strong showing in Taipei.

Skaters to Watch – Reigning World and 4CC champions Wenjing Sui & Cong Han have withdrawn from the event, leaving no representation from China. With only 11 teams participating, former US pairs Champions Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea have a chance to make the podium. They were 2nd at nationals, but with only 1 spot available, they were out of the running for the Olympics. Teammates Deanna Stellato & Nathan Bartholomay were 3rd at nationals and have an 8th place finish at Skate America this season.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Liubov Ilyushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch (CAN)
2. Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya & Harley Windsor (AUS)
3. Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim (PRK)


The friendly rivalry between Americans Rachel & Michael Parsons and Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter continues this weekend.

Ice Dance: With many of the top teams heading to the Olympics, much of the focus will be on teams that were successful on the junior ranks. That brings up the rivalry between Rachel & Michael Parsons and Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter. Both teams have been head to head on the junior level, with McNamara & Carpenter winning nationals twice and the Parsons once. Both have won world junior championships. They’ll both fight it out for supremacy. Teammates Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker have the potential for an American sweep, something that has never happened in US skating history. They were 4th at nationals, missing out on the Olympics. One team that could eliminate that possibility are Kana Muramoto & Chris Reed of Japan. Reed will skate in his third consecutive Olympics next month, his first with Muramoto.

Skaters to Watch – A new generation of Canadian Ice Dance make their first appearance at 4CC with Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus. They were 4th at nationals and finishe 7th at Skate Canada this season. China’s Shiyue Wang & Xinyu Liu won their 2nd national title and have a 6th place finish at Cup of China. Korea’s Yura Min & Alexander Gamelin will use this week’s competition as a warm up for Pyeongchang. They won their country’s 2nd ice dance title.

Smooth’s Pick:
1. Rachel & Michael Parsons (USA)
2. Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter (USA)
3. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA)

Posted in 4CC, Figure Skating, Figures skating, Four Continents, Ice Skating, International Skating Union, Skating | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth’s Podium Picks – European Championships 2018


Moscow might be the coldest place on earth right now. But is a great place to go skating. This year’s Europeans take place just a few weeks before the Winter Olympics and its a pre-cursor to who will win in Pyeongchang. In all, over 110 skaters will compete this weekend, with host country, Russia, looking to dominate.


Spain’s Javier Fernandez looks to add even more gold to his collection.

Men: Spain’s Javier Fernandez has dominated Europeans for the last 5 years, and there’s no reason why he can’t dominate this year. He goes for his 6th title this week against a field of 36 other skaters. He had a disappointing Grand Prix season, having finished 6th at Cup of China. But he came back with a win at Internationaux de France in Grenoble. It will be a tough go at it with two Russian skaters competing in Moscow. Mikhail Kolyada had his best season winning Cup of China and finding his way to the podium in the Grand Prix Final. Alexander Samarin is the other skater, he found his way to the podium at Skate Canada and finished second behind Kolyada at Russian nationals. Israel’s Alexei Bychenko looks to find his way back to the European podium after a 5th place finish last season. He was 2nd in 2016.


Skaters to Watch – Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx barely missed the podium at Europeans in 2017. He captured his 2nd straight national title and also has a 5th place finish at Skate Canada this Grand Prix season. Russia’s Dimitri Aliev took 3rd at nationals and could make a run this weekend. He won the Junior Grand Prix in 2017. Israel’s Daniel Samohin was 2nd at nationals and is looking to make a top 10 finish this season. Other skaters that could make the top 10 are Moris Kvitelashvili of Georgia, Deniss Vasiljievs of Latvia and veteran skater Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic.

Smooth’s Pick: Fernandez in a flash!
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
2. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS)
3. Alexei Bychenko (ISR)


Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva returns from injury to the ice and looks for her 3rd straight ladies title. 

Ladies: For two years straight, Russian women have dominated Europeans, sweeping the podiums each year. Even though the event is in Moscow, sweeping for a third straight year could be tough. Evgenia Medvedeva returns to the ice after an injury took her out of Russian nationals. She’s been undefeated for three straight years, only losing at Rostelecom Cup in 2015. She’s considered the favorite this weekend, but her teammate Alina Zagitova may be her real competition. She’s also been on a hot streak, winning all her competitions, including the Grand Prix Final. Maria Sotskova had two 2nd place finishes in Grand Prix action and was 2nd at Russian nationals. If there isn’t a Russian sweep at Europeans, if could be broken up by Italy’s Carolina Kostner. She had two 2nd place finishes in GP season, (Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy) and missed the podium in the Grand Prix Final.


Skaters to Watch – It might be “slim pickings” for the rest of the field of ladies competing. Laurine Lecavelier was 5th at Europeans in 2017 and was also 8th at Skate Canada and 11th at Internationaux de France. Nicole Rajicova of Slovakia has a 6th place finish at last year’s Europeans, but also struggled on the Grand Prix circuit. Iveth Toth was 8th last year, but didn’t participate in Grand Prix competition this season. Other skaters looking to break the top 10 are Nicole Svhott of Germany, Mae Bernice Meite of France, Loena Hendrickx of Belgium (Jorik’s younger sister) and Matilda Algotsson of Sweden.

Smooth’s Pick: If there’s a time to break the Russian sweep, this is the year.
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Alina Zagitova (RUS)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)


Injuries to Savchenko & Massot gives Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov and other Russian teams the chance at a sweep.

Pairs: Breaking news on Monday, as the number #1 team in the world, Germany’s Aljona Savchenko & Bruno Massot were forced to pull out of this weekend’s competition due to injury. That gives the Russians a better chance for two medals or even sweep the podium. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov are at the top of the list as contenders. They were winners at Rostelecom Cup and at Internationaux de France. However they stumbled in the Grand Prix final, finishing in 5th. Teammates Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov missed their 4th straight national championship.They look to return to the Europeans podium for the first time since 2015. Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert were 5th last year at Europeans and reached their first Grand Prix final, finishing in 4th place. If the Russian’s don’t sweep, their challenge could come from France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres, who reached the podium for the first time last season, finishing 3rd. However, an injury that made the team miss French nationals could affect their skating this weekend.


Skaters to Watch – Italy sports two teams in the ISU’s top 10 that could also spoil a Russian sweep. Valentina Marchei & Ondrej Hotarek were 6th at last year’s Europeans and had a Grand Prix season’s best 4th place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise won their third straight national title and had a 3rd place finish at Internationaux de France. They were 8th at Europeans last season. Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer of Austria look to improve on their 9th place finish at last year’s Europeans.

Smooth’s Pick: How sweep it is!
1. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
2. Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)
3. Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert (RUS)


Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev look to gain the home ice advantage 

Ice Dance: 31 teams will compete for the title this weekend. At the top of the list are two-time World champions, Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. They look to continue their hot skating and a possible 4th straight European title. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, who are ranked 2nd in the world by the ISU, won their 7th straight national title this season. They were 3rd at Europeans last season. Italy’s Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte are hungry for another European title, but have only managed 2nd three years in a row. Teammates Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri haven’t been better than 6th in Europeans. This might be their best chance to make the podium.


Skaters to Watch – Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin finished third twice in Grand Prix competition this season. They haven’t had a podium finish in Europeans since 2015 (3rd). There will be no Olympics for Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sorensen of Denmark due to being unable to obtain Danish citizenship, so this will be their Olympics. They had a 5th place finish at NHK this season and were 7th last season at Europeans. Poland’s Natalia Kaliszek & Maksym Spodryriev 8th last year at Europeans. Other teams looking to reach the top ten are Marie-Jade Lauriault & Romain Le Gac of France, Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreio of Russia and Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland of Great Britain

Smooth’s Pick: This will be their hardest competition, but the French team will pull it off.
1. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
3. Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – Canadian National Figure Skating Championships 2018


Canadian skaters have one more hill to climb, baby! And it’s Mount Vancouver! (With apologies to the great hockey announcer, Howie Rose, on his MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! radio call from 1994.) Nearly 100 skaters from across Canada will make their way to BC in Novice, Junior and Senior events. Team Canada was able to grab 11 of 12 slots for Pyeongchang at last year’s World Championships, giving them a huge chance at not only winning individual medals, but the team event as well.


Patrick Chan has a chance to win an unprecedented 10th men’s title in Vancouver.

Men: Canadians have been watching Patrick Chan now for over 12 years now. He’s dominated every national category in his skating career, and now he has a chance to win an unprecedented 10th men’s title. Internationally, Chan has lost a step, having finished 4th at Skate Canada and withdrawing from the rest of the Grand Prix circuit this season. He’s also had a change in personnel and moved from Toronto to Vancouver for a fresh new start. He’s considered the favorite this weekend, but there are a few skaters that could give him a run for his money. Kevin Reynolds has finished 2nd to Chan four times, and this could be his final chance to become national champion. This season put Kevin on the comeback trail, with an 8th place finish at Cup of China and a 9th place finish at Skate America. Nam Nguyen won the men’s title in 2015 when Chan took a sabbatical. This year, he was 7th at Rostelecom Cup and 10th at NHK Trophy. Liam Firus was 2nd in 2016 and 3rd teice in 2014 and 2015. He’ll try to do better than his 7th place finish last year. He placed 8th at Skate America this season.

Skaters to Watch – Keegan Messing is one name that could break thru this season. He was 5th at NHK Trophy and equaled his best finish at nationals last season (5th). Nicolas Nadeau finished just off the podium last season in 4th place and the former junior champion was 7th at this year’s Skate Canada. Roman Sadovsky hasn’t placed higher than 4th at nationals since 2015, and has struggled in international competition, finishing 10th at Skate America. Other skaters who could challenge are Elladj Baldé, Conrad Orzel and Joseph Phan.

Smooth’s Pick – Look for Chan to continue to rack up the records with a logjam for the two other positions. Only two will go to Pyeongchang.
1. Patrick Chan
2. Kevin Reynolds
3. Keegan Messing


Gabby Daleman and Kaetlyn Osmond battle it out for national pride.

Ladies: Canadian ladies made history, as they placed two skaters at World and solidified a third spot in Pyeongchang. This could be a battle between two outstanding national champions. Kaetlyn Osmond is the reigning ladies champion. She goes for a fourth title and has had a successful Grand Prix season, winning Skate Canada, placing 3rd at Internationaux de France in Grenoble and finishing 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. Gabby Daleman is the skater that could best beat Kaetlyn this weekend. The 2015 national champion finished 3rd in the world last season, but had a rough Grand Prix season with 2 sixth place finishes at Cup of China and Skate America. 2016 national champion Alaine Chartrand had a difficult Grand Prix season. She finished 11th at Skate Canada and at NHK Trophy and an Olympic spot is not a sure thing without a strong performance this weekend. One skater that could make a breakthrough is Larkyn Austman. The 2013 junior ladies champion was 4th last year, but finished 12th at Skate Canada earlier this season.

Skaters to Watch: The remaining skaters in the field have limited international experience and it will all depend on which one puts out the best program this weekend to make a surprise push for the podium. One skater with that experience is Sarah Tamura, who finished 5th at nationals last year. Alicia Pineault was 7th last season and has a 2nd place finish under her belt at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic in 2015. Kim Decelles was 6th last year. Michelle Long was 9th last year in her third nationals. Aurora Cotop is the 2017 junior ladies champion and she’ll be making her senior debut in Vancouver. Her best finish was 7that the junior grand prix circuit in Brisbane, Australia. Other skaters making their senior debuts this weekend are Kelsey Wong and Aislinn Ganci.

Smooth’s Pick: The Osmond/Daleman duel looks like a boxing match. This one is going the distance.
1. Kaetlyn Osmond
2. Gabby Daleman
3. Alaine Chartrand


Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford look to get ready for Pyeongchang this February.

Pairs: Eight teams will skate for the national title, with four teams fighting for three spots on the Olympic team. At the top of the list are Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford, who are going to pairs title number #7. They had a slight drop off internationally this season, with 3rd place finish at Skate America and a 3rd place showing at the Grand Prix Final. Nevertheless, they are the overwhelming favorites this weekend. Second, third and fourth will be a battle between three great pairs teams. Lubov Ilyushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch has seen their trajectory shoot up within the last 12 months. They were 2nd at last year’s nationals and had a strong showing in the Grand Prix circuit with a 4th place finish at Internationaux de France in Grenoble. Kirsten Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro have also improved greatly with a win at the US International Classic and a third place finish at Cup of China. Both teams greatly benefitted from Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau injury issues at last year’s nationals. However, they’ve come back strong with a 4th place finish at NHK Trophy and a 5th place showing at Rostelecom Cup.

Skaters to Watch: Canadian pairs have a bright future with the remaining teams skating this weekend. Evelyn Walsh & Trennt Michaud are junior pairs champions from last year and were 5th in the world at the junior level last season. Camille Ruest & Drew Wolfe finished 5th at last year’s nationals and have a 10th place finish at Nebelhorn Trophy. Sydney Kolodziej & Maxime Deschamps make only their third competition as a team. They were 9th at this year’s Skate Canada. Shalena Rau & Johann Wilskinson make their nationals debut as a team this weekend.

Smooth’s Pick: Barring an injury, Duhamel and Radford will be in seventh heaven.
1. Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford
2. Lubov Ilyushechkina & Dylan Moscovitch
3. Julianne Seguin & Charlie Bilodeau


Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir lead the field in ice dance.

Ice Dance: Olympic Gold and Silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir go for their 8th national championship title this weekend. They were back on top last year and didn’t lose a single international competition until they were beaten by France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at this season’s Grand Prix Final. They’re the overwhelming favorites, but two teams have a chance the break the streak. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have tasted victory at the top of the podium twice (2015 and 2016) and will be shooting for their 2nd straight Winter Olympics appearance. This season, they took 2nd at Skate Canada and had a 4th place finish at Internationaux de France in Grenoble. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier will shoot for their first Olympic berth with a placement on the podium. They have a two 4th place finishes in Grand Prix competitions this season. Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus were 4th last season, and have a 7th place finish at Skate Canada this season.

Skaters to Watch: The rest of the field has limited international experience. Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker finished 5th at last year’s nationals. Their international experience is mostly two appearances at Nebelhorn Trophy (10th) and at Lake Placid (8th). Sarah Arnold & Thomas Williams were 6th last year, and have an 8th place finish at Warsaw Cup. Molly Lanaghan & Dmitre Razgulajevs enter only their third competition as a team. Their best finish was 10th at Warsaw Cup.

Smooth’s Pick: Look for Virtue and Moir to cruise victory, with a battle for the 2nd and 3rd spot.
1. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
2. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
3. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier

Next week, Europeans.

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

Smooth’s Podium Picks – US Nationals 2018


This week, everyone will know the way to San Jose, as 144 skaters will look to follow their Olympic dreams.  For some this is the end of their season, others will look to gain important international assignment.  This is the second time US Nationals made their way to the South Bay.  The first event was in 2012.


Nathan Chen looks to dominate the field on his way to Pyongchang in February.

Men: Three spots to Pyeongchang will be decided beginning on January 4th when 21 skaters go for their Olympic dreams. The overwhelming favorite is current national champion Nathan Chen. This season, Chen blew away the completion, capturing Rostelecom Cup and Stake America on his way to a Grand Prix title. He’s the favorite to medal in Korea, but will there be any American looking to challenge his dominance. One skater could be Adam Rippon, who has two 2nd place finishes at NHK and Skate America. He finished 5th at the Grand Prix Final and is a former national champion, having won in 2016. Jason Brown is not too far behind, with a 3rd place finish last season at nationals. He was 2nd at Skate Canada and had a 4th place finish at NHK to qualify for the Gran Prix Final (6th). Max Aaron looks to return to the podium after a disastrous 9th place finish last season. He was 3rd at Cup of Canada and 7th at Internationaux de France.

Skaters to Watch: Last year’s 2nd place winner Vincent Zhou spent much of this season looking to improve is international standing, having placed 4th at Cup of China and a disappointing 9th Internationaux de France. He’s still a force to deal with this weekend. Grant Hochstein was 4th last year and will look to improve, as well. However his international skating still needs improvement having finished 11th at Rostelecom Cup and 9th at Cup of China. Alexei Krasnozhon makes his senior debut this weekend and could turn heads with the judges. He’s a former Junior National champion and also captured the Junior Grand Prix title this season. Other skaters looking to make the podium are Ross Miner and Andrew Torgashev. Sectional skaters to especially watch for are Timothy Dolensky who dominated Easterns and Alexander Johnson, who performed an outstanding short program en-route to a win at Midwesterns.

Smooth’s Pick – It’s Chen, then its everyone else.
1. Nathan Chen
2. Adam Rippon
3. Jason Brown


Will Bradie Tennell pull of a stunning upset of this competitive ladies field?

Ladies: The short program begins on January 3rd with 22 skaters hoping to live their Olympic dream. Only three slots will be available for Pyeongchang with at least one spot up for grabs. All eyes will be on Ashley Wagner. The “grand old lady” of figure skating will make this year her final grab for Olympic gold. Wagner was gunning for the Grand Prix Final after a 3rd place finish at Skate Canada when she was forced to withdraw due to injury. How she recovers will determine if she’ll be part of the team. Mirai Nagasu continues to dazzle and surprise her critics. She’s determined to make the Olympic team and had added a triple axel to her routine. Disappointing finishes at Rostelecom Cup (9th) and NHK Trophy (4th) leaves it uncertain if she will make it happen. Defending champion Karen Chen has had a rough Grand Prix season with a 7th place finish at Skate Canada and an 8th place showing at Skate America. But if there’s a time to recover, now would be the time with a new routine. Mariah Bell looks to improve on her 3rd place finish from last season. Her 6th place finish at Rostelecom Cup was a chance to improve her standing internationally and she’s a definite contender for the podium.

Skaters to Watch: The only consistent skater this season has been Bradie Tennell. She made her senior Grand Prix debut in place of Gracie Gold and made the best of the opportunity, finishing 3rd at Skate America. 2014 Olympian Polina Edmunds has battled injuries over the last year. But she’s back and will be a threat to all skaters this weekend. Courtney Hicks is a dark horse, skating under the radar and has one Grand Prix event under her belt, a 4th place finish at Skate Canada. Amber Glenn, Angela Wang and Caroline Zhang round out the contenders. Other skaters also to look out for are Starr Andrews and Tessa Hong, who put up outstanding numbers at Pacific Sectionals.

Smooth’s Pick – Tough pickings this year! My money is on “grand old lady”!
1. Ashley Wagner
2. Mirai Nagasu
3. Bradie Tennell


Alexa & Chris Knierim looks to get back to the top of the pairs podium.

Pairs: For the first time in nearly 50 years, the United States will only have 1 spot in pairs. This was a result of its poor showing at last year’s World Championships. Because of that, this year’s competition will be fierce. At the top of the list is the husband and wife team of Alexa & Chris Knierim. After a year of dealing with a serious injury to Alexa, the former national pairs champs looks to get back on top. They have a couple of 5th place finishes in Grand Prix completion this season (NHK and Skate America). Their top rivals are Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the current national champs. In Grand Prix events this season, they finished 7th at Skate Canada and Skate America. 2016 national champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea also figure to compete for the top spot, despite not having any Grand Prix assignments due to injury, however they did compete at the Golden Spin of Zagreb, finishing 3rd. Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran look to improve on their 2nd place finish at last year’s nationals. They finished in the middle of the pack in Grand Prix competition (6th at Internationaux de France, 7th at Rostelecom Cup).

Skaters to Watch: Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were 3rd at their first nationals as a team. They look to make an impact this weekend, but will need to do better internationally, as they placed 6th at Cup of China. Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan also look to improve from their 5th place finish in last year’s nationals. They have 8th place finishes at Cup of China and at Skate America. Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu skate in their seventh nationals, third as a senior pair, where their best finish was 5th in 2016. Deanna Stellato-Dudek & Nathan Bartholomay may be the most intriguing team this week. They were 4th at nationals last year and are looking at the podium and beyond. Other teams to watch out for are Chelsea Liu & Brian Johnson and Erika Choi Smith & AJ Reiss.

Smooth’s Pick – Pretty tough to decide, but I give the edge to the married couple!
1. Alexa & Chris Knierim
2. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea
3. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier


Maia and Alex Shibutani leads a competitive field in the ice dance division.

Ice Dance: This will be an exciting competition with many talented teams, 13, in all, vying for three spots at the Winter Olympics this February. Right now, the current two-time national champions, Maia and Alex Shibutani, have the edge going into this weekend. They were previously unbeaten in Grand Prix competition until finishing 3rd in Nagoya at the Grand Prix Final. But one team that may give them a run for their money are Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Their fortunes continue to grow, as they qualified for their 3rd Grand Prix Final, finishing 4th. They were also 3rd for the third straight year at nationals last season. Madison Chock & Evan Bates are close behind as two time national runner-ups. They were 2nd at Internationaux de France and Cup of China. Rachel & Michael Parsons are former Junior World champions and will compete in their first nationals on the senior level. Their senior campaign got off to a rough start, with a 7th place finish at Rostelecom Cup and a 9th place showing at Stake America.

Skaters to Watch: Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker have skated as a team since 2012 and their best nationals finish was 4th in 2015. Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter brings their rivalry with Rachel & Michael Parsons to the senior level this season. They are two-time junior champs, and have a 5th place finish at Cup of China this season. Elliana Pogrebinsky & Alex Benoit were 4th at last year’s nationals and were 7th in their Grand Prix entries this season (Internationaux de France and Cup of China). Sectional teams to look out for are Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton, who had to qualify to make nationals by winning Midwesterns.

Smooth’s Pick – A very competitive Ice Dance, the ShibShibs will have the advantage.
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
3. Madison Chock & Evan Bates



Men: Camden Pulkinen – He had his highest score at this year’s Junior Grand Prix, where he finished 2nd.

maxresdefaultLadies: Hanna Harrell – She dominated the field at Midwesterns with the highest total in Sectionals.

Pairs: Sarah Feng & TJ Nyman – Their top score at Pacific Sectionals was a personal best, as well as with all three qualifiers.

Ice Dance: Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko – The most accomplished of the field, they finished 2nd at Junior Grand Prix this season.

Next Week, Canadian Nationals 2018!

“Skate like a champion!”

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Smooth’s Podium Picks – Grand Prix Final 2017


The final Grand Prix event of the season lands back in Japan, where 24 Senior and 24 Junior skaters and teams look for a spot on the podium. But the blockbuster story is the IOC’s decision to ban Russia from competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The decision has an immediate effect on Russian skaters, with a number of them competing this weekend and are heavy favorites to win medals. It’s unknown how many will participate under the Olympic Flag, or if Russian President Vladimir Putin will allow them to participate.

Uno Shoma

Japan’s Shoma Uno looks to win the Grand Prix Final on home ice.

Men – For the first time in quite a while, the United States has three entries. The led by Nathan Chen, who has blown through the competition, winning at Rostelecom Cup and Skate America. Adam Rippon is right behind having finished 2nd at NHK Trophy and Skate America. Jason Brown is a last minute replacement for China’s Byong Jin, who is injured. Brown picked up enough points to be an alternate. Their main competitors are Japan’s Shoma Uno, who has come out of Yuzuru Hanyu’s shadow to become a force of his own. He won at Skate Canada and missed the top of the podium at Grenoble. Russia brings two skaters to the final. Mikhail Kolyada won his first Grand Prix tournament at Cup of China and placed third at Rostelecom Cup. Sergei Voronov also won his first ever Grand Prix tournament, capturing the NHK Trophy title and qualified for this weekend with a 3rd place finish at Skate America.

This will be a battle between Chen and Uno for the top spot. But don’t count out Rippon and Voronov. It will go down to the final skate on who will take the top spot.

Smooth’s Picks –
1. Shoma Uno (JPN)
2. Nathan Chen (USA)
3. Adam Rippon (USA)


In one of the biggest surprizes of the season, Russia’s Alina Zagitova looks to continue her hot win streak.

Ladies – The tournament will be missing the top ladies skater in the world. Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva pulled out of this weekend’s competition due to foot injury. That will affect her for Russian Nationals later this month. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara takes her place and is an immediate threat to take the top spot. Teammate Wakaba Higuchi is a moderate threat to make the podium with her 2nd place finish in Beijing and 3rd place finish at Rostelecom Cup. The rest of the field is solid. Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond continues her upward swing with a win at Skate Canada and a 3rd place finish at Grenoble. Italy’s Carolina Kostner has two 2nd place finishes at Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy and looks to grab her first GP Final title since 2012. The other two spots are occupied by Russians. Alina Zagitova has surprised the judges in her first season as a senior with her poise and grace, and they rewarded her with two victories at Cup of China and at Grenoble. Her teammate Maria Sotskova has two 2nd place finishes at Skate Canada and in Grenoble.

My money is on the young Russian lady to continue to get better and is a threat to beat Medvedeva at Russian Nationals. 2nd and 3rd will be a fight between Italy, Canada and Japan.

Smooth’s Picks –
1. Alina Zagitova (RUS)
2. Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)


Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov look to come out on top this weekend in pairs competition.  

Pairs – This may be the most competitive Grand Prix Final in years. All are capable of winning the top spot. That’s why it’s so hard to choose. The narrow favorites are the team from China, Wenjin Sui and Cong Han. The team won both of their competitions at Cup of China and NHK Trophy, and managed to win a non-GP event in Shanghai last weekend. Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov was the only other team to win both their tourmanents this season with gold at Rostelecom Cup and at Grenoble. Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won at Skate America and finished 2nd at Skate Canada to qualify for this weekend. Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford fought hard to win Skate Canada and just barely made this weekend’s final with a 3rd place finish at Skate America. The other two slots are occupied by Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who took 2nd twice (Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy) this season, and China’s Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang who also finished in 2nd twice to qualify this weekend (Cup of China and Skate America).

This will be a battle that will be won or lost in the short program, with China’s Sui and Han & Russia’s Tarasova and Morozov fighting it out, with Germany and Canada close behind.

Smooth’s Picks –
1. Wenjin Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
2. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
3. Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot (GER)


Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are the overwhelming favorites to win this weekend. 

Ice Dance – The six teams skating this weekend WILL be in the final flight in Pyeongchang this February, barring injury. Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have shown that even after a year off, they can come back and finish what they started. They haven’t lost since placing 2nd at Sochi in 2014 and they are the favorites to win this weekend. On their heels are three American teams. At the top of the list are Maia and Alex Shibutani, who won both their competitions this season (Rostelecom Cup and Skate America) and look to improve on their 3rd place finish at last year’s Grand Prix Final. Teammates Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have greatly improved their game by finishing 3rd at Skate Canada and 2nd at NHK Trophy. They also look to improve from last year’s 5th place finish at the GP Final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates lost a slight step to Hubbell and Donohue, but two 2nd place finishes at Cup of China and Grenoble were good enough to qualify for this week’s final. They finished 6th last season. The other two teams are two of the best in the world. France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are two time World Ice Dance champions. They won both their Grand Prix competitions (Cup of China and Grenoble), but haven’t won gold at the Grand Prix final, finishing 3rd in 2014 and 2nd in 2016. They look to break the stretch this weekend. Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the Ice Dance title in 2014, but they too haven’t won gold at the final. They were 3rd at NHK and 2nd at Skate America.

Each are the best of the best and can win the top prize. However, I can’t see anyone else beating Virtue and Moir this weekend. 2nd and 3rd place with be a fight to the finish.

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

Finally, here are my picks in the Junior Grand Prix Circuit this weekend.


Men –Alexei Krasnozhon (USA) – This is his second try at a Junior Grand Prix title and has put up some killer numbers, winning at Brisbane and Croatia.


Ladies – Alexandra Trusova (RUS) – Of the five Russian ladies who qualified, she’s probably the best, having won twice in her first season as a Junior.


Pairs – Ekaterina Alexadrovskaya and Harley Windsor (AUS) – This team put Australian Figure Skating on the map after winning the World Junior Pairs title last season.  They look to continue success this weekend.


Ice Dance – Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko (USA) – This American team is undefeated in Junior competition this season and look to continue the streak.

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