I haven’t gotten around to watching the rest of the events but I promise that there will be at least one more TEB post. For now, here are your competitors for the Grand Prix Final
Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Qing Pang & Jian Tong
Vera Bazarova & Yuri Larionov
Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch
Lubov Iliushchekina & Nodari Maisuradze
Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (Yay!)
Narumi Takahashi & Melvin Tran
Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Natalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat
Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Sloviev
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
Nora Hoffman & Maxim Zazovin
Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlin
Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko
A few comments on the new season:
The ladies competition is a hot mess. I neither greatly like or dislike Miki Ando but it seems that she’s the top lady at the moment now that she’s consistent. Without Yuna and Mao as the cream of the crop (and Joannie Rochette sitting between Yuna+Mao and the rest), the ladies competition has become something of a free for all with Miki Ando in the lead. Hopefully Mao will regain some of her consistency and make the ladies competition for the rest of the season a bit more worth watching.
Speaking of the Japanese, it’s very clear that they have a very, very strong singles field. Even as a Canadian, I’d totally be willing to give up 2 of our spots in men and ladies at Worlds to the Japanese. It would make the competition (especially for the ladies) a lot more fun to watch. I would watch Kanako Murakami or Haruka Imai over Diane Smizett and Cynthia Phaneuf any day of the week. If Joannie Rochette doesn’t go to Worlds this year, then the Canadian ladies team will be a pitiable one. As for the men, I could also say the same for Yuzuru Hanyu. He’s so much more fun to watch compared to Kevin Reynolds, who Aunt Joyce has dubbed “Rachael Flatt’s brother”, which amuses me greatly.
While we’re on the subject of countries, it’s pretty obvious that Russia is voraciously sending an onslaught of talented young skaters in preparation for Sochi. They have 2 young pairs teams in the making, as well as Volozohar & Trankov, who look to be a pair to keep an eye out for. In ice dance, it seems that Bobrova & Sloviev are going to be Russian champions and a new threat in the top 10 at Worlds. Ilinykh & Katsalapov, whom we had great expectations are still in the works. The Shibutanis (who finished 4th at junior worlds while the baby Russians won) have handily defeated them in terms of score and rank since Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband are still the Queen and King of ice dance. In terms of singles, Russia has still yet to produce podium threats, although Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Adelina Sotnikova are on the horizon. The men’s field is extremely tough and talented at the moment and Russia’s top men in the senior or junior ranks probably don’t quite have any competitive edge here.
Also, this season has marked the rise of many skaters from the junior ranks. Kanako Murakami has definitely made a splash with a gold and a bronze at both of her senior grand prix events. We’ll have to wait for the final to see what the Japanese federation will do with her. The ladies field is tough in Japan and with Miki Ando and Mao Asada as locks for gold (Mao’s spot in the world might be up in the air at the moment although there have been rumours that she has to skate this season – rather than take a year off to relearn her jumps – because of a sponsor, which means that the Japanese federation might have to cave to the sponsor’s demands and make her skate at Worlds as well) and Akiko Suzuki is a consistent skater who’s pretty much at the same level as Kanako.
Many junior pairs teams have also made a mark, namely World junior champions, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (aka my baby Chinese pair), silver medalists, Narumi Takahashi and Melvin Tran and 4th place at junior Worlds, Lubov Iliushchekina and Nodari Maisuradze. Then again, seeing that the pairs field has been pretty weak in the last few years, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Sui and Han might drop out of the senior GPF to skate in the junior GPF where they’re guaranteed a win and it would be better for their ranking. The same could be said for Takahashi and Tran who are first alternates.
In ice dance, now that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are sidelined by injury, Crone & Poirier are the leading Canadian team at the moment, which is a pity because Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are so much more fun to watch. At the same time, Tessa and Scott’s absence means that Meryl and Charlie are skating to not lose since they’re basically dominating right now. At the same time, rather than having Crone & Poirier take Tessa and Scott’s spot on the World podium (and they’ll only do that over my dead body), the vacuum for 2nd and 3rd place, if Tessa and Scott don’t compete at Worlds, will probably be filled by European teams, namely the top French and Russians. Many people are hoping for Tessa and Scott’s return by Nationals but it seems that they’re taking it easy this year. I hope that Tessa will feel better for Nationals because the thought of Crone & Poirier winning anything (even something in a weak competition like Canadian Nationals) makes me want to cringe. Trust me, I was not happy when the Kerrs let me down at Skate Canada.
Anyways, that’s enough rambling for now.
~The Rinkside Cafe