NHK Trophy 2011: Predictions

I apologize for the lack of coverage on the Cup of China. My life has gotten super busy lately and there’s just been so many ups and downs that I can scarcely catch my breath. I know that the NHK Trophy is well underway, with the dance, pairs and ladies events halfway done, which gives me a bit of an unfair advantage in predictions but at least I get to predict all of the men’s event! (The best of the lot, though sometimes the one that breaks my heart most when I see Patrick Chan garner up an insane and unfair amount of points.) Anyways, let’s start the sort-of predictions.

Ladies

Videos of the ladies’ SP have yet to surface but I’m rather excited for the event because we’ll see if Mao is up to par again. Right now, I only have this practice clip to go on and it seems that she’s skating to Scheherazade – an old warhorse – with a very Michelle Kwan-Salome costume.

Right now, Mao is in 3rd place and trailing by 8 points behind Akiko Suzuki. Both Akiko Suzuki and Mao are strong long program skaters (though Mao is the stronger LP skater) but even Mao’s star power might not be able to overcome that huge margin. That and Akiko is really skating with a fantastic confidence and fire this season and I’m totally loving it. I can’t wait to see a perfect performance of “Die Fledermaus” because THAT is the “Die Fledermaus” program of the season. In other news, I expect Alena Leonova to be inconsistent and somewhat bomb her LP so I think Mao can make up the 3 points between her and the mediocre Russian lady.

Also, another piece of happy news is that Cynthia Phaneuf has finally gotten to the point where she’s just bombing her ass off. Now CBC can stop hyping her up because watching paint dry is a lot more exciting than watching Cynthia Phaneuf. Unless you’re my 9 year-old cousins who’ve been begging me to show them figure skating videos where the skaters crash onto the ice. Anyways, let’s not waste any more time talking about Phaneuf.

Predictions:

Gold: Akiko Suzuki
Silver: Mao Asada
Bronze: Alena Leonova (though Ashley Wagner can make a comeback if Alena bombs enough, not that I really care about either skater)

Men

So, this is the only event where I can make blind predictions. The gold will be an epic battle between Daisuke Takahashi and Takahiko Kozuka. Takahiko started the season a bit rough while Daisuke wasn’t at 100% at Skate Canada, though he did skate a fantastic SP. This season, I think Daisuke’s skating with a lot more passion and I hope that he’s acquired enough drive to push for gold in his LP. Tomas Verner is a bit of a wildcard because his programs will probably never be as intricate and lovely as either of the Japanese men but I’m always hoping that he’ll surprise me. Tomas has a fantastic personality and talent but his programs last year were just blah. I mean, how do you make “blah” out of MICHAEL JACKSON and SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN!!! Sigh.

Predictions:

Gold: Daisuke Takahashi
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze: Tomas Verner

Pairs

Again, having the SP results gives me an unfair advantage but even without them, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Aliona and Robin will win the event. At the moment, the only team with a ghost of a chance of beating them is Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. At the moment, Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov are in 5th but the difference between 2nd and 5th place is 2 points, which I think they can make up in the long program. I’m very glad that they’re using their Claire de Lune LP again but I still cringe when I see Yuko’s angular creepy doll movements. She doesn’t seem to be able to go deep into the knee when she lands her jumps (throw and sbs jumps) which just makes everything look strained and difficult. I’m still a bit surprised at how poorly Iliushchekina/Maisuradze are doing so early in the season when they won Skate Canada last year but the strange thing is, I’m kind of hoping for a split between these two so that Iliushchekina can get a better, more expressive partner because right now, she might as well be skating with a mannequin. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin didn’t have a bad start at Skate America and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a little better at this competition.

Predictions:

Gold: Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy
Silver: Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov
Bronze: Caydee Denney & John Coughlin

Ice Dance

Ok, now I definitely feel like I’m cheating because I was debating as to whether the Shibutanis or Ilinykh & Katsalapov would come out on top. The margins between the top 3 teams are pretty small but I did say last season that Ilinykh & Katsalapov would benefit from a coaching change – in image and in technical skill and lookee what happened. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are doing pretty well, though they need to wait for Tessa and Scott to retire to flourish completely on the international scene. I’m pretty sure on I/K for gold but the bronze is a bit of a puzzle. Let’s take a chance on it…

Predictions:

Gold: Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov
Silver: Maia and Alex Shibutani
Bronze: Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje

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