Predictions: NHK Trophy 2015

mao 2015 lp

Another competition is upon us! The NHK Trophy is the last of the GP series before the Grand Prix Final and I am super excited!

In other news, CBC has reported that the ISU will use the standings from the SP as the final standings to calculate who gets into the GPF. This means that my predictions have completely gone into the garbage for TEB but in all honesty, I’m just glad that the skaters are safe. My continued thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by all of the terrible acts of terrorism around the world.

And now, back to our regular programming of predictions for this year’s NHK Trophy.

Men

Despite faltering a bit in the SP at Skate Canada this season, Olympic Champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, should have the home ice advantage here. With a few more weeks of training under his belt, I hope to see better performances this week – his LP has potential but he didn’t seem to get the right flow and timing in his performance at Skate Canada.

The judges will likely be forgiving to Hanyu on home ice but challenging him for the gold will young quad lutz jumping phenom Boyang Jin. I learned the hard way not to underestimate this guy and I still have a hard time believing that a human being managed to land a 4Lz+3T. Jin has a lot of potential if he can keep his jumps but he will need to work on some non-technical aspects of his skating should he wish to advance. His LP showcases a lot of his weaknesses when he performs, namely how he loses the flow and interpretation of his programs when he’s concentrating or setting up for his jumps. Still, I would take his performances over that of Maxim Kovtun, who seems to have improved – he looks a little less like a windmill nowadays, which is always an improvement.

Predictions

Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu
Silver:
Boyang Jin
Bronze:
Maxim Kovtun

Ladies

You really don’t know how happy I am knowing that Mao Asada is back in the mix. The competition between the young Russian divas is fun but nothing beats a good skate with actual choreography that doesn’t well… suck. Mao lay down a great SP at her last GP assignment and she made a few bobbles in the LP but I hope she can build on her performances and continue improving. I think after her hiatus, Mao has developed a better growth attitude towards her skating – she looks a less tense and more level-headed from the warm-up all the way to the kiss and cry.

Nonetheless, Mao’s main competition here will likely be Ashley Wagner, who pulled an unexpected win at Skate Canada and teammate Satoko Miyahara. For both these ladies, under-rotated jumps have been a huge issue to their scores in the past but both have other ways that make their skating shine. For Wagner, she can sell her program from start to finish and since she’s reusing her Moulin Rouge program from last season, I don’t doubt that she knows exactly what to do to play the crowd. As for Miyahara, she has some really lovely skating skills and home ice advantage shouldn’t hurt either.

Should she skate well, Anna Pogorilaya can challenge for the podium but considering her inconsistency this season and last, it’s doubtful that she can get to the top though I can see her getting the bronze or silver if someone should falter and skate badly.

Predictions

Gold: Mao Asada
Silver:
Ashley Wagner
Bronze:
Satoko Miyahara

Pairs

Without any top challengers here, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford should win handily here. They have continued their onslaught of programs filled with difficult elements and I encourage them to do so. They’re upping the pairs game considerably and we’re seeing the aftermath of that this season, which is part of the reason why the pairs competition is so interesting.

Fighting for the silver will likely be an exciting match-up between Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin and Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim. At this point in time, I think I’d give the edge to Scimeca & Knierim mostly due to their experience and partly because they do have a few more difficult elements in their arsenal such as a quad twist and a throw 3F. The Chinese pair on the other hand, I would say has potential in that they already have a polish for a relatively junior team and they skate with the refinement of a tried, tested and true Russian pairs team with their balletic lines. I actually quite like Yu & Jin’s creative programs this year but I do think that this team lacks some of the big tricks to compete at the A-level at the moment. Still, they should keep on working because they are a beautiful team to watch.

Also to look out for are Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres. These two looks sharper than ever this season and have really improved on their unison and executing all of their elements cleanly. I remember how precarious they seemed in the past when it looked as if they were a terrible accident waiting to happen. I would not be surprised if Vanessa willed themselves onto the podium should one of the above teams skate poorly.

Predictions

Gold: Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Silver:
Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim
Bronze:
Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin

Ice Dance

Hmmm… this is an interesting roster. I think I see what they’re going for. Without a strong Japanese ice dance team, the JFSA seems to be trying for a win for the Maia & Alex Shibutani. All I can say is that I sincerely hope this comes true. Maia and Alex laid down two fantastic programs and skates at Skate Canada this season and I hope they continue down that road. For the first time in many seasons, these two are skating to great programs that not only suit them but are something different than their usual airy waltz.

Challenging them for the gold will likely be their teammates, Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue who won at TEB, which came as a bit of a surprise. Personally, I don’t find their edges, unison or performance that compelling but they were facing off against a weaker field in Bordeaux. Then again, the situation is the same here but I do firmly believe that the Shibutanis are much sharper technically.

The bottom of the podium may be a face-off between Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev and Penny Coomes & Nicolas Buckland. I don’t find either team particularly compelling and Bobrova & Soloviev are coming back from taking off a season from injury though somewhere in the back of my gut, I have a feeling that I would still give the edge to the Russians. I think Coomes & Buckland have gone a long way but they still need a lot of work on their posture, speed and power before they can break into the A-list.

Predictions

Gold: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
Silver:
Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
Bronze:
Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev

What are your predictions for this year’s NHK Trophy? Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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