Tuesday, November 8, 2011

NHK Trophy Dance Preview

The Shibutanis and Weaver and Poje both have silver medals this season and both are looking for their first gold medal on the Grand Prix circuit.

The Shibutanis had a somewhat disappointing outing last week in China, earning only a Level 1 on the lift in their short dance and finishing 15 points out of 1st place.  They are competing in back to back events which means they don't have a lot of time to make changes in their program and will likely only be making minor adjustments.  On the other hand, both events are in Asia and they have less travel time and jet lag to deal with than some of the other competitors.  Their programs this season suit them to a T and they have all the technical elements to land them on top of the podium if they're executed correctly.  They also started slow last season and improved at every event, so if they can improve their score here I would say they're on the right track.

Weaver and Poje won the silver behind Virtue and Moir at Skate Canada and are coming off a top 5 finish at Worlds.  They're pushing themselves this season in the short dance with out of the box costumes that are a start contrast to their elegant look last season.  They are also benefiting from training alongside Pechalat and Bourzat, giving them the advantage of another top team in the rink to push them every day while they train.  They have a slight point edge over the Shibutanis coming in to this event, but their biggest obstacle is themselves, as they showed last season when they struggled to overcome their nerves and skate a clean free dance.

Ilinykh and Katsalapov are making their season debut here.  This young Russian team was disappointed with their 7th place showing at their first World Championships.  They won the World Junior title in 2010 while the Shibutanis only placed 4th and were vocal about their expectations for remaining ahead of their competition.  They switched coaches in the off season and worked with top dancers and acrobats to add innovation to their programs.  They are also using the same songs in their short dance as Virtue and Moir and are making it clear that they expect to compete with the best this season. This will be their first chance to see how the changes they've made stack up against some of the World's best teams.

Kriengkrairut and Giuletti-Schmitt and Zhiganshina and Gazsi both have gold medals in Senior B events this season but their scores there will likely keep them off the podium unless one of the top teams makes an error.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Shibutani/Shibutani
Silver: Weaver/Poje
Bronze: Ilinykh/Katsalapov

Bios of the competitors:
Paul/Islam, CAN: They finished 8th at Skate America.  They are the 2010 World Junior silver medalists. Their personal best is 138.16.  She is 20 and he is 20.

Weaver/Poje, CAN: They finished 5th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents.  They won silver at Skate Canada.  They are the 2010 Four Continents Champions and 2007 Junior World bronze medalists.  Their personal best is 160.32.  She is 22 and he is 24.

Zhiganshina/Gazsi, GER: They finished 11th at Worlds and 7th at Europeans.  They finished 4th at Skate America.  Their personal best is 140.95.  She is 24 and he is 26.

Alessandrini/Vaturi, ITA: They finished 16th at Europeans.  This is their Grand Prix debut.  Their personal best is 115.35.  She is 21 and he is 23.

Reed/Reed, JPN: They finished 13th at Worlds.  They placed 7th at NHK Trophy and Skate America last season.  Their personal best is 133.33.  She is 24 and he is 22.

Ilinykh/Katsalapov, RUS: They finished 7th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans.  They placed 4th at NHK Trophy and won bronze at Cup of Russia last season.  They are the 2010 World Junior Champions.  Their personal best is 154.50.  She is 17 and he is 20.

Kriengkrairut/Giuletti-Schmitt, USA: They finished 6th at Skate Canada last season.  Their personal best is 130.72.  She is 23 and he is 26.

Shibutani/Shibutani, USA: They are the reigning World bronze medalists and Four Continents silver medalists.  They won silver at Cup of China.  They are the 2009 World Junior silver medalists.  Their personal best is 163.79.  She is 17 and he is 20.

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