Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 Grand Prix Preview

The 2012 Grand Prix series should prove to be very competitive as skaters attempt to make the Final in Sochi, Russia and preview the Olympic venue.

Who's In
Miki Ando and Johnny Weir have both committed to skating in the Grand Prix series and with comeback skaters having to sign contracts with penalties for withdrawing from their events, it's likely that they will be back this season.

Although Evan Lysacek and Evgeny Plushenko were not included in the initial assignments, there is a TBA slot open at both of their home events and they could be selected by their respective federations should they choose to compete.

Junior World Champion Julia Lipnitskaia will be on the Grand Prix this fall pending a decision at the upcoming ISU Congress that would prevent skaters from competing on the Grand Prix until they are 15 years old.  If this provision passes, she will have to withdraw from her events.  Junior World Silver Medalist Gracie Gold will make her Grand Prix debut.

Sinitsina and Zhiganshin, the Junior World Champions in Dance will make their Grand Prix debut this fall along with Nazarova/Nikitin who won silver at the Youth Olympic Games. 

Who's Out
Satoko Miyahara and Risa Shoji were eligible for Grand Prix assignments but elected to remain junior.

All three Junior World and Junior Grand Prix Final men's medalists (Han Yan, Joshua Farris, Jason Brown) will be returning to the Junior Grand Prix this fall.  A proposed rule would prevent skaters from returning to Junior Worlds if they competed on the Senior Grand Prix and it is possible their federations wanted to keep options open for the skaters. 
With the new rule change that pairs have to choose between the Junior and Senior Grand Prix, World Silver Medalists Yu and Jin have elected to remain juniors.  World Bronze medalists Davankova and Deputat will make their Junior Grand Prix debut this fall.  Simpson and Blackmer who won the bronze medal at the JGPF will also return to the JGP.

World Junior Silver Medalists Stepanova/Bukin and World Junior Bronze Medalists Aldridge/Eaton along with JGPF medalists Yanovskaya/Mozgov will all be returning to the Junior Grand Prix.  Papadakis and Cizeron were also eligible for a Grand Prix assignment but will remain junior.

 Skate America
Reigning World Silver Medalist Alena Leonova kicks off her season and will try to hold off Four Continents Champion Ashley Wagner in front of her home crowd.  World Bronze Medalist Adelina Sotnikova won two medals on the Grand Prix last season and will be looking to keep pace with Alena Leonova and earn a spot on the Russian world team.

World Bronze Medalist Yuzuru Hanyu kicks off his season here and will have to hold off Jeremy Abbott competing at his first Skate America.  Michal Brezina, the 2011 Skate America Champion is also in the mix.
TBA Slot: This slot could go to Evan Lysacek should he decide to compete this season.  All the U.S. men have two slots on the Grand Prix, so this pick could go to Armin Mahbanoozadeh, Stephen Carriere, Keegan Messing or Max Aaron who had strong outings at nationals.  This spot could be decided based on summer competitions or the Senior B in Salt Lake City.

World Silver Medalists Volosozhar and Trankov start their season at Skate America and they'll be up against 4th place finishers Pang and Tong.  Moore-Towers/Moscovitch also start their season here after a trip to the Grand Prix Final last season.  U.S. Champions Denney and Coughlin will attempt to bring home their first Grand Prix medal.  U.S. Pewter Medalists Donlan and Speroff make their Grand Prix debut. 
TBD Slot: Castelli/Shnapir, Vise/Baldwin, Davis/Ladwig and Yankowskas/Reagan all have one slot.  Castelli and Shnapir have the most experience as a team and are working on throw quad salchows.  Davis/Ladwig and Yankowskas/Reagan are both new pairings but could be ready to make their debut at Skate America.  Zhang/Bartholomay could also be given the nod after impressing at nationals.

World Silver Medalists Davis and White headline Skate America.  They'll be joined by Weaver and Poje who just missed the World podium.  Bobrova and Soloviev started strong last season but faded and were passed at Worlds by their countrymates.  They switched coaches in the off season and this will be their first chance to show off the changes. 
TBD Slots: Chock and Bates only have one assignment and could receive a second here.  Other teams to be considered are Cannuscio/McManus, Samuelson/Gilles and the new team of Olson/Hubbell. 

Skate Canada
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva returns to Skate Canada after winning this event last season.  She took the end of the season off to focus on her triple axel and should be competitive again.  She'll face off against World Bronze Medalist Akiko Suzuki who will try and improve on her best season ever.  World Junior Silver Medalist Gracie Gold makes her Grand Prix debut with a host of triple jumps and weighty expectations on her shoulders.  She'll be joined by Caroline Zhang who is on the comeback trail and won the bronze medal at Four Continents last season.
TBD Slot: Cynthia Phaneuf did not receive any Grand Prix assignments and will almost certainly recieve this spot unless Joannie Rochette decides to return to competition.

World Champion Patrick Chan will try and secure another Skate Canada title and restart his winning streak after losing to Daisuke Takahashi at the World Team Trophy.  Javier Fernandez burst onto the scene at this event last season and will try and win his third consecutive Grand Prix medal.  2011 World Bronze Medalist Artur Gachinski struggled last season but has a chance to win a medal here.  Florent Amodio, Ross Miner and Denis Ten are all armed with quads and finished last season strongly and will be in the medal contention.  Liam Firus of Canada makes his Grand Prix debut in front of a home crowd.
TBA Slot: Jeremy Ten finished 3rd at Canadian Nationals and is the highest ranked Canadian man without an assignment.  Elladj Balde competed here last season and finished 4th at Canadian nationals. 

World Champions Savchenko and Szolkowy make their season debut at Skate Canada.  They'll face off against Canadian Champs Duhamel and Radford.  Four Continents Bronze Medalists Marley and Brubaker are in the hunt for their first Grand Prix medal.
TBD Slot: Several of Canada's up and coming pairs teams have split and one of the new pairs could get this spot if they seem promising.  Steele and Schultz are the highest ranked Canadian team without an assignment.

World Champions Virtue and Moir start their title defense in front of their home crowd.  They'll face off agains the Italian team of Cappellini/Lanotte and the Russian team of Riazanova/Tkachenko.  Hubbell and Donohue impressed in their first season last year, earning a trip to Worlds and will be looking for their first Grand Prix medal.  Gilles and Poirier make their Grand Prix and international debut after winning the bronze medal at Canadian nationals last season.  Gilles and Donohue competed together for the U.S. on the junior circuit.
TBD Slot: Orford and Williams could receive their second assignment here or the slot could go to Paul and Islam who finished 5th at Canadian nationals and are the highest ranked Canadian team without an assignment.

Cup of China
World Champion Carolina Kostner kicks off her season at Cup of China.  She'll face World Junior Champion Julia Lipnitskaia in her Grand Prix debut after going undefeated on the junior circuit last season.  Mao Asada showed improvement last season, but failed to make the Worlds podium again and will have to continue building her momentum if she wants a medal in Sochi.  2011 World Champion Miki Ando returns to the Grand Prix after sitting out last season. 
TBD Slot: Zijun Li only has one assignment and will almost certainly get her second assignment here.
Potential Opening: If the rule change making 15 the minimum age for the Grand Prix passes and Julia Lipnitskaia has to withdraw, Alissa Czisny is first on the alternate list.  If she is not ready due to her surgery, Mirai Nagasu is next on the list but is already at this event so Kiira Korpi would get the nod.

World Silver Medalist Daisuke Takahashi starts his season in China against another veteran, Brian Joubert.  Adam Rippon, Nan Song and Kevin Reynolds will be in the medal hunt after mixed results last season.  Russian skater Artur Dmitriev will make his Grand Prix debut.
TBD Slot: Jialing Wu is the top ranked Chinese skater not returning to the Junior Grand Prix who does not have an assignment and will liely compete here.

Pang and Tong finish off their Grand Prix season in frnt of the home crowd and will try and hold off young phenoms Sui and Han.  Kavaguti and Smirnov took home the gold from this event last season and will look to repeat after injuries kept them off the podium at Worlds.  World Bronze Medalists Takahashi and Tran will try and hold off the competition and maintain their international reputation.  Two new pairings make their Grand Prix debut in China: Peng/Zhang and Yankowskas/Reagan.

World Bronze Medalists Pechalat and Bourzat kick off their season at this event.  They'll face their training mates and Four Continents Bronze Medalists Weaver and Poje along with World Junior Champions Sinitsina and Zhiganshin in their Grand Prix debut. 
TBD Slot: Yu/Wang only have one assignment on the Grand Prix and could be given this slot.

Rostelecom Cup
Alena Leonova headlines this event at home, but she'll have to fend off her countrymate, World Junior Bronze Medalist Adelina Sotnikova.  Gracie Gold will also be in the hunt for gold, having beat both these ladies in head to head competition last season.  Kanako Murakami, Kiira Korpi and Caroline Zhang could also grace the podium if they put out clean performances.  
TBA Slot: Sofia Biryukova, Polina Shelepen and Polina Korobeynikova all have one slot on the Grand Prix.  Both Polinas have the potential to put out medal worthy performances but struggle with consistency.  This spot will likely be between them and will go to whoever shows the most potential in monitoring events.

Patrick Chan will finish off his Grand Prix season in Russia where he'll face 2011 World Silver Medalist Takahiko Kozuka, 2011 World Bronze Medalist Artur Gachinski and Grand Prix Finalist Michal Brezina.  Johnny Weir makes his return to competition amongst this competitive field and will see where he stacks up with some of the World's best.  Zhan Bush makes his Grand Prix debut in front of the home crowd. 
TBA Slot--This slot will likely go to Evgeny Plushenko should he return to competition, however his name was not put forth in the initial selection where he was guaranteed an assignment so he may be planning to sit out the fall and recover from his surgeries. Artur Dmitriev, Sergei Voronov and Konstantin Menshov all have one assignment and could receive their second.

Volosozhar and Trankov headline their home event for the first time and will face off with their countrymates Bazarova and Larionov in their season debut.  Denney and Coughlin will be in the medal hunt along with the German team of Hausch/Wende.  Another German team, Vartmann/Van Cleave, make their Grand Prix debut.
TBA Slot: Gerboldt and Enbert are the only Russian team with one spot on the Grand Prix and with junior teams no longer able to compete on the Senior Grand Prix, they will likely recieve a second assignment.

World Champions Virtue and Moir look for gold while Ilinykh/Katsalapov and Shibutani/Shibutani battle it out for the podium in their season debuts.  World Junior Champions Sinitsina and Zhiganshin enter their second event of the season in front of their home crowd.  They'll face 2011 World Junior Champions Monko and Khaliavin in their Grand Prix debut after they missed last season due to injury.
TBA Slot: Pushkash/Guerriero only have one assignment and will likely receive their second assigment here.

Trophee Eric Bompard
In a stacked ladies event, World Champion Carolina Kostner and Junior World Champion face off for the second time.  Also in this field are 2011 World Champion Miki Ando, 2011 Trophee Eric Bompard Champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva and Four Continents Champion Ashley Wagner.  Kexin Zhang and Polina Korbeynikova also had impressive seasons last year and could sneak into the medals. 
TBA Slot: Mae Berenice Meite only has one spot on the Grand Prix and I would be shocked if she didn't take this slot.
Potential Opening: If Julia Lipnitskaia has to withdraw due to ISU rule changes, Alissa Czisny is first on the alternate list.  If she is not ready to compete, Mirai Nagasu is next on the list.

After stellar performances at Worlds, Brian Joubert and Florent Amodio will try for repeat performances in front of their home crowd.  They'll have to fend off Jeremy Abbott who is still looking to put together the perfect season but is a gold medal threat at any Grand Prix.  Nan Song will look to build on last season's momentum where he just missed qualifying for the Grand Prix Final and Johnny Weir will see how he stacks up against the reigning U.S. Men's Champion.
TBA Slot:  Chafik Besseghier has one spot on the Grand Prix and is a frequent TBA choice for this event.

World Champions Savchenko and Szolkowy will face off with Kavaguti and Smirnov for the gold medal in France.  Duhamel and Radford will try and complete the podium and keep pace with the top teams.  Berton/Hotarek and Peng/Zhang will also be in the medal hunt. 
TBA Slot: With Popova and Massot already assigned to this event, James and Cipres are the only other French team on the Grand Prix and should get their second assignment here. 

World Bronze Medalists Pechalat and Bourzat compete in front of their home crowd for the gold medal.  The rest of the field is a rematch of Skate Canada with several teams vying for the podium and looking to maintain or improve on their performances.
TBA Slot: Zahorski and Miart were impressive as juniors but missed much of last season due to injury.  They were expected to do well at Europeans but failed to qualify for the short dance.  They should receive their Grand Prix debut here.

NHK Trophy
Akiko Suzuki will attempt to defend her NHK Trophy title against countrymate Mao Asada.  Alissa Czisny returns to the Grand Prix after sitting out the beginning of the season due to injury.  Two young skaters make their Grand Prix debut: China's Zijun Li and Russia's Polina Shelepen. 
Potential Opening: If Alissa Czisny is still not recovered from her surgery, this spot will be filled from the alternate list.  Mirai Nagasu is first in line, but if Lipnitskaia has to withdraw from her events, she and Kiira Korpi will have already received their second assignments.  Next on the list is three Russian ladies, who are already at this event or cannot be assigned because Rusisa laready has three entries.  After that is Zijun Li who is already assigned to this event.  The alternate will likely be Mae Berenice Meite if she hasn't been assigned to Trophee Eric Bompard or Joshi Helgesson.

Daisuke Takahashi headlines his home event but will have to hold off Yuzuru Hanyu who beat him in the free skate at Worlds.  This event is being held in Sendai which was hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and is the home town of Hanyu so he may have the edge in terms of crowd support.  Javier Fernandez, Adam Rippon and Ross Miner will all be fighting for the final spot on the podium. 

World Bronze Medalists Takahashi and Tran will try and hold off a strong field at home and claim a Grand Prix gold.  They'll face Russians Bazarova/Larionov and Canadians Moore-Towers/Moscovitch who are frequent medal winners on the Grand Prix.  Rivals Sui and Han will also be at this event and with quad throws and twists, they can run away with the technical score. Americans Marley/Brubaker are also in the mix along with Castelli/Shnapir who have throw quads and throw triple axels in their arsenal.  Davis and Ladwig make their Grand Prix debut.
Davis and White will be looking to secure a trip to the Grand Prix Final in front of the Japanese crowd and hold off their training mates Shibutani/Shibutani.  Ilinykh and Katsalapov face off against the Shibutanis for the second time this season and will be aiming for a medal finish.  Orford and Williams of Canada make their Grand Prix debut.

1 comment:

  1. "Gerboldt and Enbert are the only Russian team with one spot on the Grand Prix and with junior teams no longer able to compete on the Senior Grand Prix, they will likely recieve a second assignment."

    there're good pairs in Russia who have no GP slotes at all.