Pj's Preview: Cup of China
Olympic contenders in the spotlight
PJ'S PODIUM PICKS FOR CUP OF CHINA:
- Men: Denis Ten (Kazakhstan)
- Women: Carolina Kostner (Italy)
- Pairs: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (Germany)
- Dance: Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (Russia)
If there is one thing that the next Grand Prix event known as the Cup of China will offer, it’s the chance to see more Olympic contenders in action. All four disciplines will feature podium finishers from current and past world championships, indicating a superior level of competition.
Denis Ten, the 2013 world silver medallist from Kazakhstan, withdrew suddenly from Skate America two weeks ago with injuries. By all accounts he is ready to go, albeit not yet in 100 per cent form. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to put himself in a race against skaters like Japan’s 2011 world silver medallist Takahiko Kozuka and 2011 European Champion Florent Amodio of France. Amodio and Kozuka are interesting because they both have the hardware to prove they’re competitive but are known to be inconsistent. (Kozuka finished sixth at Skate America two weeks ago.) If there was ever a moment to get back on track for these two, defeating the world’s second-best skater this weekend would be it.
Carolina Kostner has been on the podium at worlds five times, including as the champion in 2012. I love her capacity for musical interpretation, and when she is able to skate past her nerves and include her technical arsenal, she is a force to be reckoned with. Her biggest threat in China will come from two different women: Kanako Murakami, who finished just off the 2013 World podium in fourth, and Russian phenom Adelina Sotnikova, who finished second to Kostner at the 2013 European championships by a mere 0.72 points.
The 2013 world bronze medallists in ice dance were Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. It was a breakthrough season for this team last year, which saw them push ahead of their two closest rivals and finish on the podium in London, Ont., at worlds. One of those teams, Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat from France, will be in China and will be looking to get their spot back. What I like about the Russians is their extraordinary speed and technique. Will they have the same high-calibre material that we have already seen from other Olympic podium contenders like Davis and White from the USA, or Virtue and Moir from Canada? That remains to be seen.
The German team of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are top pair contenders — and incredibly clever ones. The four-time world and European champions used the mathematical advantage that a throw triple Axel would give them as the final element in their 2013 World’s free program, allowing them to sneak ahead of Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and take the silver medal. Savchenko and Szolkowy are the reigning Olympic bronze medallists and since Vancouver have come to realize that they will need all of their resources to reach the top of the podium in Sochi. In the meantime, the 2010 Olympic silver medallists, China’s China Qing Pang and Jian Tong, have also been trying to stay ahead of the pack.
To see which of these two teams will prevail will mean one more piece of the Olympic pair puzzle revealed.