Pj's Preview: Skate America
CBC analyst Pj Kwong picks the winners in Detroit
PJ'S PODIUM PICKS FOR SKATE AMERICA
- Men: Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)*
- Women: Mao Asada (Japan)
- Pairs: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (Russia)
- Dance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White (U.S.A.)
By the time Worlds rolls around in March, it feels like the fall figure skating Grand Prix season will never get here. Well here it is: the start of the six-event series with a seventh known as the ISU Grand Prix Final set to get under way this weekend in Detroit.
There is speculation at the start of any new season about what’s going to happen — and I for one am ready to toss out my own opinions.
Let’s look at the men’s field. There will be lots of talent competing, including 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. As the reigning Olympic bronze medallist, Takahashi wants to make sure that his name is top of mind in this Olympic season. Since his banner year in 2010, when he took the Olympic medal and won the world title, Takahashi has been uneven in his competitive performances during the last couple of seasons. Not only has he struggled with injuries, but the ravages of time can be harsh for an athlete. This doesn’t mean that he can’t compete; it just means that we can’t be sure on any given day if he will do so to his full potential.
There are a number of men who are looking to establish themselves as strong competitors in this first Grand Prix event. Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka is looking to regain the success he had as the world silver medallist in 2011, as is Russia’s Artur Gachinski, who won the world bronze in the same season. American champion Max Aaron demonstrated with a seventh-place finish in his debut at Worlds in 2013 that he will also be aiming for a podium finish.
American to defend women's title?
The women’s field is equally strong. I am really looking forward to seeing reigning junior world champion Elena Radionova’s debut on the Grand Prix circuit. Russia’s Radionova won last season’s Junior Grand Prix Final and the recent senior Nebelhorn Trophy competition, which means she has already been making her presence felt.
Two-time American champion Ashley Wagner is a wonderful combination of technical strength and great presentation. I am eagerly anticipating her Grand Prix debut as she looks to defend her Skate America title.
The other name that jumps off the women’s entries’ page is 2010 Olympic silver medallist and two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan. She is a definite sentimental favourite, having overcome huge personal challenges like the loss of her mother in December 2011. Asada is the reigning world bronze medallist and brings with her a huge amount of competitive experience that should stand her in good stead in Detroit.
Canadian contenders in pairs competition
I would be very surprised if the two-time European and reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, of Russia, don’t win the Skate America title given their dominance this past season.
What I am looking forward to seeing is how well former Canadian pair champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch stack up against them. Moore-Towers and Moscovitch were outstanding in London, Ont., (where the world championships were held) and finished off there as the fourth best team in the world. Their bid to be considered as contenders for the podium in Sochi starts in Detroit.
Ice dance is easy to peg: reigning world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White will undoubtedly have a lock on their fourth Skate America title. Their biggest rivals in Detroit will be Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, whose fourth-place finish at Worlds in 2013 demonstrated that they were to be taken seriously.
I like that the ice dancers are all jockeying for position and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani try to make a move for the Skate America podium. The Shibutanis are a charming brother and sister team who have been trying for the last two seasons to reclaim the status they held as world bronze medallists in 2011.
* Pj's Podium Picks were updated October 17, after Denis Ten announced he would not be competing.
For full coverage of the men's and dance programs at Skate America, watch CBC Sports Weekend Saturday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. ET and Sunday, Oct. 20 at 1 p.m. ET.