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    Pj Kwong

    About Pj Kwong

    With more than 25 years of coaching experience, Pj Kwong is one of Canada's best known figure skating experts. She has worked with CBC Sports as a commentator and analyst since 2007.

Figure Skating

Pj Kwong - Wednesday Oct. 23, 2013 15:41

Pj's Preview: Skate Canada

CBC analyst Pj Kwong makes her predictions for Skate Canada

  • Patrick Chan
    1 gallery_of 10

    Three-time world champion Patrick Chan will face a strong men's field when he competes Friday at Skate Canada. (Koji Sasahara/Associated Press)

    1/10
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
    2 gallery_of 10

    Canadian and ice dance Olympic champions Scott Moir, left, and Tessa Virtue should win their fourth Skate Canada title in Saint John, N.B., this weekend. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

    2/10
  •  Kaetlyn Osmond
    3 gallery_of 10

    National champion Kaetlyn Osmond, 17, was the surprise winner at the 2012 Skate Canada international. (Geoff Robins/Getty Images)

    3/10
  • Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
    4 gallery_of 10

    Canadian ice dancers skaters Kaitlyn Weaver, left, and Andrew Poje finished an impressive fifth in the world in 2013, and that was after Kailtyn’s recovery from a broken ankle. They should easily finish on the podium at Skate Canada. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

    4/10
  • Gracie Gold
    5 gallery_of 10

    American Gracie Gold placed sixth at the 2013 world championships and Four Continents. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

    5/10
  • Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
    6 gallery_of 10

    Two-time Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are strong favourites in the pairs event. (Atsushi Tomora/Getty Images)

    6/10
  •  Wenjing Sui and Cong Han
    7 gallery_of 10

    China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han have struggled to replicate the success they had as juniors, when they won three world championships. (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

    7/10
  • Yuzuru Hanyu
    8 gallery_of 10

    Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu won bronze at the 2013 world championships and poses a threat to Canadian favourite Patrick Chan. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

    8/10
  • Julia Lipnitskaia
    9 gallery_of 10

    2012 world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia recently took the Finlandia event, and medalled at both her Grand Prix events a year ago in her debut season. (Kimmo Mantyla/Getty Images)

    9/10
  • Nobunari Oda
    10 gallery_of 10

    Japan’s Nobunari Oda beat Patrick Chan in the long program at a Toronto-area competition this summer, signalling his return to contender status. (Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)

    10/10
  • Patrick Chan
  • Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir
  •  Kaetlyn Osmond
  • Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje
  • Gracie Gold
  • Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford
  •  Wenjing Sui and Cong Han
  • Yuzuru Hanyu
  • Julia Lipnitskaia
  • Nobunari Oda

PJ'S PODIUM PICKS FOR SKATE CANADA:

  • Men: Patrick Chan (Canada)
  • Women: Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia)
  • Pairs: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (Canada)
  • Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (Canada)

This weekend's Skate Canada International in Saint John is going to be an interesting competition across the board.  

For the Canadians, it's a chance to get some competition experience, and develop or enhance their credibility on the way to vying for one of the Olympic berths for Sochi 2014. 

The men’s event is the one I am waiting for. Three-time and current world champion Patrick Chan of Toronto is the man to beat, on paper at least, in Sochi. 

His road to the Olympic Games starts in Saint John and taking the title will by no means be a walk in the park. He has the skating goods — outstanding skating skill, overall technique and choreography — but will have to deliver on the day. The day for him this week happens at Skate Canada.

I think Chan’s primary rivals at the event will be two of the Japanese skaters. 

Nobunari Oda a few seasons ago was the Japanese man to watch. He ran into a couple of problems on and off the ice and slipped off the radar. That all changed in August, when he beat Chan in the long program at a local Toronto-area competition, signalling his return to contender status.

The other Japanese man in question is Yuzuru Hanyu. He beat Chan at the Grand Prix final last season, taking the silver ahead of Chan’s bronze. 

Hanyu has the same choreographic advantages that Chan has in Jeffrey Buttle and David Wilson. He also has the same youthful energy and ability. 

The men’s event will be a great test of skill against competitive will.

Eager to see Virtue and Moir

The dance event belongs to the two top Canadian teams. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will undoubtedly end up with their fourth Skate Canada title in Saint John. I like what I have seen on YouTube and look forward to seeing their programs live in order to see how they stack up against the field.

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje finished in an impressive fifth place in the world in 2013 — and that was after Weaver's swift recovery from a catastrophic ankle break last December. Looking poised and prepared at the Skate Canada High Performance Camp in September, I think that they will easily take the silver at Skate Canada.

The women’s event presents a bit of a quandary for me. The Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond was the surprise winner at last year's Skate Canada and followed it up with an eighth-place finish at worlds. 

Subsequently, though, she has struggled a bit with injuries so I'm not convinced that she's as prepared as she will be in a couple of months. 

It’s for that reason that I'm looking to a couple of American women, namely Gracie Gold and Courtney Hicks, to fill in the gap.  

Both women are strong competitors and I like the fact that they are both aggressive, leaving nothing on the ice to chance.

There is also the fabulous Akiko Suzuki from Japan who reminds me of the Longfellow poem: “When she was good, she was very, very good/And when she was bad, she was horrid.” She is, of course, never really awful. But when she makes mistakes it highlights such a contrast to her obvious abilities. 

The other woman’s name that leaps from the entry list is 2012 world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia. She recently took the Finlandia event, and medalled at both her Grand Prix events a year ago in her début season. She would have been at the Grand Prix Final and Russian nationals had she not suffered a severe concussion in training in December 2012. She is recovered, back and ready to compete.

Duhamel and Radford a sure win

The pairs will take the ice on Friday and Saturday, and it will be Canadian champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford’s event to lose. Do I think that will happen? Not really, as Duhamel and Radford are as prepared for this Olympic season as anybody could be.

The three-time world junior champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han showed up to Skate Canada in 2011 and won the silver medal. They missed most of the 2012-13 season while Sui was recovering from a knee injury. For the moment they are a bit of an unknown quantity, so I'm looking forward to seeing how far back they have come.

This competition also offers Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers; Margaret Purdy and Michael Marinaro, and the European bronze medallists, Italians Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek, an opportunity to creep into the judges’ and fans’ collective consciousness.

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