Thursday marks the beginning of the 2009 Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. This is an important competition not only because top talent will be competing but many competitors are on a quest to attempt to qualify berths at the 2010 Olympic Games.
Two men have a realistic chance of qualifying berths for the Olympics (the qualifying process begins with Nebelhorn but it does not end here). Switzerland's Stéphane Lambiel begins his comeback bid here and realistically has to be seen as the clear favorite. It will be the first time we will have seen him in competition mode since the 2008 World Championships and give us a picture of how successful his comeback may be. Also with a solid chance of qualifying a berth for Azerbaijan is former Canadian competitor Fedor Andreev who recently won the Skate Detroit competition. His stock is on the rise and I expect he'll skate well. Plenty of other talent to keep an eye on including Czech skater Michael Brezina who won this event in 2007. France's innovative Yannick Ponsero is in the mix as is the 2004 World Bronze medalist Stefan Lindemann who'll be skating at home. Ryan Bradley from the U.S. will make his season debut in Germany.
This event has a fairly solid pairs and dance field. In Pairs, World Champions Savchenko and Szolkowy look to begin their season with an easy win. Also competing are Ukranians Volosozhar and Morozov, Canadians Langlois and Hay, and Americans Castille and Okolski. The Ice Dance competition gives Americans Davis and White a chance to get early feedback on their dances this season.
Amongst the women, three ladies I feel have a near equal chance at taking the title. Alissa Czisny, who won the title last season, Kiira Korpi, and Sarah Meier all have a shot, just depends who shows up with their jumping legs. Hungary's Julia Sebestyen, 2004 European Champion, is competing but unfortunately she hasn't been much of a factor in recent years.
UPDATE: Terrible news. Fedor Andreev will not be competing at Nebelhorn Trophy and thus will be unable to qualify for the 2010 Olympic Games. The reason...the Azerbaijan Skating Federation forget the paperwork! He and teammate Joelle Forte (who used to compete for the U.S.) were forced to withdraw because of the mishap. You can check out the full scoop at Jenny Kirk's blog. How unfortunate.
UPDATE #2: Sarah Meier has also withdrawn from Nebelhorn.
UPDATE #3: A quick update with the winners of this event. No surprises really. Switzerland's Stéphane Lambiel won the men's event. American Alissa Czisny took the ladies title (despite a sixth place free skate). Pairs title easily went to reigning World Champs Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany. The dance title went to Americans Davis and White.