Our focus is moves from Paris to Russia as we prepare for the second stop on the Grand Prix, Rostelecom Cup in Moscow. Who are the players?
The ladies event looks to be dominated by the top two Japanese heavy hitters. Mao Asada will look to improve her performance from last week in Paris and move to the top of the podium while reigning World Bronze Medalist Miki Ando will make her season debut in Moscow. Reigning American Champ Alissa Czisny is in the field so we'll keep an eye on her. American Ashley Wagner is also getting her season underway in Moscow. The surprise of the competition, however, may end up being young upstart Alena Leonova who'll be competing in front of a home crowd and has shown an ability to feed off of crowd energy...she loves a spotlight. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Mao Asada), SILVER (Miki Ando), BRONZE (Ashley Wagner)
The Ice Dance field will be clearly dominated by Americans Davis and White. With the withdrawal of Domnina and Shabalin (apparently Maxim began training too soon after knee surgery which has complicated his recovery) it's clear sailing for the Americans barring some unforeseen disaster. I see a fun race for the silver and bronze shaping up. Three teams will be in the battle including Crone and Poirier of Canada who delighted on last season's Grand Prix. I expect the Italian team of Cappellini and Lanotte to skate well. Also, the Russian team on Rubleva and Shefer looked very strong at Trophy Eric Bompard and may have a shot at the podium. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Davis & White), SILVER (Cappellini & Lanotte), BRONZE (Crone & Poirier)
Rostelecom marks the return to competition for Evgeny Plushenko. Reports suggest that he's fit and ready for the competition. Shame we will not see Patrick Chan in this competition as he has decided to let an injury heal and will push his season debut back to the final event in the Grand Prix series, Skate Canada. It remains, nontheless, an exciting event. American Johnny Weir gets his season underway. He's very comfortable competing in Russia (he has tons of fans there) and tends to skate well at this event. Another American, Brandon Mroz, is also competing here in Russia. Japan's Takahiko Kozuka will also get his season started in Moscow. A couple of other skaters to watch out for; Belgium's Kevin Van der Perren (who is coming off of a terrible outing at the Finlandia Trophy) and France's Florent Amodio. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Johnny Weir), SILVER (Evgeny Plushenko), BRONZE (Takahiko Kozuka)
In the pairs competition three teams have my eye. The Chinese team of Pang and Tong have their season opener here in Moscow. They are one of three teams in an incredibly deep Chinese pairs field this season (with the return of Shen and Zhao). Americans McLaughlin and Brubaker also have their season opener in Moscow. It'll be interesting to see how they've progressed under the watchful eye of John Nicks. Russian's Kavaguti and Smirnov, reigning World Bronze Medalists, will attempt to match their teammates success in Paris with a win of their own here in Moscow. I'm going to keep a careful eye on the other two young Russian teams competing here, one of them may very well be the third team the Russian Federation chooses to send to Vancouver. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Kavaguti & Smirnov), SILVER (Pang & Tong), BRONZE (McLaughlin and Brubaker)