Surprise #1: Pang and Tong. I thought their free skate was awesome. Maybe I’m a sucker for Man of La Mancha but I just loved this program. I feel they are in their comfort zone this season with their programs and I suspect they’ll be able to keep up with their Chinese counterparts. I thought they might get bested by the Russians here but they prevailed.
Surprise #2: Evgeny Plushenko. While I always thought he had a decent shot at winning this competition, I expected there to be a little rust after not competing at this level for so long. Well, he showed no rust at all and after his performance he has to be considered the early favorite for Olympic Gold. I was simply astounded by his performance level (see video below).
Surprise #3: Johnny Weir. On the flip side from Plushenko was Johnny Weir who didn’t look nearly as prepared as I expected him to be. While his programs are solid, I don’t think they have what it takes to be competitive with many of the other men this season. I was expecting a brand new Johnny this season and I feel I got more of the same. I’m feeling a bit short-changed here. He said he was mad in a post-event interview with David Pelletier…let’s see how mad he really is.
Surprise #4: Davis and White. Whoa! We had some stellar dancing last week in Paris from Virtue and Moir and people were already talking about them being shoe-in’s for Olympic Gold. Then, Davis and White bump it up a notch and hardcore bring it in Moscow. The lifts these teams are doing this season are crazy and I just love the competition that is being set up for Vancouver. Outstanding!
Surprise #5: Mao Asada. I just am sad for her. She probably is blessed with the most natural ability of any skater ever but something has gone terribly wrong for her the last year-an-a-half. There’s conflicting reports rather she will switch her SP or not (it would be a wise decision), she’s more than likely not going to make the Grand Prix Final after that 5th place finish, and even her spot on the Olympic Team looks iffy given that the Japanese Federation is doling out Olympic berths based upon the Grand Prix (Although I can’t imagine a scenario where she doesn’t make that team. Even at her worst she is capable of competing with the best.). Suguri and Suzuki all of a sudden are contenders here. Something has to give. I had her pegged as the easy winner here without Kim in the field and Miki Ando and four other skaters just waltzed over her like there was nothing to it.
Surprise #6: Ashley Wagner. Why she didn’t pull out the victory (Miki Ando did that with a rather bland performance to Cleopatra), she did put herself as a serious contender for one of the two Olympic berths the U.S. has for the women. She put down two great programs (work on those edge deductions) and not only earned some international props in the process but sub-planted the reigning National Champ Alissa Czisny (finished off the podium in 4th) in the process.
You can take a look at the full results here. This week the Grand Prix pit stops in Beijing, China.