Monday, October 12, 2009

Skaters...Start Your Engines!

The Senior Grand Prix is finally upon us and it's time for the big match-ups to begin! Some of the best skaters in the world have descended upon the beautiful Paris, France for the beginning of the Senior Grand Prix, Trophee Eric Bompard.

The ladies event in Paris will provide a bang right from the start with heavy hitters Mao Asada of Japan and Kim Yu-Na of Korea doing battle in the first major competition of the season. Unfortunately, Olympic Silver Medalist, American Sasha Cohen will miss the party as she withdrew last week citing injury. The competition is still packed however. The competition will be 'spiced' up with Italian Carolina Kostner who is trying to comeback from last season's disastrous performance at Worlds. Yukari Nakano (did everyone see her dislocate her shoulder then pop it back into place while skating at the Japan Open?) will be trying to prove she deserves a trip to Vancouver in a very deep Japanese field, and American Caroline Zhang will try to prove she has 'Olympic Fortitude' with an eye on Vancouver as well. I wouldn't count out Finland's Kiira Korpi or Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili either. I'm excited about this, what a fantastic group of skaters! Medal Predictions: GOLD (Kim Yu-Na), SILVER (Mao Asada), BRONZE (Carolina Kostner)

In Ice Dance, Canadians Virtue and Moir look to be the favorites but the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat made big improvements last season and with the support of the French crowd may have the advantage. Also in the medal mix will be Great Britain's brother and sister team of Kerr and Kerr. I'm keeping my eye on Carron and Jones. Pernelle Carron had an ugly split with former partner Matthieu Jost last season and this is the new team's international debut. This will be Carron's third partner and Jones' second (he formerly competed for Britain). There's an impressive American Trio in the event with Samuelson and Bates, Navarro and Bommentre, and Hubbell and Hubbell...the three teams that finished 2, 3, 4 respectively at last season's U.S. Nationals in Cleveland. Notably absent is France's Delobel and Schoenfelder who will not debut until later this season as Isabelle just gave birth to a baby boy! Medal Predictions: GOLD (Virtue & Moir), SILVER (Pechalat & Bourzat), BRONZE (Kerr & Kerr)

In pairs, World Champions Savchenko and Szolkowy of Germany look to have an easy path to victory but a couple of teams may get in the way. Canadians Dube and Davison have, at times, shown flashes of brilliance and if they can bring their 'A' game to Paris they'll be competitive with the Germans. Russia's Mukhortova and Trankov have yet to put a competition together. No one questions their ability to compete with the best in the world, only their ability to deliver when under pressure. If they also skate well, they'll be tough competition. Also competing is Americans Inoue and Baldwin who, at times, have been formidable. I'll be interested in seeing if they 1) try a throw triple axel and 2) have solid side-by-side triple jumps. It'll take one or the other (possibly both) to be competitive with the previously mentioned teams. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Savchenko & Szolkowy), SILVER (Mukhortova & Trankov), BRONZE (Dube & Davison)

Finally, the men's event could be a sweet treat for the French. Brian Joubert looked a bit unprepared at the French Masters competition last month. Hopefully he will have fined tuned his skating (and yes, choreography too) to be ready for this event which in the past has not always been kind to him. Still, you have to consider the World Bronze Medalist the favorite coming in. Joubert's stiffest competition may come from fellow teammates Alban Preaubert and Yannick Ponsero. Preaubert tends to do well at the event having twice won the bronze and Yannick Ponsero has inventive style that can bring in big component scores. A French sweep is not only possible, but I say at least 25% likely. However, there are few skaters who will attempt to 'pluie sur la parade français.' Czech Republic's Tomas Verner in fact will attempt to win the whole thing, but he'll need to bring consistency in his jumps to accomplish it. Japan's Nobunari Oda could also spoil the fun for Team France and Verner by winning the competition himself. Russia's Sergei Voronov is in the competition and can be a factor (especially if he brings that textbook quad toe) and reigning Junior World Champion American Adam Rippon will also be in the thick of it. Medal Predictions: GOLD (Oda), SILVER (Joubert), BRONZE (Ponsero)

Don't forget, here in the U.S. NBC will be broadcasting this event on Sunday, October 18th.

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