So the Grand Prix makes it's way here to the U.S. for Cancer.Net Skate America. This competition will begin to finalize the Grand Prix Final line-up with next weeks' Skate Canada completing it.
*I'm desperately sad I will not be there. Who invented career's anyway?
Ice Dance, like NHK, is a no brainer with the clear front runners being American's Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. While they likely wont be pushed in Lake Placid, they need to push themselves to get closer to the scores achieved by Virtue and Moir as well as their teammates Davis and White this season. Although they won in Beijing, their scores were below the other afore mentioned teams. Barring some unforeseen cosmic disaster, Khoklova and Novitski should comfortably win the silver and and Cappellini and Lanotte the bronze. Cappellini and Lanotte are in a tight race for the final and their scores here may ultimately be the deciding factor in a tie-breaker. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Belbin and Agosto, (SILVER) Khoklova and Novitski, (BRONZE) Cappellini and Lanotte
The ladies competition will likely be a fight for silver and bronze. If South Korea's Kim Yu-Na has half the skate she had in Paris, this competition was decided months ago. The judges have sent a clear message, they like what she's doing on the ice, and if she can manage to not hiccup on her triple flip and skate clean, will likely set a new world record. Even if she makes mistakes, the title is likely still easily her. In her wake, several competitors will be attempting to pick up the leftovers including Rachael Flatt of the U.S. Rachael had a rough start to the season in Beijing with one of her roughest skates in years. Making a small comeback (since we are again robbed of Cohen's) is Emily Hughes. This will be her first international competition since last season's Eric Bompard Trophy (which was her only international last season as well) after some time off to nurse a hip injury. It will be interesting to see how she does and if we need to put her back in the mix of those skaters within reach of an Olympic berth. I'm watching Julia Sebestyen who for a second looked to be back on form when she won the short program at Rostelecom Cup but returned to mediocrity in the free, Susanna Pöykiö who is attempting to snatch that second coveted Finnish Olympic berth, and Elene Gedevanishvili who is a little firecracker and can dazzle when she's on. The final skater to keep an eye on is Japan's Fumie Suguri who, like Rachael Flatt, looked rusty in Beijing, but has in the past proven to be a worthy competitor. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Kim Yu-Na, (SILVER) Rachael Flatt, (BRONZE) Fumie Suguri
The men's competition looks to be a close match up between World Champ Evan Lysacek and Czech Champ Tomas Verner. Both won silver behind Nobunari Oda in their season openers and look poised to square off in Lake Placid. I think Evan has the upper hand, he looked very polished in Beijing with his new programs but Verner has a new sophistication on the ice this season which is refreshing to see. Great match up! If either of these two stumble there is a cast of characters waiting to capitalize including Evan's teammate Brandon Mroz who, after a terrible short program in Moscow, came back strong in the free skate. If he can put two programs together he'll be a medal threat. Also coming off a weak performance in Russia and looking to skate better will be Frenchman Florent Amodio. Also in the mix will be choreography savy Shawn Sawyer and quad consistent Kevin Reynolds both of Canada and the two entertainers; Adrian Schultheiss of Sweden and American Ryan Bradley. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Evan Lysacek, (SILVER) Tomas Verner, (BRONZE) Brandon Mroz
Finally, the Pairs competition gives Shen and Zhao the opportunity to cement their comeback and name themselves squarely as the Olympic Favorites. It's also another opportunity for Zhang and Zhang, also of China, and Volosozhar and Morozov of Ukraine to compete better against the Chinese veterans. All three teams squared off in Beijing and Shen and Zhao left them in the dust despite having been away from competition since 2007. Added to the mix is U.S. Champs McLaughlin and Brubaker who squeaked out a bronze in Russia and will need to improve here to hit the podium. 2007 U.S. Champs Castile and Okolski make their first appearance on the Grand Prix in years, in the past they've been forced to withdraw from their events due to injury and will look to capitalize on this early season outing. Duhamel and Buntin of Canada will also try to improve upon their Grand Prix debut. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Shen and Zhao, (SILVER) Zhang and Zhang, (BRONZE) McLaughlin and Brubaker