Tomorrow, the Grand Prix Series wraps up in Kitchener, Ontario with HomeSense Skate Canada. This competition will also finalize the line-up for December's Grand Prix Final in Tokyo, Japan.
The Ice Dance competition features reigning World Bronze Medalists Virtue and Moir of Canada. Like every single dance event this season, the favorites (Virtue and Moir) will go virtually unchallenged. We are robbed of a fun battle for silver which would have been a deciding factor in who makes the Grand Prix Final as Faiella and Scali have withdrawn citing injury, so Pechalat and Bourzat of France have a clear road towards silver, and presumably, a clear path to the Grand Prix Final. The bronze medal will be scrapped out between American's Samuelson and Bates and Russians Bobrova and Soloviev. Lithuanians Copley and Stagniunas have also withdrawn. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Virtue and Moir, (SILVER) Pechalat and Bourzat, (BRONZE) Samuelson and Bates
The men's event, is packed, and gives reigning World Silver Medalist Patrick Chan a chance to finally get his season underway after withdrawing from Rostelecom Cup with a left calf injury. It will be interesting to see if the limited training time effects the Canadian Champ at the event. Looking to rebound from sub-par performances at NHK Trophy are Japan's Daisuke Takahashi and American Jeremy Abbott. Jeremy will need to find consistency and Daisuke will need greater endurance. Endurance will also be a factor for Belgium's Kevin Van der Perren who looked downright winded at the end of his free skate in Russia. Samuel Contesti surprised me by skating fairly well in Beijing, perhaps his Incan-inspired Free Skate will serve him well here. The wild card in the event is Michal Brezina who delighted at NHK in the wake of Takahashi and Abbott's struggles. A solid performance here can put the Czech on the podium and get him to his first Grand Prix Final. Other medal chasers are Kazakstan's Denis Ten, France's Alban Preaubert, and American Stephen Carriere. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Patrick Chan, (SILVER) Daisuke Takahashi, (BRONZE) Jeremy Abbott
The Pairs event is a repeat of Eric Bompard Trophy with all three medalist from that event competing in Kitchener. Russian's Mukhortova and Trankov will try to repeat their solid performance from Paris that brought them the Gold Medal. Canadian's Dube and Davison will look to improve upon their silver performance from Paris while the reigning World Champions from Germany will look to skate much better. In Paris, Savchenko and Szolkowy had a meltdown in the free skate, only placing fourth in that portion of the competition and almost losing the bronze to American's Inoue and Baldwin. Speaking of American's, Denney and Barrett will get another shot at a medal after a disappointing free skate in Nagano. Canadian's Hay and Langlois also make their Grand Prix debut here in Kitchener. I'm keeping an eye on American's Yankowskas and Coughlin...their dynamic lifts and ability to pull you in their performance might be the recipe for a surprise upset. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Savchenko and Szolkowy, (SILVER) Mukhortova and Trankov, (BRONZE) Dube and Davison
Two big stories are playing out amongst the women. One, can Joannie Rochette rebound from a rocky performance in Beijing and shine through at home and two, can Akiko Suzuki seize this opportunity to cement as the leading Japanese women currently competing (and, perhaps, nail down a trip to Vancouver). It will be terribly interesting to see how these two skate. This competition is far from predictable and really wide open. American Mirai Nagasu, who won the short program in Beijing, defeating Suzuki and Rochette, is here. For her, the key will be fully rotating her jumps. In Beijing she was charged with multiple downgrades in her free skate. If she can get those jumps around she'll be in the mix for gold. Two other American's are competing in Kitchener. Caroline Zhang will need to improve the expression in her program and Alissa Czisny will need to land jumps. Solid performances from them also put them in the mix. European Champ Laura Lepisto of Finland will need to land the tougher jumps in her program to be in contention, a feat she failed to do in Nagano. Sarah Meier has withdrawn citing injury. Lots of must do's for the women at HomeSense Skate Canada. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Joannie Rochette, (SILVER) Akiko Suzuki, (BRONZE) Laura Lepisto