I knew the event was approaching but literally was not expecting it so soon...when I decided to actually look at the event schedule I was like..."It's tomorrow (today if you live in Korea!)!"
So the event everyone likes to forget about in an Olympic Year doesn't have quite the star power it would have in a non-Olympic year but nonetheless packs a little punch. It may be a chance for some new faces to break through just in time for Vancouver (or maybe World's or next season as a lot of the competitors here aren't schedule to go to Vancouver).
The Dance event will be dominated by the American and Canadian Teams. Weaver and Poje put up a hell of a fight to make the Canadian Ice Dance Olympic Team coming up just (and I mean JUST) short. They've made great strides this season and think will challenge for the gold here. Their biggest competition will likely be reigning Junior World Champions, Americans Chock and Zuerlein who recently finished 5th at U.S. Nationals. Madison and Keiffer Hubbell look poised to be in the medal picture as well but may be chased down by Canadians Ralph and Hill and fellow teammates Summersett and Gilles. Predictions: Weaver and Poje (GOLD), Chock and Zuerlein (SILVER), Hubbell and Hubbell (BRONZE)
The Men's event is a little harder to shake out. On paper you'd have to say the Americans, Adam Rippon, Ryan Bradley, and Brandon Mroz, look dominant but Team Canada looks fairly strong as well with Kevin Reynolds (who nabbed the bronze at Canadian Nationals and barely missed a trip to Vancouver), Joey Russell, and Shawn Sawyer. Team Japan and China, with no big names really, may surprise us and then there is wildcard Denis Ten of Kazakhstan who really is the best of the bunch but is often plagued with inconsistencies. Denis is one of the few in the field that WILL be in Vancouver and I'm sure coach Tatiana Tarasova would love for him to throw down two solid performances here heading towards the Olympics. He can be, without doubt, a medal threat in Vancouver if he skates clean. He takes it all so seriously, he just needs to cut loose. In the short program at HomeSense Skate Canada he showed flashes of what could be. Predicitons: Adam Rippon (GOLD), Ryan Bradley (SILVER), Denis Ten (BRONZE)
The Pairs event should (should...) be a runaway for Zhang and Zhang of China but this team has seemingly come apart at the seams this season. Less than great performances in China and the U.S. and an equally uninspiring performance at the Grand Prix Final in Japan have this team in trouble. While I'm not certain this is the cause, it seems all this teams forward momentum came to a screeching halt with the return of Shen and Zhao. It must be frustrating to have worked for all these years only to be waltzed over by a team that was away from competition for a couple of years. If Zhang and Zhang continue to struggle there are plenty of teams to pick up the slack including Duhamel and Buntin who just missed making the Canadian Olympic Team. Also in the hunt is McLaughlin and Brubaker who are coming off a devastating performance at U.S. Nationals that left them off the podium and Olympic Tema...a little redemption is the works perhaps? Also, from the U.S., Yankowskas and Coughlin, who almost pulled off making the Olympic Team after placing second in the short in Spokane, will be in the mix as will Canadian Brodeur and Mattatall. Predictions: McLaughlin and Brubaker (GOLD - I desperately want this for them!), Zhang and Zhang (SILVER), Duhamel and Buntin (BRONZE)
The Ladies event has been widely discussed prior to the start of this event due to the abscence of reigning World Champ Kim Yun-Na. She and her coach Brian Orser opted to not make the trip back to Kim's native Korea from Canada so close to the Olympics. The controversy bumped up a notch when ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta asked the President of the Korean Skating Federation to request Kim compete in the event. The request was denied and the event moves forward without her. Well, Japan HAS opted to send two of it's biggest medal threats to Korea in Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki. To be fair, the trip was a mere hop across the Sea of Japan for Asada and Suzuki vs the Pacific Ocean for Kim but I'm sure the decision will spark some intrigue between the two countries that have made it clear they don't like one another. In all honesty, it should be a complete runaway for these two, especially Asada who'll be testing those axels one final time prior to Vancouver. Waiting in the wings to collect what's left of the podium is perhaps Caroline Zhang who, like McLaughlin and Brubaker, had a U.S. Nationals she'd like to forget. She's been plagued all season with jump downgrades and the situation didn't improve in Spokane as she was dealing with a back injury as well. Past those three ladies the field is wide open and there may yet be room for a surprise or two. Predictions: Mao Asada (GOLD), Akiko Suzuki (SILVER), Caroline Zhang (BRONZE).