The mens event event promises to be exciting with one of the most accomplished field of men the event has seen in some time. The U.S. has the extra advantage of being able to send three men to Vancouver making the event all that more exciting. The field includes, among others, six men who have medaled at Nationals at the senior level (wow!), a World Champion (wow!), three national champions (wow!), and three Junior World Champions (wow!). Here's who I am watching out for:
Stephen Carriere - Of all the top men he's had the roughest season. After winning the 2007 Junior World Title he went on to claim the bronze medal at the 2008 U.S. Nationals. In fact you can partially credit him for the reason we get three men at the Olympics this season. Huh you say...follow my logic: He placed just high enough at the 2008 Worlds in Goteborg, Sweden to (along with Johnny Weir's bronze) qualify three men to the 2009 Worlds. Remember, Evan was third at the 2009 National Championships and had it not been for Stephen (and Johnny) he wouldn't have made the world team and thus Mroz and Abbott would have only qualified two spots for the Olympics...see? He's come on tough times recently but in the past he's proven he can be a top contender. In recent competition he placed 6th at Samsung Anycall Cup of China and 8th at HomeSense Skate Canada.
Johnny Weir - Reality T.V. star and U.S. Figure Skating's Diva, he's looked much more focused and prepared this season. After last season's National's disaster (after falling ill after doing skating shows in Asia) he took some time to reflect, get some perspective, put out a movie (Pop Star on Ice) and get his act together. He's one of three U.S. men that have looked solid this season and if he can continue to skate at the level he's shown this season, making the Olympic Team should be easy, however. the three time National Champ has stumbled as much as he has succeeded at this particular event (he's never had more than one real stumble in a row at Nationals so he's do for a success!). As one of only two guys in this event that has felt Olympic pressure, he has the opportunity to apply lessons learned from Torino to this run at Vancouver. After a 4th place finish at Rostelecom Cup to work out the kinks, he went on to win the silver medal at NHK Trophy and the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final.
Adam Rippon - In the season Grand Prix opener Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris Adam stole my heart with two beautifully choreographed programs. I commented on Twitter that his Jonathan Livingston Seagull short was one of the best ever. He's shown flashes of what could be called brilliance this season. His big hurdle is his triple axel which has been inconsistent. It's something that he and coach Brian Orser (also coaches Kim Yu-Na) have been working on; getting that triple axel solidly under his belt. He's kind of a wild card, as the two time (and reigning) Junior World Champ we know he has what it takes to get to Vancouver, the question is if he'll be up to the challenge in Spoakane. Adam won the bronze medal at Trophee Eric Bompard and was 6th at NHK Trophy.
Brandon Mroz - He's had quite the roller coaster of a season thus far. In his season opener at Rostelecom Cup he was a disaster in the short program landing in last place only to come roaring back in the free skate with a quad and a solid skate. At Cancer.Net he did the exact opposite, hitting a solid short and then went to pieces in the free skate. Perhaps it's all been too much too soon for Mroz. In his first attempt at Nationals as a senior he won the silver medal and went to the World Championships. With such quick advancement it easy to forget he is still a bit on the young side and the pressure of expectation may be starting to weigh on him heavier than before. Still, he has to be considered one of the top contenders. Brandon finished 7th overall at Rostelecom Cup and 8th at Cancer.Net Skate America.
Evan Lysacek - The reigning World Champion has proven this season that his win last season in L.A. was no fluke. He looks well trained, consistent, and has been posting impressive numbers this season. "In the last Olympics, I was young and really excited. I've learned a lot in the past four years and want to take the experience I have gained and put it all into effect in Vancouver." He is certainly doing just that. He's had a stellar season thus far, nabbing the silver at Samsung Anycall Cup of China, the Gold at Cancer.Net Skate America, and the Gold at the Grand Prix Final. Barring catastrophic disaster, Evan Lysacek will be in Vancouver.
Ryan Bradley - During a recent teleconference he made it clear he was going for broke at Nationals. He's the veteran of the field and the oldest men's competitor. He is also the competitor who will attempt the hardest content...a for sure quad/triple combo in the short and two quads, one in combination, for the free skate. He's employing the 'Go Big or Go Home' strategy. Ryan certainly has to see this as his final shot at making it to an Olympic Games. The master showman put on quite the production last time he was in Spokane, taking the silver medal and having the skate of a lifetime. He'll need to summon those spirits again inside Spokane Arena to compete in this even deeper field. Ryan had a tough start to his season placing 9th at Trophee Eric Bompard but kicked it up a notch at Cancer.Net Skate America to win the bronze medal.
Jeremy Abbott - The reigning National Champion had a full plate last season. He was one of just three (Meryl Davis and Charlie White were the other two) U.S. skaters to do two Grand Prix Events, the Grand Prix Final, U.S. Nationals, Four Continents Cup, and World's. By the time he reached L.A., he was just out of gas. "Last season I got burned out toward the end and it didn't go as expected. I started early and pushed really hard all the way through and I think it was just too much to handle at the end of the season." The mid part of that season was fantastic where he won not only the Grand Prix Final, but the national crown as well. "This year, I took a different approach. I started a little bit later and I'm allowing my body and my mind to rest so I don't get overextended at the end of the year. I think it's certainly an attainable goal to be on the Olympic podium." After a so so start to his season at NHK Trophy with a 4th place finish, he rebounded nicely with a win at HomeSense Skate Canada. While he only placed 4th at the Grand Prix Final he had a tremendous free skate and was within a point or so of beating Lysacek in the free. He seems to be peaking just right this season. He and his new coach, Yuka Sato, have clearly made that a priority.
There is quite the cast of second-string men competing in Spokane including previous novice and junior champions, some other well rounded veterans, and some hot-shot young up-and-comers. Don't be surprised if you see a few other names amongst the top contenders!
Who are the ones to watch...to beat? You tell me...