The Grand Prix continues this weekend in Beijing at the Samsung Anycall Cup of China. Stop #3 I believe gives us our deepest fields yet. Who should you keep your eye on?
In Ice Dance, the top two teams look to be Italians Faiella and Scali and the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat. The Italians got the better end of it last season with a top five finish at the Olympics and a Bronze at the World Championships. Both teams, however, are very experienced teams and the Grand Prix has shown us anything is possible in Ice Dance. On their heels are several team including the Russians of Bobrova and Soloviev who have made steady gains the last two season, the Hungarians Hoffman and Zavozin (Matthew Zavozin actually used to compete for the U.S.), and Americans Hubbell and Hubbell who begin their second season on the Senior Grand Prix. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Faiella and Scali, (SILVER) Pechalat and Bourzat, (BRONZE) Bobrova and Soloviev
The men's competition could be very exciting. Brian Joubert of France gets his major competitive season underway in Beijing. The Frenchman is looking for redemption this season after a somewhat disappointing season that saw Olympic hopes dashed (again). He's revamped himself, taken on a North American choreographer, and seems mentally prepared. He'll be pushed by several competitors including Japan's Takahiko Kozuka, Italy's Samuel Contesti, Czech Republic's Tomas Verner, Russia's Sergei Voronov, and American Brandon Mroz. All of these men (except Contesti who is a European Championship medalist) have won a medal on the Grand Prix and could challenge for a medal here. Verner, Voronov, and Mroz in particular are looking to turn around very disappointing seasons last year and get things started on the right foot. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Brian Joubert, (SILVER) Takahiko Kozuka, (BRONZE) Tomas Verner (Am I crazy...)
The Ladies event looks to be a fun three way fight between Japan's Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki and American Mirai Nagasu. These three women kept criss-crossing each other in the standings last season and seem very evenly matched. Akiko was stunning at this event last season and burst onto the skating map with a big win. Ando had a solid Grand Prix season culminating in a silver at the Grand Prix Final. Nagasu, of course, had a solid U.S. Nationals and was fourth at the Olympics. Any of the three women could easily take the event with two solid performances. On their heels will be Russia's Alena Leonova who seemed to come unglued last year as the season progressed. She has shown competitive aptitude however and if she can get her head around landing jumps she'll be in good shape. I'm also interested to see how American Kristine Musademba does in her Senior Grand Prix debut, she was a successful Junior competitor. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Miki Ando, (SILVER) Mirai Nagasu, (BRONZE) AKiko Suzuki
The Pairs field is interesting as you have one super veteran team going up against a slew of youngsters! The veterans (and of course favorites) are Pang and Tong of China. They skated to an easy win in Japan and I see no reason why they wouldn't do the same here at home...but they will be slightly more challenged. The top challenge coming from one of the young teams, their one teammates Sui and Han. This young team actually was just recently given credit for landing a throw quad salchow in competition and will attempt it in Beijing. They swept the Junior ranks last season and look to make a successful move to the Seniors. Skate Canada Champions Iliushechkina and Maisuradze have made the trip from Kingston to Beijing adding depth to the field. Cup of China will be our first look this season at American Silver Medalists Evora and Ladwig who had a breakthrough season last year and a second shot at the podium for Americans Yankowskas and Coughlin who barely missed the podium at NHK. Medal Predictions: (GOLD) Pang and Tong, (SILVER) Sui and Han, (BRONZE) Iliushechkina and Maisuradze
I'll be live Tweeting during (at the least) the men's and ladies short programs early tomorrow morning and during all the free skates and the free dance early Saturday morning. Also, don't expect tweets from the competitors in China as Twitter is blocked by the Chinese Government (sad face). On Fantasy Picks, I've posted my choices below. Oddly, Pang and Tong weren't listed in any category so you couldn't pick them...?