10. Is Javier Fernandez laughing all the way to the bank?
Okay, I have to admit that Fernandez’s recent interview that saw the Spanish skater get a few digs in at his former training mate raised my eyebrows a little (he really did react negatively in that environment). In that same interview, he referred to Orser (his new coach) in paternal terms so what was initially going to be a temporary “let’s see how this goes” has become permanent (or as permanent as these things get). It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up at SC. Nebelhorn suggested he was going in the right direction.
9. Can Takahashi catch Chan?
It’s clear that Chan’s specific skill set and the current rules together make a match from heaven. After worlds, Takahashi spoke of the momentum shift that happened after Chan’s National LP – he said he couldn’t catch Chan, couldn’t convince the judges that he should retain his title (though to be fair, what he did on the ice wasn’t enough regardless, something he admitted freely). I think the Japanese skater has stronger programs in general, but I have to admit I’m really quite taken with Aranjuez for Chan – it’s formal complexity is amazing and the way some parts of it sneak up on me (it’s a wonderfully subtle program) has me marvelling. I really like Blues for Klook for Takahashi, but it’s not him yet, if that makes sense.
8. Ross and Rippon.....?
I’ve mentioned before, I’ll say it again – I have no idea what to do with the American men. Any combination of a half dozen could surprise at Nationals (the only competition that matters to the stars and stripes) and I don’t know who it’ll be. I’ve gotta say, I’m not feeling Sato/Dunjien for Rippon though. And I honestly don’t know if Miner’s fluke last year will be repeated.
7. Are Balde and DeSanctis allowed to compete?
Neither got the minimum score, but are still listed. Are host skaters exempt? Or is this like ISU letting a third Chinese team compete at World juniors when they only had two spots? If it’s former, it’s another example of how poor this new GP system is. If it’s the latter, it’s an example of the ISU really not being on the ball here.
6. Can Rogozine and Tuktamisheva make a mark?
The world junior champion and silver medalists in their international senior ISU debut.... should be interesting. Rogozine can go to worlds this year whereas she cannot, so for her, this is about creating some momentum, some feeling that the following season will be hers. For him, this is about demonstrating across the board improvement. He’s following Chan’s lead by adding the quad in the short and long, and he’s got the kind of body that can probably land fully rotated ones (very Goebel like), and he’s got the most reliable 3A of the current Canadian men. He looks like he’s amped up the PCS side of things as well – better choreography and interpretation at least. Hopefully he’s worked on his edging – smoothed it out a little, because it seemed laboured last season. His goal can/should be to replace Reynolds as the number two guy at Worlds.
5. Will this be Akiko Suzuki’s chance to shine?
Oh, I hope so. She’s such a delightful skater and for her to be overlooked again is an anathema to me. I’ll always treasure her West Side Story LP at the GPF 09 and her delight. Some skaters make skating look like a job – like something they do because they had a passion for it once, a long time ago. Some make it look like a hobby. She makes it look like joy. I hope she emerges from this season as a true medal contender at Worlds.
4. Does Nagasu respond to the challenge?
Alissa Czisny threw it down. She’s going for the 3-3. She’s going to try the salchow. Does Nagasu respond? For all skaters, every season is important, but right now, Nagasu needs to create some momentum if she truly wants to be taken seriously as a medal contender in Sochi. No more random bombing. No more missed spins. I’ve heard people describe her as the best skater in the world. Frankly, I don’t see it. Prove it. I’d argue that if she loses here to Tuktamisheva, she loses way too much ground.
3. The Canadian pairs – a study in contrasts
Moore-Towers/Moscovitch set the bar at Skate America. They upped their technical game by going for three side by side triples in the long and are probably gonna land them cleanly soon. So, the other Canadian teams need to respond. Now, I always assumed that Duhamel/Radford had the inside track to Canadian Nationals this season. They have high base value jumps that will absorb A LOT in errors. Their elements came together relatively quickly (even the triple twist, something she’s struggled with in the past, broken nose aside). D/R have slightly better SS as well, meaning that I suspect the remaining PCS will come more easily. But Mt/M showed a masterclass in doing well with what you’ve got. Lawrence/Sweigers, despite being the most interesting choreographically, give up too much ground on the jumps (prone to UR, simpler ones) so while they’ve improved the PCS side as well from what we saw at Indy, I don’t think they’ll challenge. Especially if they don’t get a second GP.
2. The “third” teams – Chock/Bates, Riazanova/Tkachenko, Weaver/Poje
Third isn’t accurate. Chock/Bates aren’t the third team, but they are a team comprised of skaters who were part of third teams, and are certainly fighting for the third slot. W/P aren’t the third team either, but so much of their skating has been shadowed by that position. R/T... no doubt, last season, they were the third team. So what happens now?
C/B are so new that a top five placement would be incredible and demonstrate how “in the hunt” they are. But this is a rich field, so lower shouldn’t be seen as failure. Weaver/Poje are definitely on an upswing since last season. How does training beside the top European team help them? Krylova knows what a negative training environment is like from her days as an ice dancer, so hopefully she’s managed to avoid most of the pitfalls therein. It’s R/T I’m most curious about. Their FD is superb. They’ve got a great connection. I really think they should be frontrunners for Russian Nationals, but politicking gets in the way. Hopefully that’s motivation and not frustration.
1. The World Silver Medalists
So, the honeymoon’s over with Volosozhar/Trankov. Last season saw them skate so well at Nationals and Worlds that all eyes went to Sochi. We assumed if they improved so much in such a short time, that they would easily eclipse S/S (who rarely skate clean). But it seems they’ve had some growing pains. Admittedly, it’s early in the season, but the flaws (her lack of expression, Morosov) are peeping through the cracks. Now, I quite like their short, but their long.... ayiyi. Especially when compared to the modern dance complexity of S/S. Of course, they have the federation on their side.
“The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!” That’s the sound of panicked fans and passive-aggressive passers-by after Davis/White’s epic free dance at Skate America. Those of us that assumed V/M would return to their title this season didn’t expect that dance to happen so quickly. Now, V/M have always been slow to peak in any given season. They didn’t peak until the Olympics that season and lost to D/W in the GPF. But if you assumed it would be a fait accompli.... well, guess again. It’ll be interesting to see how they score at SC. If they’ve got their levels in line (the biggest issue at Finlandia) they should be fine (it’s worth noting that PCS for V/M were only about 2/3’s of a point behind). The big question, of course, is have they?