By Liz Leamy
This week, the world’s finest skaters are slated to convene at Skate Canada in Kingston, Ontario, the second of this season’s six International Skating Union Championship Grand Prix events, in hopes of scoring some hardware as well as big points so they qualify for the all important Grand Prix final in December.
This event, traditionally the first major event of the international figure skating season for North American skaters, will run from Thursday, October 29th through Sunday, October 31st and follows on the heels of the NHK Trophy, the first ISU Grand Prix showdown that was held in Nagoya, Japan last weekend.
Among the major contenders scheduled to perform at Skate Canada this weekend is Patrick Chan, the two-time Canadian World silver medalist and reigning Canadian titlist.
Chan, 19, who trains in Colorado Springs with Christy Krall, has been having a productive year so far. In July, he competed and won the Liberty Open in Aston, Pennsylvania with a memorable one-two punch of short and long programs created by Lori Nichol, his longtime choreographer. There, Chan landed his first-ever quad in the short and followed it up with a high-energy free skate to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Phantom of the Opera’ from the prior season. Although he had a few spills in the latter, he still put on a fine performance due to his textbook edges, fine footwork and beautifully positioned triples.
Adam Rippon, 20, the top American seed in the men’s event, is another notable contender here. Rippon, who placed sixth at the 2010 World Championships in Turin, has been training well and is said to be primed for a strong season this, according much of the buzz.
This season, Rippon plans to use the music from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by Tchaikovsky for his short and Rachmaninov’s "Piano Concerto Number Two" for his free skate.
Nobunari Oda of Japan, who placed seventh at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, is another major entry to consider here. Despite a disappointing 28th-place finish at the 2010 Worlds, Oda is known for his resilience and always seems to pull off big marks for his tremendous jumping ability and terrific energy.
Meanwhile, the three U.S. entries in the ladies event, Alissa Czisny, Alexe Gilles and Agnes Zawadski, seem perfectly poised to bring in a good skating game to the ladies event.
Czisny, who wound up a disappointing 10th at the 2010 U.S. Championships, is known for usually finishing very well at this event (she came up second last year and was third in 2009) is never one to count out, especially here.
Gilles and Zawadski, both of whom train under Tom Zakrajsek, the renown American coach in Colorado Springs, and who are known for their superior jumps, ought to produce some high marks here just based upon the fact that they train at such high altitude and are under such excellent supervision. (Last week, Rachael Flatt, the reigning U.S. champion and one of Zakrajsek’s other charges, was second at the NHK Trophy and won the free skate.)
Cynthia Phaneuf, the sparkling second-seeded Canadian, also could do well here, as long as she skates well and stands on her feet. Phaneuf, who was fifth at the 2010 Worlds, is said to have been training well so far this year and seems to be well prepared for a strong season. She will be skating to "Nocturne’ by Claude DeBussy for the short and Phillppe Chany’s ‘Asterix and Obelisk’ score for the long program.
Russia’s Ksenia Makarova, who trains with Victor Petrenko in New Jersey and was eighth at the 2010 Worlds, is another possible medal contender. Skating to Dodalia’s ‘Flamenco’ and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Evita,’ she ought to earn high scores for her usual array of high jumps, speedy edges and alluring presentation.
Fumie Suguri, the five-time Japanese titlist, three-time World medalist and 2003 Grand Prix final winner, is also someone to acknowledge here. Suguri, who had a substandard seventh-place finish at the 2010 Japanese Nationals and has been part of the ISU Championship Grand Prix scene for more than a decade, certainly has the experience and duress to pull off a possible medal finish.
In dance, Sinead & John Kerr of Great Britain, who were fifth at the 2010 World Championships, are the top-seeded team among a nine-entry field that consists primarily of junior teams who are moving up to the senior ranks this season.
The Kerrs, who are trained by Evgeni Platov, the Olympic dance champion, in Princeton, New Jersey, should score some big points with their usual intricate series of steps, innovative and crowd-pleasing choreography and great energy.
Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier of Canada represent another top international dance team at this event. Last year, they placed seventh at Worlds and were Grand Prix finalists.
America’s Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein, the 2009 World Junior titlists, might pull out a high finish here as well. Chock & Zuerlein, who are coached by the Olympic and World gold medal coaches, Igor Sphilband and Marina Zoueva in Canton, Michigan, will no doubt, show up at this event armed with exceptional programs and skills.
The pair field, meanwhile, appears to be rather sparse in regard to overall world-ranking standards among the entries here. Earlier this week, Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison, the Canadian champions who were sixth at the 2010 Olympics and Worlds, announced their withdrawal due to injury, which reduced the field to just seven from a total eight entries.
Huibo Dong & Yiming Wu of China, who were 17th at last year’s Worlds, are one of the highest-ranked teams among this group. They train with the esteemed coach Bin Yao, who famously built the world-dominant Chinese pair faction that includes Xue Shen & Hongbo Zhao, the 2010 Olympic gold medalists.
Lubov Iliushechkina & Nodari Maisuradze of Russia represent yet another team to watch. They were the 2009 Junior World titlists who are known for their excellent throw triple jumps and lifts.
Meanwhile, Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir of the U.S., the 2009 Junior World bronze medalists, are a team to consider. Although they had a somewhat disappointing 2010 season due to injury, this duo seems to be back in business and has been skating well. Last September, they placed first at the Middle Atlantic Championships in New York City where Castelli came very close to landing a challenging throw triple Axel.
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