The second event of the 1998/99 ISU Grand Prix kicked off Thursday at Skate Canada in Kamloops, BC. Kamloops is located in the Canadian Rockies on the Thompson river, about 200 miles from Vancouver and 400 miles from Calgary. First settled in the mid-1840's as part of the fur trade, and later a stop in the 1850's gold rush, Kamloops is a lumber and ranching community of about 84,000.
Each of the four events here includes only one strong competitor, so the results are a foregone conclusion. The only event with even a hint of competition for the gold is the men's event with Elvis Stojko facing off against Evgeny Plushenko. In the ladies event Irina Slutskaya has no serious competition. Similar situations exist for Bourne & Kraatz in dance and Shen & Zhao in pairs.
This will be the second event for Stojko and the Canadian pair team of Sargeant & Wirtz who competed at last week's Skate America competition. Stojko is getting his two Grand Prix events out of the way early so he can tour prior to Canadian Nationals. With a fourth place finish at Skate America, Stojko must win here in order to make the Grand Prix final, at least based on past experience for the results skaters need to make the final.
Despite there being little mystery on how the dance event is likely to turn out, it will still be interesting to see what Bourne & Kraatz have cooked up for this season. There nearest arch-rivals, Anissina & Peizerat, were awesome at Skate America so the Canadians had better have two dynamite programs in the works if they hope to make a serious run for silver or gold this year.
Irina Slutskaya seems a shu-in for the ladies' gold. She will be unveiling a new long program here; while in pairs no one is in a position to challenge the Chinese who are in a class alone for strength and speed.
Prospects for the American skaters looks pretty bleak. None of the Americans are competitive for a medal here, except perhaps for Amber Corwin who has an outside chance in her event.
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