Skate Canada has returned to St. John, New Brunswick, previously having been held here in 1995. The event is the second of the 1999/00 ISU Grand Prix. Several skaters originally scheduled to compete have withdrawn, and except for the men's event the competition is fairly thin.
In the ladies event, Michelle Kwan has no serious competition. She is going up against Julia Soldatova again, who placed third at Skate America last week. Soldatova is the favorite for the silver, and after her the quality quickly declines.
The men's event offers the potential for a dynamic competition with Alexei Yagudin, Elvis Stojko, Chenjiang Li, Takeshi Honda, and Todd Eldredge leading a field of twelve men. The first four of these have landed quads and all are capable of medaling here. Yagudin and Stojko placed first and third at Skate America last week. The Chinese man Li medaled at Four Continents last season and is the most well balanced Chinese man to hit the international skating scene in recent years.
In pairs Berezhnaya & Sikharulidze have little serious competition but after two difficult skates at Skate America their real goal here should be to repair the damage to their reputations caused by last week's results. If they do not clobber the competition here the pairs title this season could be thrown wide open. After seeing how the Russians skate compared to last week the remaining curiosity in the pairs event is to see what the Canadian champions Sargeant & Wirtz look like compared to Sale & Pelletier who dazzled at Skate America. The buzz has it that the David Dore sent Sale & Pelletier to Skate America because he wanted to hold back his top team for the Canadian audience. After Sale & Pelletier won in Colorado Springs supposedly a US official sent a note sent back to Dore to the effect of "thank you for sending us your number two team, we are returning them to you as champions." Also of interest is to see how Tiffany & Johnie Steigler are progressing and how they stack up against international seniors.
Dance is another weak event here. The top ranked couple is the Lithuanian team of Margarita Drobiazko & Pavilas Vanagas. After them you have the Ukrainians Elena Grushina & Ruslan Goncharov. The U.S. sent their third place couple and the Canadians their third and fourth place couples. None of the couples in this event are candidates for a medal at Worlds this year, so the only interest is to see how individual couples have improved since last year in terms of their personal bests.
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