Skate America 2001

Colorado Springs, CO


Ladies Results     Men's Results    Pairs Results    Dance Results


Skate America again opens the Grand Prix series of the ISU and is the first major senior level event of the season, the 2001 Goodwill Games not withstanding.  It is again being held at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, CO where it was also held in 1999 and 2000.  This competition also marks the beginning in earnest of the 2001/02 skating season for U.S. skaters.  In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, participation of U.S. skaters in international events has been greatly restricted.   The Junior Series event that was to be held in Phoenix shortly after the attack was cancelled, and all U.S. skaters were subsequently withdrawn from the Junior Series.   Participation of U.S. skaters in senior level events continues to be reviewed by the USFSA on a competition-by-competition basis.

The lineups in this years events are less intriguing than is usual for Skate America, with none of the events offering much  insight into how the season's anticipated rivalries might unfold.  In the ladies event Michelle Kwan is without serious challengers, and the U.S. team of Kwan, Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen have a good chance of sweeping the event.  Their most serious challengers would appear to be Viktoria Volchkova and Elena Sokolova, both from Russia.  The three U.S. ladies are the current favorites to represent the U.S. at the 2002 Olympics, with Angela Nikodinov a fourth contender for one of the three available spots on the Olympic Team.  Based on results from last season Nikodinov would be placed ahead of Cohen in the mix, but Cohen had to withdraw from last season's U.S. Nationals, and over the summer momentum appears to have shifted to Cohen in the race to make the U.S. Olympic Team.

An added back-story to the ladies event here is the recent unexpected firing of coach Frank Carroll by Michelle Kwan last week.  Carroll was caught completely unaware, and was unable to offer insight into why it occurred.  The comments by Kwan that have been widely reported in the media are no more illuminating.  Of all the explanations and speculation that has thus far accompanied this, the only scenario that make a shred of sense was expressed to me by a fellow photojournalist at the start of this competition.  Kwan's sister Karen is engaged to coach Peter Oppegard, and recently Michelle has been skating during sessions when Oppegard and sister Karen are coaching.  The speculation is that Oppegard is the Svengali behind the breakup and the prediction is that one should not be surprised to find Oppegard standing at the boards when Kwan competes at the Olympics, if not sooner.   During a press conference prior to this competition, Kwan was asked if she was considering Oppegard as a coach.  She answered like a cagey politician saying that she has not made up her mind on her future coaching choice.  If she was not considering Oppegard the answer would have been a simple no.  Whatever the reason for her decision, and whoever ultimately ends up coaching her in the future, she has made a high risk decision that offers no obvious benefit to her.

In the men's event, Timothy Goebel is the overwhelming favorite with his nearest challenger likely to be Alexander Abt of Russia.  Abt now trains in Lake Arrowhead, CA and has been skating well in training.  Michael Weiss, who was hampered by injuries the past two season, is looking for a strong result here to reestablish his standing as a contender for the U.S. Olympic Team and an Olympic medal.   Weiss, who is 25, could stay on the scene until the 2006 Olympic but has said that in order to stay sharp he is treating this season as his one and only chance to make his mark in the Olympics.  His 2002 Olympic odessey begins here.

The reigning World Champions, Jamie Sale & David Pelletier of Canada have no serious competition in the pairs event.  Their nearest rivals are the U.S. team of Kyoko Ina & John Zimmerman, should they stand up for the occasion.   Former U.S. Champions Danielle & Steve Hartsell are looking for good performances to gain momentum in their quest to move back up in the U.S. rankings.  They missed the 2000 U.S. nationals due to injury and in 2001 they placed third.  The U.S. team here is rounded out by Laura Handy & Jonathon Hunt who placed sixth at U.S. Nationals in 2001.

In dance Margarita Drobiazko & Povilas Vanagas and Canadians Shae-Lynn Bourne & Victor Kraatz, the 4-time former World Bronze medalists, will be jockeying for position as two of the three teams viewed as contenders for the Olympic bronze medal in Ice Dancing.  Rounding out the contenders for the podium here are Galit Chait & Sergei Sakhnovski of Israel.

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