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Next Stop Moscow

Rostelcom Cup is Fourth Competition in 2012 Grand Prix Series

by George Rossano

Grand Prix Final Qualification Numerology

Entries to the Grand Prix events are assigned so that the top skaters are spread among the six competitions in a way that makes it unlikely a top skater will not make the final because too many good skaters are in one competition.

In general, the season favorites are rarely assigned the same competition.  For example, this year Davis & White and Virtue & Moir are not assigned to compete against each other.  Neither are Savchenko & Szolkowy and Volosozhar & Trankov.  These skaters are nearly guaranteed to win both their events baring accident or injury.

Skaters are awarded points based on their results in their two Grand Prix assignments, 15 points for first, 13 for second, 11 for third, 9 for fourth, etc.  The top six point winners make the final, and there are various tie breakers for skaters with the same number of points.

A total of three entrants could win two events each, so competitors with 30 points are guaranteed to make the final.

It is possible that six different entrants could win one of their events and place second in their second event, with no entrants ending up with 30 points.  This means that entrants who earn 28 points are also guaranteed to make the final.  After this, the possibilities start to open up.

If two entrants win both their events and earn 30 points, that allows two other entrants to place first and second in their event wining 28 points, leaving two other berths for entrants who placed second in their two events for 26 points.  Thus, at least two entrants with 26 points are guaranteed to make the final in this case.  Depending on how the first and second place results actually play out, there is the possibility more entrants with 26 points could make the final.  This year, for example, Kaetlyn Osmond won Skate Canada International, but does not have a second event.  In practice, she cannot make the final with just 15 points, opening up the opportunity for more entrants with 26 points or less to qualify.

By design, entrants with 30 or 28 points are guaranteed to make the final, and some entrants with 26 points have a reasonable chance to make the final depending on the number of entrants with 30-28 points.  For entrants with 26-22 points there is a diminishing chance they can make the final.  Historically, skaters with 22 points or less making the final are rare.

(8 November 2012) 

Twenty-one U.S. athletes will compete at two international events this week, including Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, the fourth of the six events that make up the 2012 ISU Grand Prix Series.  The second competition is, Ice Challenge, an annual senior-level competition in Graz, Austria where entrants will be striving to obtain the minimum Total Element Scores needed to be eligible to compete in ISU championships later this season.

Canada will send seven athletes to Rostelecom Cup. Canada will have a total of four entries: one each in menís and pair, and two entries in ice dance.

With Kaetlyn Osmond, the surprise gold medallist at Skate Canada International, it is unfortunate Canada did not have a slot for a lady in Rostelcom Cup which could have given Osmond a chance to qualify for the final.  With only one point scoring competition in the series, Osmond has essentially no chance to qualify for the final despite her 15 points from winning Skate Canada.

Ladies

Agnes Zawadzki leads Team USA into Moscow. The 2012 U.S. bronze medallist began her season by winning her first international gold medal at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in September. Joining her are Gracie Gold, who made her Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada two weeks ago, and Caroline Zhang, who also competed at Skate Canada and is the 2012 Four Continents bronze medallist.

Rachael Flatt was originally slated to compete in the ladies division before announcing her intentions last week to sit out the rest of the 2012-13 season.

This is the first of Zawadzki's two Grand Prix assignments and she needs a medal winning performance in order to have a chance of making the final.  With 4 points, Gold has no chance of making the final, but she could play the spoiler if she pushes Zawadzki down in the standings at Rostelcom Cup.  Zhang, who earned no points at Skate Canada also has no chance now of making the final.

Men

Richard Dornbush and Johnny Weir also continue their seasons in Moscow. While Rostelecom Cup will mark their first Grand Prix events of the season, Dornbush and Weir finished second and fourth, respectively, at 2012 Finlandia Trophy last month. Weir returns to the Grand Prix stage for the first time since winning bronze at the 2009 Grand Prix Final.

2012 World Champion Patrick Chan will be the only Canadian entry. This is Chanís second Grand Prix assignment of the season, having already claimed silver at Skate Canada International. He has previously competed at the Rostelecom Cup in 2010, where he took silver as well. Last season, Chan won gold at each Grand Prix event he competed in, as well as the ISU Grand Prix Final, the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, and the 2012 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.

Like Zawadzki, both Dornbush and Weir need to make the podium to maintain a chance of making the final.  With 13 points, a first place result will assure Chan making the final, and even a second place finsih would make an appearance in the final nearly a certainty. 

Pairs

Caydee Denney & John Coughlin were the first U.S. pairs team to medal at a Grand Prix event since the 2010 season when they won bronze at 2012 Skate America in October. They are the 2012 U.S. Champions and 2012 Four Continents silver medalists. Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin will compete for the third time this season after finishing third at the 2012 U.S. International Classic and opening their Grand Prix season at Skate Canada.

Paige Lawrence & Rudi Swiegers will be competing in Pairs for Canada. The 2012 Canadian bronze medallists will be making their second appearance on the ISU Grand Prix circuit this season, having already earned fourth at Skate Canada International. Lawrence & Swiegers also competed at the 2012 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic earlier this season, and won silver.

This is the second point scoring event from Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov, who won at Skate America.  If they take the gold at Rostelcom, as expected, that will leave Denney & Coughlin an outside chance to make the final if they can place second this weekend.  A third place finish or lower would probably knock them out of the final as 22 points is rarely enough to qualify for the final.  Lawrence & Swiegers would need a second place finish to garner 22 points and a remote chance to make the final.

Ice dancing

Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani, two-time reigning U.S. silver medallists, begin their third Grand Prix season at Rosltelcom Cup. They are four-time Grand Prix Series medallists and placed fifth at the 2011 Grand Prix Final.

Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir will be one of two Canadian entries in ice dance. This will be the second ISU Grand Prix assignment of the season for Virtue and Moir, following a gold medal at Skate Canada International. The 2010 Olympic Champions won gold last season at the 2012 ISU World Figure Skating Championships, 2012 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, and 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships. 

Nicole Orford & Thomas Williams will be Canadaís second entry in ice dance. This will be their first event of the season and first career ISU Grand Prix assignment. Last season, they competed on the ISU Junior Grand Prix circuit and won gold in Brisbane, Australia, and placed sixth in Innsbruck, Austria. Orford and Williams placed sixth at both the 2012 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships and the 2012 Canadian Figure Skating Championships, in the senior category. They are coached by Megan Wing and Aaron Lowe at the B.C. Centre of Excellence.

A victory by Virtue & Moir, which seems nearly a certainly, will assure them a place in the final.  The remaining U.S. and Canadian couples will then need to place second or third to maintain a chance to make the final at their subsequent Grand Prix assignments.

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