Figure Skating: From the Boards

Rostelecom, shmostelecom…It’s Cup of Russia time, people! November 18, 2010

Whether they call it by this new fangled name or not, it’s that time again! But before we get started, how about a quick story? Yes? Okay, good.

Once upon a time, my coworkers and I were having “one of those days.” You know the kind – everything you touch breaks, every time you think you’re a step ahead you learn you’re five behind, you have a headache the size of Texas, no matter what you do you can’t make anyone happy, and it seems like life’s just flying by without you.

You with me? Good.

So, it was that kind of day, and one of the afore mentioned coworkers was trying to describe the day by comparing us to fish trying to swim upstream…only instead of relating the comparison to salmon in a way that we’d know where she was going with it, she simply exclaimed, “Don’t you just feel like a trout?”

After we caught our breath from laughing, we decided that would essentially become code for “I’m having one of those days.” So now when we feel like we’re swimming upstream, someone just says, “Today feels like a trout day” and we all understand!

Well…this has been a trout week for me! Nothing particularly dramatic, but just always swimming against the current, not quite able to get a grip on the time flying by me! So excuse me while I take a quick, deep breath….


Okay. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to the Rostelecom Cup preview (which I will be referring to as Cup of Russia…since that’s what it’s always been, and it’s even labeled that way on the ISU event page! It’ll be #CofR for you twitter bugs this weekend).

Last week’s format seemed to go over well, so we’ll be using it again, this time looking for the draw, the dark horse, and the darling (can’t have it exactly the same now, can we?!).

Let’s pick up with ice dance this week.

The draw: Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali (ITA) – reigning World bronze medalists, 3rd at Cup of China, they have the experience to correct their early-season mistakes here in Russia.

The dark horse: Ekaterina Bobrova and Dimitri Soloviev (RUS) – actually beat out Faiella/Scali at Cup of China a few weeks ago after capitalizing on mistakes from the Italians. They could very well do the same here, despite the experience of Federica and Massimo.

The darling: Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam (CAN) – the up-and-coming Virtue/Moir 2.0…they are just lovely. Such visually stunning elements and a charm that can’t be taught! I can’t help loving them.

Who do you like for pairs? I’ve got it down like this.

The draw: Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (RUS) – another pair of reigning World bronze medalists, this is their only Grand Prix of the season. However, they should have the fire power and experience to stand out here.

The dark horse: Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN) – they took 3rd earlier this season at NHK Trophy, and they’ll no doubt be aiming to improve on that here. Without some of the pairs power-houses skating in Russia, they might just do it.

The darling: Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig (USA) – the joy they have when they are on the ice is infectious. Plus, they bring a level of genuineness and class to any room they step into!

The men’s competition, as all season long, could get very interesting.

The draw: Toss up! Jeremy Abbott (USA)/Patrick Chan (CAN) – after Chan’s PCS scores from Skate Canada, he would seem to be the favorite. But his technical skills abandoned him in the short. If Jeremy skates clean and gets credit for all of his elements (i.e. all his required spins!), he could give Patrick a run for his money, especially if Jeremy hits the planned quad in the long.

The dark horse: Tomas Verner (CZE) – armed with probably his best short program to date, he has everything he needs to fight for the top spot. It will come down to how clean he is with his jumps and if he’s improved the PCS in the long. He’s been known to surprise people before…

The darling: Samuel Contesti (ITA)* his programs just make me smile. He often reminds me of Ryan Bradley in his ability to get the audience on his side, and I love to see him skate well!

*Okay, I’ll admit it…my personal favorites this week also happen to be the skaters drawing most of the attention. My “co-headliners,” Jeremy and Patrick are where my heart really lies. I do, however, have a soft spot for Samuel, so it works out anyway!

And of course, the ladies.

The draw: Miki Ando (JPN) – she’s skated, perhaps, the cleanest competition thus far in the ladies competition in the Grand Prix Series. If she maintains that technical prowess, she should have the edge. Watch out, though – her PCS won’t keep up with some of the rest of the world, including a few ladies here.

The dark horse: Oh boy…so many options to look at! Ksenia Makarova (RUS)/Ashley Wagner (USA)/Agnes Zawadzki (USA) – Ksenia is coming off of a very successful senior Grand Prix debut in Canada where she placed 2nd, and looked very solid. Ashley finished 5th at NHK, but she’s a skater you can never count out. And Agnes, well, she nearly pulled off the upset in her senior debut at Skate Canada. If she skates her long as well as she did her short in Canada, we could be in for a treat.

The darling: Akiko Suzuki (JPN) – once again, some favorites have already been mentioned. Still, there’s something very special about Akiko that has me constantly pulling for her. She skates with great speed and she has a very strong instinct to make each movement important to the overall performance. That is something I love to see.

And once again we’ve made it to the end! I hate making any kind of predictions (especially with Grand Prix Final spots on the line for some of the top skaters), but this is far less restrictive…anything could happen, but with simply the list of names in front of me and some knowledge of how things have gone for them in the past (plus a little bit of “gut-feeling!”), this is how I see things stacking up.

We’ll begin to see how right – or how wrong! – I am in just a few hours!

If you’re keeping track of my fantasy picks, check the video below. If you’re not, that’s fine too! It seems just when I think I’ve got it going right, one event goes and messes it all up! But that is, I suppose, the fun of fantasy sports…you just never quite know how things will go down!

Sadly, I won’t likely be able to tweet live play-by-play this weekend, due to my “trout week” schedule, but I’ll be posting comments here and there as I get updates on how things are coming along. And of course, a blog here and there in review.

Just a few more hours now. Good luck to all in Russia!

Until then…


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