In only a matter of hours, we’ll get a glimpse at the last international stop before the World Championships. Many times in the recent past, this has been an event given to 4th-6th place finishers in the top competing nations…which drew some criticism from event organizers who wanted to maintain the elite status of the competition. Fair enough.
This year, at least, they’ve got it.
For the American contingent, all of the National medalists are will compete, except for the three men, and Japan’s contingent isn’t far off their best either.
Here’s how I see things playing out.
For the ladies, the top three from Japan (Mao Asada, Miki Ando, and Akiko Susuki) will square off against the top three from the US (Alissa Czisny, Rachael Flatt, and Mirai Nagasu). Based on their seasons thus far, I’d say Miki has the edge if she lands the jumps…and if Alissa misses any. If not, though, Alissa’s components are far superior, and her footwork and spins should score higher than Miki’s. I expect Rachael to come to play, but some of her elements haven’t scored well internationally. I am interested to see what her new short program is like the second time out. Akiko’s short is generally her strength, too. She’s had some consistency problems in the long, but she’s just a fireball. Love her. Mirai and Mao, in my mind, are the wild cards. As I’ve said before, if Mirai’s on, she’s one of the top three in the world. Mao, obviously, has been #1 in the world before, but with her technique struggles early on, she is a bit unpredictable at the moment. If she hits, she should land on the podium, and very possibly the top step.
Pang and Tong are the clear favorites in the Pairs event. I don’t see anyone being a serious challenge to gold here, but if they falter, I could be wrong. The most interesting battle, to me, will be between the Canadians, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch and the Americans, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin, as well as Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig. These teams seem to be about even in terms of technical difficulty and presentation potential, but consistency could come into play here. Also an interesting team to watch, the substitute American team, Mary Beth Marley and Rockne Brubaker. Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett were schedule to compete, until Jeremy suffered a freak injury in practice. So, the barely 6-month old team of Marley and Brubaker gets their first chance to step up and skate with the “big kids” internationally.
Making their debut in Taipei are Olympic Champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. This has the potential to be the most interesting late-season debuts because for the first time, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will have real competition for the top of the podium. Or at least they should. Know one really knows how Tessa and Scott will match up, except, perhaps, for Meryl and Charlie who watch them train every day. Throw in this season’s “it factor” team of Maia and Alex Shibutani, and I think you might have your podium. Expect a fight from Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier, though. They’re working hard to make a name for themselves this season, too.
The men’s event features continued depth, most obvious in the Japanese and American contingents. Expect Takahiko Kozuka to continue his climb to the top, plus a strong return by Daisuke Takahashi. I also expect strong comebacks from Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon – both touted as the top two Americans all season long, but coming off of disappointing Nationals performances. Of course, I can’t not mention Shawn Sawyer who has two of the best choreographed programs of the season!
I’m not the best at predicting who will do what, so I’ll suffice it to say that this looks like a competition with some very compelling match ups that could be a nice preview of what we’ll surely see at Worlds!