Figure Skating: From the Boards

Skate Canada: It’s anybody’s game! October 28, 2011

After an afternoon watching the practice sessions from Skate Canada (thanks, skatebuzz!), I can say I’m fully ready to see how this event goes down. Let me just say, it could go any which way!

The ladies event continues to be unpredictable, this time with the added impact of a 14-year-old Russian phenom who might just steal the show.

Mirai Nagasu is the skater who should have the edge. She’s been close to the top before, and when she is right mentally, she has all the pieces to be one of the best in the world. At the end of last season, her coach Frank Carroll said she was the best she’d ever been mentally. If that has continued, she could be in for her best season yet. Of course, that is always qualified by her lack of consistency in the past.

Elizaveta comes to Canada armed with a stellar triple lutz-triple toe combination.

Canadian Cynthia Phaneuf is still looking to put herself back in the talk of the top ladies in the world. Generally speaking, she’ll have a strong short program, but lose it in the free skate. Plus, the pressure of skating at home sometimes works against her, rather than in her favor.

Akiko Suzuki won a Grand Prix gold last season, but she, too, has some free skate consistency issues to work around.

The real fireworks, though, could come from Russian Elizaveta Tuktamisheva. She is the 2011 World Junior silver medalist, but more importantly, the 2011 Japan Open champion where she posted a 118+ in her free skate. She’s a jumping bean with a very traditional style, but she’s been impressive. Look out for her!

Don’t forget about the other Americans — Rachael Flatt and Ashley Wagner. They’ll always be in a fight for the podium.

The men’s event seems fairly predictable, at least for gold — it’s a faceoff between Patrick Chan and Daisuke Takahashi, who both looked strong in yesterday’s practice. Patrick looked to be better off from the quad stand point — Dai fell quite hard on his quad toe attempts.

Before everyone goes off trying to say which skater is better, I think it’s important to realize — they are BOTH fabulous, just in different ways. Patrick gives us all the thrill of something that’s larger than life. He sweeps across the ice with speed and flow that is unmatched, and his choreography tells a beautiful story.

Daisuke, on the other hand, shows excellence in the details. His musicality is second to none, and he highlights every little accent throughout his programs. He really believes in his music and choreography and melds them together to hit every note, right on cue.

Don’t forget about Adam Rippon, though. He’s planning a quad lutz.

And after yesterday’s practice, Denis Ten is here to play. He hit a couple quads that were absolutely flawless, as well as a gigantic triple axel. The nerves could bring him down, but his long program has the potential to be quite memorable.

And of course, Kevin van der Perren is coming off his big silver medal last week at Skate America. (He threw down a 3sal-3toe-3toe-3toe at the end of the session yesterday. Just because, well, he can!)

They "warmed up" their season by winning handily at the 2011 Nebelhorn Trophy.

The pairs event should pick up where Worlds 2011 left off — with Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov reviving the Russian pairs program. These two are special, and gold should be no problem.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han will try to prove the Chinese tradition is still alive and well, and they could do it, too. They’ve already competed on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this season, so they’ll have some polish to their performances. Plus, they have an incredible technical arsenal (quad twist, anyone?).

The Canadian trio of Jessica Dube/Sebastien Wolf, Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford, and Paige Lawrence/Rudi Swiegers has a solid shot at the podium, as well as Japan’s Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran. From the practices sessions, this could be quite the event.

It’s no surprise that Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir should land atop the podium, especially with Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat withdrawing. Don’t be surprised if Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje join their teammates with a medal. Their spicy short dance is full of potential and choreography that is “in your face” enough that it shows off a nice, bold side to their skating.

Anna Cappellini and Luca LaNotte looked lovely in their practice. Their short dance has beautiful edges and powerful Samba hip action. They look polished and ready, and after last season, they’ll be hungry for a medal.

Of course, I’ll be interested to see how the new American duo of Maddison Chock and Evan Bates matches up in their first event.

If you want to see more of my Skate Canada analysis and how I picked my Fantasy Skating team, head over to icenetwork.com. And follow me on twitter for all the latest as I follow as much live as I can!

Happy skating!

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