Figure Skating: From the Boards

A Look Ahead: Men of the GP Series May 22, 2012

Yesterday was the day. Where you surprised by the Grand Prix assignments? If you’re an Evan Lysacek fan, you were likely disappointed. Conversely, if you’ve been anticipating a Johnny Weir comeback, you may have squealed to see his name on the list twice.

Over the next few days, we’ll take a look at each discipline separately and how the assignments line up for each event.

Since the men have been the talk of the town (my “town,” anyway!) we’ll give them the first shake.

Here’s the Skate America lineup:

Michal Brezina (CZE)
Tomas Verner (CZE)
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Konstantin Menshov (RUS)
Alexandra Majorov (SWE)
Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Douglas Razzano (USA)
TBA (USA)

Not too shabby, eh?

As has become the norm, the biggest competition will come from the Japanese contingent, although it’ll be the Abbot — competing at Skate America for the first time in his career — who will have the support of the hometown crowd.

Last season proved we can’t count out quad-master Michael Brezina, and when he’s at his best, Tomas Verner is a force to be reckoned with as well.

Personally, I’m thrilled to see Douglas Razzano along side Abbott for Team USA. He’s a real “skater’s skater” with the elegance and musicality that can bring an entire arena to its feet. If he can match that artistry with technical difficulty, he’ll be well on his way!

Then there’s that haunting “TBA.”

What — or should I say who — is that spot for? Naturally, the rumor mill would lean naturally toward that spot being for reigning Olympic Champ Evan Lysacek who has made no secret about his wish to compete in Sochi. However, there have been more than a couple roadblocks along the way.

Last season, there was the “contractual issues” with the USFS that kept him from returning to competition. While the details of that conflict were not made public, it has been reported that it wasn’t simply “Evan wanting more money” like it came across the first time, but far more complicated than that.

With that assumed to be resolved, it was a bit surprising to NOT see Evan’s name on the assignment list. However, there are plenty of explanations (read: “assumptions!”) that don’t involve him not staging a comeback.

Perhaps he didn’t want the GP spot. He’s made mention of wanting to compete at Senior B events to ease back onto the international scene. He’s a proven champion, so maybe he simply feels it a better option to start small and work his way back up towards Nationals and Worlds, sans the fall series. Or maybe, he’s scheduled to compete on the Dancing With The Stars All-Star season this fall. Who knows, save Frank Carroll and Lysacek. But, perhaps that TBA spot is reserved should he choose to accept it after all.

How’s that for drama surrounding the first event of the season, eh?!

Moving on…

Here’s the Skate Canada lineup:

Patrick Chan (CAN)
Liam Rirus (CAN)
TBA (CAN)
Florent Amodio (FRA)
Takahito Mura (JPN)
Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Denis Ten (KAZ)
Artur Gachinski (RUS)
Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Ross Miner (USA)

So, we’ll not only get our first look at World Champ Chan, but also an SC rematch between Chan and Javier Fernandez. Remember, the Spanish youngster nearly beat Chan at last year’s event (placing first in the Short Program).

It will also be the 2013 debut for American Ross Miner who finished last season with a medal at Four Continents.

Oda, Ten and Gachinski will factor into the podium mix, should they be on their game. Oda is always a presence, but sometimes consistency defies him. Ten gets better and better each year. This could be a good one for him. And Gachinski, well, you know his eye is on Sochi — not just for the Olympic Games, but for this year’s Grand Prix Final. Russian skating needs him to do well.

Next up, Cup of China:

Kevin Reynolds (CAN)
Jinlin Guan (CHN)
Nan Song (CHN)
TBA (CHN)
Brian Joubert (FRA)
Samuel Contesti (ITA)
Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Artur Dmitriev (RUS)
Adam Rippon (USA)

Japan’s Takahashi is surely the headliner in Shanghai, without a doubt. The World Team Trophy champ will look to stake his claim early.

Song had a strong start to last season and has a good chance here to once again land on the GP podium.

Despite thoughts of French star Joubert retiring after last season, he’s scheduled to compete once again. (Keep in mind, these early assignments invariably change as we get closer to the event.)

And American charmer Adam Rippon will look to improve his world ranking to start his 2013 campaign. Truthfully, he should have a great shot at a podium finish in China.

Then, we jet off to Moscow for the Rostelecom Cup, featuring:

Patrick Chan (CAN)
Michal Brezina (CZE)
Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
Nobunari Oda (JPN)
Denis Ten (KAZ)
Zhan Bush (RUS)
Artur Gachinski (RUS)
TBA (RUS)
Richard Dornbush (USA)
Johnny Weir (USA)

It’s Russia. It’s the GP. And it’s the much-anticipated return of Johnny Weir! He seems exceptionally focused on this return, and what better place to step back onto competitive ice than Moscow?

He’ll have his work cut out for him, though, getting a big test out of the way early: matching up with Patrick Chan.

Again, there is a strong Japanese contingent who will be primed for at least one spot on the podium.

And Richard Dornbush — after a disappointing season last year — will get a chance for a redo, in hopes of regaining some confidence headed towards Nationals. This is the first of his two assignments.

Before you know it, we’ll be set for Trophee Bompard where we’ll see:

Jorik Hendrickx (BEL)
Nan Song (CHN)
Tomas Verner (CZE)
Florent Amodio (FRA)
Brian Joubert (FRA)
TBA (FRA)
Samuel Contesti (ITA)
Takahito Mura (JPN)
Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Johnny Weir (USA)

This makes for a good pre-Nationals show down between the reigning US champ and a former champ, as Abbott and Weir square off for the first time since 2010. Who’s your early pick to win that faceoff?

By this point in the season, we should be seeing significant polish, as this is the second event for all but Hendrickx. That should mean much tighter competition between Verner, Amodio, and Joubert.

On paper, there’s a good chance both Americans in Paris could walk away with medals.

Finally, there’s NHK Trophy. Here’s the lineup:

Kevin Reynolds (CAN)
Andrei Rogozine (CAN)
Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Daisuke Murakami (JPN)
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Sergei Voronov (RUS)
Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Richard Dornbush (USA)
Ross Miner (USA)
Adam Rippon (USA)

It’s another great Nationals show down! Well, more than one, really. It’s some of Japan’s best against some of America’s best. But, they’ll also be gunning for each other as they speed towards their own National championships.

And of course, with Reynolds in the event, we’re sure to get our fill of quad jumps!

When the dust settles in Japan, we’ll be set for the Grand Prix Final.

____

Anyone brave enough to make early predictions about which guys we’ll see there?

Good luck to all the men as they train for the start of another exciting season!

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One Response to “A Look Ahead: Men of the GP Series”

  1. Ridikumari Says:

    The heyday of Japan’s men has come…


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