Figure Skating: From the Boards

The Final Countdown: Pairs and Dance December 5, 2012

We’re just a few days away from the Grand Prix Final kicking off as a “preview event” of sorts for the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi, Russian. And, the contenders are all very much aware of this, I promise you. Everyone wants to get a glimpse at what it might be like to skate in Sochithe arena where new Olympic champions will be crowned. And, this is that chance, albeit under a teensy bit less pressure.

Still, the energy will be high as the conclusion of the Grand Prix series gets underway.

It’s been an interesting season. We’ve had moments of brilliance and competitions as tight as ever, in some cases. Most of the stops along the way produced high-quality skating. It is, after all, the buildup year to the Olympics. Everyone is starting to make that extra push.

But, there were a few let downs, too. This isn’t a recap, though. If you’re looking for that, check the posts from a few days back. It’s all there: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This, though, should be quite good.

PAIRS

The way I see it, each of the pairs competing here are primed for the performance of the seasons. We haven’t seen too many magical pairs moments yet this year, especially from the top teams. But, with three Russian teams in the Final, two Canadian teams, and just one Chinese team, there’s been a shift in the power houses of the Pairs world. Notably absent, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy who didn’t not qualify after skating in just one event.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have yet to wow me this year. But, they do still hold the top international score. When they put the pieces together, they are hard to beat. They are just so good.

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov continue to steadily climb towards the top. They’re not there yet, however. This is a great chance for them, though, to stake their claim to a spot on the podium — here, and heading towards Worlds.

The third Russian team is, surprisingly, not considered a medal favorite. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov have struggled to match last year’s brilliance that, too, fell off a bit towards the end of the year. Perhaps this is their time to jump back into the upper echelon of Pairs teams?

I see a team like Qing Pang and Jian Tong and am blown away. Not by their technical brilliance these days, but by their undying passion for the sport. Why, after all these years and all the medals and titles won, do they still need to push themselves? Why would they delay their wedding in order to compete, when they openly admit their bodies often don’t cooperate anymore? How can they still perform such difficult programs? But, even more impressive, is the emotion with which they skate. That was something I always found a bit lacking in their skating, but the older they get and the they compete “for the love of the game,” as they say, the more joy shows in each move.

It’s beautiful, not matter where they finish.

And how ’bout those Canadian teams? Are we witnessing the rebirth of the Russia vs. Canada pairs rivalry? Not quite yet, perhaps, but by the time they return to Sochi? Possibly.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are living proof of determination directing results. These two know what they want and have developed a formula for how to get it. No, they can’t yet compete with Volosozhar and Trankov. But they put themselves in medal contention in every event the enter. In fact, they have a chance here to knock off the veteran Chinese team and land on the podium. It would be an upset, but we’ve certainly seen one or two of those at a Final before, haven’t we?

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovtich have a longer way to go. I’m not entirely convinced this season’s programs are the best vehicle for their skating, but they continue to fight and make something of each event. They are in the Final after a tie-break gave them the last spot. So, there’s really no pressure. That might be just the situation they need to excel.

PREDICTIONS

Gold: Volosozhar/Trankov
Silver: Bazarova/Larionov
Bronze: Duhamel/Radford

ICE DANCE

Have I mentioned I love this event?

There isn’t a team scheduled to compete that doesn’t deserve to be there. There are, however, teams that didn’t make the Final that arguably should be in Sochi right now. That’s besides the point, though. And now it’s all about these top six couples.

Again, Russian is well represented with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov set to take the ice in front of the home crowd.

Both teams are much improved. Both have dances that don’t quite make sense to me, but perhaps they appeal more wildly to a Russian audience? Both teams have two second-place finishes this season, and would love to make the podium. However, there are some pretty tough challengers standing in their way.

The same could be said for Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. They are divine. I adore their unassuming charm as well as their ability to sell a character-driven piece as well as anyone in the business. Their improvements this season are quite impressive, and they continue to make me believe they could be a contender in the near future. Again, though, the top three teams in the world are pretty set in stone at the moment.

Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are another team — similar to Pang and Tong — that wow me with their consistent improvement and commitment to a long-term plan. I often struggle with the far-out nature of their creativity, because I don’t know that it translates as well as they’d like it to. But, I admire their dedication to maintaining artistic integrity despite the demands of the system. They are much improved technically, but still not quite where they’ll need to be to break up the top two.

Speaking of the top two …

It wouldn’t be ice dance without a little drama, eh? For my take on the wide-swinging pendulum of opinions on Meryl Davis and Charlie White’s free dance vs. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s free dance, check this piece out. I present my own opinion, but also give you the bare facts and numbers, in case you could care less about my private opinion.

These two teams have made each other better, that is the one thing I can, without a doubt, guarantee. As they continue to push one another, they in turn push the entire sport.

I’m amazed when I watch them both, because of the complication of each piece of choreography. There are no simple movements in their programs. No easy steps. No basic strokes. And yet, they combine the difficulty with basic skills that make it all look remarkably easier than it actually is. Plus, you add the layer of story telling and passion and connection and emotion … there’s so much to the package — for both teams — that I don’t know how they pull it all off.

They’re like machines … with pretty costumes and powerful expressions.

Every conversation about these two should start with the simple fact that both teams are extraordinarily good at what they do.

Side note: anyone else wonder what differences we’d see in this rivalry if they didn’t train together? It’s an interesting thought …

PREDICTIONS

Gold: Davis/White
Silver: Virtue/Moir
Bronze: Pechalat/Bourzat

Tomorrow: Ladies and Men

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Grand Prix Rewind: The Pairs December 3, 2012

I may be in the minority on this, but as far as I’m concerned, the pairs event has been the most underwhelming thus far. We’ve seen good skates here and there, but for the most part, the couples who walk away with gold around their necks have been far from spectacular. They’re just that much better than everyone else … that or the politics are holding everyone else back.

But that would never happen in skating these days, right? (No, I’m not up for discussing conspiracy.)

It’s just, the top teams have so much potential, so much talent, so much polish. but we haven’t really seen that. We’ve seen sloppy attempts at extraordinary creativity or overused story lines lacking energy and charm. Don’t get me wrong — there are programs out there with the capability of being quite memorable for their quality and uniqueness. They just haven’t been skated that way.

Don't be surprised if Bazarova and Larionov play the role of late-season spoiler.

Don’t be surprised if Bazarova and Larionov play the role of late-season spoiler.

It doesn’t help that those underwhelming performances have won events more often than not. Who knows, maybe these top teams are prepping to peak just at the right part of the season and the remainder of the year, we’ll see the kind of skates that make lasting memories for their epic (yes, epic) greatness! (A girl can hope, right?)

Alas, there is still a season to recap. So let’s get too it.

Not unexpectedly, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov are the top qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final after winning both of their events. They, though, are perfect examples of programs not skated to full potential. I will say this: I like their programs this year. Not as much as last year’s, but I do like them. And their pairs elements are stunning. Side-by-side spins to end a program? Suicide … unless you do them as well as Tatiana and Max do. Their throws? Comparable to anyone in the world. Their lifts are strong, and their side-by-side jumps are typically beautiful. It’s just a matter of hitting all those elements in the same program, which they haven’t yet done.

Still, they have the season-high pairs score with 207.53. A far cry, though, from last year at their best.

The rest of the best, it seems, battled for consistency. Bet you’ve never heard that one before!

Qing Pang and Jian Tong are impressive in that they can still skate at such a high level despite the years of damage to their bodies. A silver and a gold is nothing to be disappointed in, and yet they, too, have a number of technical issues to work through if they hope to medal at Worlds.

Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov? They’ve been okay. Nothing to match the glory of last year’s early season (granted, they weren’t able to sustain that). Again, though, a gold and a silver isn’t too shabby.

The last of the Final qualifiers to join the one gold, one silver club is the Russian duo of Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov. These two seem to once again be right on the brink of breaking through. They dealt with a bit of an injury to start the year, but came back stronger. Not perfect, but better. They once again have beautiful programs, but sometimes they skate right through them. There’s a bit of spark to their performance that tends to be lacking for me. If they add that to the mix (and manage those technical elements), they’ll be right up there with their Russian teammates before long. In fact, there’s a chance they peak at the perfect time this season and pull off a bit of an upset.

A bit of a surprise, perhaps, is the fact that two Canadian teams made the Final: Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch. Kirsten and Dylan made it on a tie-break over Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek. Duhamel and Radford, though, steadily continue their climb toward the world’s top five. They have added polish this year that compliments their technical prowess. Their technical risk, however, can either be their greatest advantage or their worst enemy. Their side-by-side triple lutzes? Brilliant, if they hit. Costly if they don’t.

Notably absent from the GPF is the reigning World Championship team, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. They only skated in one event, eliminating their chances for the Final. However, they did post the second-highest score on the year with 201.36 in their gold  medal winning (albeit flawed) Skate Canada performance. They’re also the only other team to break the 200 point mark this season. All that means is, don’t count them out for the World Championships. You better believe they want to defend that title.

I can’t forget to mention the American teams. No, they didn’t make the final. But Denney and Coughlin made marked improvements over the offseason. Their technical elements are perhaps as consistent as anyone out there. While their components are often lacking, they have a new level of performance value and connection to one another that no doubt helps them draw in the crowd — and the judges.

Meanwhile, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished out a successful Grand Prix season with their first ever GP medal — bronze at NHK Trophy. These two have such a captivating quality on the ice. Of course, it helps that their height difference makes all their elements look even more larger-than-life. With the ability to land throw quads, their power isn’t a concern. I’m excited to see them continue to develop and mature on the ice!

The Final should prove an interesting test — has the season experience boosted the performance levels enough that we see back-t0-back magical skates in Sochi? We shall see…

 

And So It Begins: 2012 US International Classic September 28, 2012

I’ve decided that life has a way of spiraling  out of control most when I’d rather be watching skating!

Okay, so it hasn’t been totally out of control. But a move and a new project at work have kept me from the US International Classic videos until, well, right now. But with Neblhorn happening now and Skate America right around the corner (can you believe it?) I’ve definitely been itching to sneak a look at some of the performances from Salt Lake City. 

This event welcomed several skaters I, for one, was anxious to see.

Lindsay Davis & Mark Ladwig, for example.

Their pairing is interesting to me. There isn’t an automatic, “this is going to catch on like wild fire” vibe from them. But, it’s still so new, there is a little bit of push and pull. They just need time. I like some of the artistic elements — a little more drama, perhaps! The technique will come along. I just hope they don’t get frustrated with the results until then.

Kirsten Moore-Towers & Dylan Moscovitch — I love this duo. She is a little dynamo. And it’s nice to see so much emotion in their skating again this year! And those throws? GORGEOUS. As soon as their short program started, I realized we’d just jumped up a level. The speed, the strength, the confidence, it was all there. A few stumbles here and there, but they have a lot to work with this season … and some pretty grand expectations of themselves.

Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin — First comeback free skate of the season? They recovered from a disappointing 5th-place short program to leapfrog country mates Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay for the bronze. They always do something interesting and unique. It’s nice to see them skate well to go with their great programs!

How about the ladies?

Gracie Gold is precious. At such a young age, and with so little senior experience, she always looks so polished, so poised. She really takes her time with the choreography — something that often gets lost in the shuffle of point counting. She had some trouble in the second half of her free skate (which she was not happy about) but this gives her room to build. I worry, sometimes, that the expectations already on her shoulders are too much to live up to. But, she has the talent, no doubt.

Agnes Zawadski — her jumps are ridiculously gigantic. Yes, ridiculously gigantic. She skates with so much power! Sometimes it’s too much, but this early in the year? She looks in complete control. A few bobbles here and there, but nothing to be terribly concerned with. Her struggles will likely come if she has a tough competition. In the past, that has gotten to her in a big way. But this was a great victory — mentally, even more than physically — to get her on track for the year.

I have a feeling the battle in the ladies’ competitions this year is going to be something else. And at US Nationals? It could be anyone’s game! (more…)

 

A look ahead: Cup of China’s hottest couples November 3, 2011

The dance and pairs disciplines bring us another dose of fresh faces, but also a few couples looking to claim one one of the first spots in the Grand Prix Final. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Dancers spicing it up

The sambas and rumbas of this year’s short dance will bring an element all their own to the ice in China — heat. The ice dance event in has, in a handful of seasons, become one of the most popular among skating fans. The increased difficulty brought on by the Code of Points system, coupled with the intense competition spurred by the Shpilband/Zoueva camp has made it a highlight of every competition.

This weeks event features largely inexperienced teams, save the top two.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are fresh off of a second place finish at Finlandia Trophy earlier this season, as well as a surprise bronze medal at Worlds to end last season. The are good. Simple as that. And with their youth, they’ll continue to improve. The short dance is a stretch for them (brother/sister teams always have a challenge with the more sultry dances!), but if they manage that, they soar in the free dance.

Their biggest competition will come from the Russians, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. These two had success on the Grand Prix circuit last season, but struggled at the end of the year. They tend to score well on some big elements, and they may have polished things up a bit since last year. They’ll need that to face the young Americans.

Pernelle Carron and Lloyd Jones will be pushing for a place on the medal stand. They finished in those “bubble” spots last season — 4th or 5th in the Grand Prix. But here, in a field without much experience, they should be pushing the top three.

Trying to be the next junior-to-senior phenoms, American’s Charlotte Lichtman and Dean Copely make their senior debut with a chance to impress. Also making their debut as a couple are Emily Samuelson and Todd Gilles. Of course, Emily made the 2010 Olympic team with Evan Bates (who debuted with his new partner last week). They will ahve work to do, but this is a good place to get their feet wet and see what they have going for them.

Podium predictions (no particular order):

Shibutani/Shibutani
Carron/Jones
Bobrova/Soloviev (more…)

 

Taking on the World: the Pairs April 18, 2011

Unlike the Ladies competition this season, the Pairs field for Worlds is much easier to define, and in a sense, to predict.

The overwhelming favorite will be the German team of Savchenko and Szolkowy. They own the top score this season, posting a 210.72 at the Grand Prix Final, and they’ve looked the most polished and prepared, as well as the most determined to win all season long. They have a maturity to not only their programs, but to their approach to competition that has served them well, and should continue to do so. This team always does something that’s a little different; they push creativity to a new level. And this year, the seem to have found programs that work for their own sense of originality and for the judges watching their every move.

Yuko and Alexanders free skate gave them the victory at Cup of Russia early in the season.

Coming into the event a bit under the radar, the Russian team of Kavaguti and Smirnov have a good chance to take home a medal. This team has been on the rise for a couple seasons now, but never really broken through to the top. Having seen what they had to offer this year, however, that could be about to change. They only competed at one Grand Prix event (Russia), but there they won gold. Their long program is stunning. It is one of my favorite pairs programs of the season. With the time they’ve had since coming in second to the Germans at Europeans (with the second highest score of the season — 203.61), they’ll have had time to improve as well.

Joining them with newly acquired “home ice advantage” are fellow Russians Bazarova/Larionov, and Volosozhar/Trankhov. Bazarova/Larionov posted the fourth best score this season, while Voloszhar/Trankhov topped the field at Russian Nationals, wining the title over the favorites. They have little international experience, but they have all the talent in the world. They could be a surprise. Russian Pairs teams are once again on the rise, and they’ll be represented strongly here before the hometown crowd (with thoughts, no doubt, of being podium-ready by Sochi in 2014).

The early season co-favorites with Savchenko/Szolkowy are the Chinese team of Pang and Tong. They have had a strong season in their own right, although they’ve looked a little shaky throughout. First place finishes at both of their Grand Prix events got them to the Final where they were edged out by the Germans to take home the silver. They came back strong, however, at 4 Continents for gold there. Their season best score of 199.45 has them in third on the list, but we all know that doesn’t necessarily translate to results at Worlds. It’ll be a battle between the top three here, for sure.

Joining the Japanese contingent is the young team of Takahashi/Tran. They squeeze into the top ten international scores this season, but competing on both the Junior and Senior level this season could result in fatigue, especially now that the season has been lengthened by a month.

Then things get a little less obvious and a bit more sentimental. The US and Canadian teams have been nice surprises on the international scene, and they all boast stories that make them great storylines. Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin have been skating very well, of course, in the shadow of the program dedicated to John’s late mom. They skate with such raw passion and they’re driven by something greater than sport — life. They also have their sights set on earning back three spots for the US at next year’s Worlds.

Joining them in that quest are Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig. They debuted a new short program at US Nationals, and I feel they may be one of the few who will have benefited from the extra month to train. That way, they’ll be quite sure of this program and its intricacies, which could serve them well. Of course, Amanda is also recently engaged to Jeremy Barrett — the bronze medalist from US Nationals with then-partner Caydee Denney. The two have since split and Jeremy has retired.

Canadians Moore-Towers/Moscovich, and Duhamel/Radford have both medaled this season internationally, so they’ll likely be duking it out with the Americans and Russians to fill out the top five or six spots. Kirsten and Dylan were the last minute replacements for Jessica Dube and Brice Davison at Skate America who shocked the field by taking silver. Not bad for last minute substitutions! Meagan and Eric are on a mission of their own. Meagan had retired after last season, but that was short lived. Now she’s trying to take her new partnership with Eric to their best Worlds finish yet.

All of these teams have posted scores this season capable of putting them in the top 10 in Moscow. It ultimately comes down to who leaves it all on the ice when it counts.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! December 8, 2010

We had the most wonderful snow storm this past weekend. And yes, I think snow is wonderful. In December, at least. My back yard was like a wonderland…and I was like a kid in a candy store when it started snowing. Moving from a real live “winter wonderland” into a land of cold-but-dry midwest winters is rough, especially when winter means skating season in its peak!

We’re in for another big storm this weekend, but the biggest storm is headed for Beijing, as the top 6 skaters/teams in each discipline take to the ice to prove their “regular season” successes were more than just luck. The competition will be tougher than it has been all season, so these athletes know they better be prepared.

Here’s how things break down.

Men: World Champ Daisuke Takahashi seems the likely choice for “favorite.” However, he hasn’t had the most spectacular of Grand Prix seasons. He has just the 4th highest season best of the Final competitors –  234.79 (Kozuka – 248.07, Chan – 239.52, Oda – 236.52), and he’s looked a bit off more than once so far. With his countrymen hot on his heels and Chan anxious to skate two programs worthy of his monumental scores, Dai better up his game. Don’t forget the impending “Battle of the MJs” between Amodio and Verner. Florent got his in first this season, and the impression was created with raving reactions from the audience (albeit not-quite-so-raving reviews from skating fans who saw too much standing and not enough skating). However, Verner’s attempt paled in comparison. Tomas still had a very solid GP season, and his short program is simply divine. But that long…well, I just hope he doesn’t have to skate right after Amodio this weekend.

Ladies: Miki Ando has the best score this season – 174.47 – over fellow Japanese skater Akiko Suzuki (172.74) and Alissa Czisny (172.37). Carolina Kostner and Kanako Murakami have the same season best score of 164.93. Yet again, the only constant for this event is that no one has had a spectacular season. In fact, despite some wonderful moments (Alissa’s gold at Skate Canada, Ando’s jump clinic at Cup of China, Murakami’s delightful short program), the ladies season has been a bit of a mess. Very few clean programs, and many cases of “she who falls the least wins.” There are some unlikely names on this Final list for that very reason! There’s just truly no way of guessing what will happen here.

Pairs: Savchenko and Szolkowy have the edge in season best score over Pang and Tong, 197.88 to 189.37. The other four couples are competing in the Final for the first time. Don’t forget the kids from China, though. Sui and Han made a big splash on the senior circuit, proving they can hang with the big kids. They are passing on the Junior Grand Prix final to compete at the senior level, so no doubt they’ll be eying a spot on that podium…Moore-Towers/Moscovitch and Bazarova/Larionov better watch their backs!

Ice dance: Davis and White looked to be the runaway favorites all season long, and they are certainly still highly favored here. But their season best is only 3.39 higher than that of the French team of Pechalat and Bourzat (165.21, 161.82 respectively.) The French team has gained ground, and they may have the best free dance of the season. I’m looking forward to seeing Meryl and Charlie skate their free dance to it’s full potential, and they will likely have an edge in the short dance. But they won’t be able to take this one without a fight, that’s for sure. Beyond that, however, it would appear to be a battle for bronze between several teams that have looked good at times this year, but don’t quite have the fire power to play with Davis and White just yet. Still, it should be a very competitive event, as usual!

 

My Fantasy picks have been made, and as always, a vlog with those picks is coming soon.

 

What are your thoughts heading into this weekend? These should be the best 6 competitors in their disciplines…do you agree? Who are you most surprised to see in Beijing? Who do you think will make the biggest splash? Let me know!

 

Next week I hope to look a little closer at the not-so-new-but-reemerging Code of Points debate. Hopefully this weekend will paint a clear picture of how the system is really working…and we’ll go from there.

 

My Twitter presence this weekend may be limited due to a heavy work schedule (hate it when “real work” gets in the way of my skating work!) but we shall see. I will certainly be letting you know how much live play-by-play I’ll be available for, so check twitter.com/FromTheBoards for all the info!

 

Until then…

 

Eric Bompard – High hopes and Heartbreaks November 29, 2010

Well we made it. Paris brought thrilling victories, and  bitter disappointments, but we have, at last, reached the end of the “regular season” in the international skating world.

The men’s competition was again the most exciting.

Prior to the final group, it was announced that the French veteran, Brian Joubert, had withdrawn (due to illness). The gasp in the crowd was obvious, even via the icenetwork live stream!  I have to say, I was a bit disappointed as well. However, the show must go on, and fellow Frenchman Florent Amodio was up for the challenge.

Takahiko Kozuka led after the short program, but Amodio was hot on his heals with a free skate that lit up the crowd and the scoreboard alike! But never fear – calm as a cucumber, Kozuka threw down possibly his best free skate ever, quad and all. He just checked the jumps off, one-by-one, and the softness of his knees made his footwork soar. By far the champion here, and Taka has a chance at giving his countryman – reigning World Champ Daisuke Takahashi – a run for his money at Japanese Nationals.

But first, the Grand Prix Final.

For the men, it will be:

1. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN)
2. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
3. Patrick Chan (CAN)
4. Tomas Verner (CZE)
5. Nobunari Oda (JPN)
6. Florent Amodio (FRA)

Unfortunately, all three US men (who did well in their own right this GP season!) just missed out. Jeremy Abbott is the 1st alternate, followed by Brandon Mroz and Adam Rippon, should one or more of the top six not be able to compete in Beijing.

This competition could be very interesting…but what else would we expect from this year’s men?

The ladies were predictably unpredictable. Actually, though, things shaped up a little more like they were “supposed to” in Paris.

Mao Asada is still quite a mess by her own standards, but compared to her first outing, things went better. She stayed on her feet in the long, however she popped a few jumps, including both planned triple axels. I know that’s her “trademark” move, but I wish she’d drop it to a regular old double axel, at least until she gets her new technique worked out. That way she would have less to fret about and could give more focus to the other jumps.

Regardless, she finished 5th, which was an improvement over her 8th place finish at NHK Trophy.

The battle between the top three was interesting. Alissa Czisny pulled up to third overall after a less-than-perfect free skate. However, her component marks and the technical markks she gets for her footwork and spins gave her an advantage that held her in position for a medal – and for a spot in the Final.

Mirai Nagasu – not skating from 1st after the short – skated a beautiful long that was marred by a rare error on a layback spin – normally one of Mirai’s highest scoring elements! A few underrotations and low levels on her footwork cost her the title, but it was just barely, as she was just two points shy of the champion.

Kiira Korpi skated away with gold after her own les-than-stellar free skate. But her three point lead in the short and a slight edges on the program component scores gave her the win. She is the first alternate for the Final.

The other qualifiers are:

1. Miki Ando (JPN)
2. Alissa Czisny (USA)
3. Carolina Kostner (ITA)
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN)
5. Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
6. Rachael Flatt (USA)

The other alternates are the Americans, Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner.

The pairs competition from France also played out as expected.

The world champs, Savchenko and Szolkowy skated brilliantly once again (although I felt it wasn’t as good as at Skate America).  They far out-classed the field, and earned their second gold of the season.

Skating to silver was the Russian team of Bazarova and Larionov. They have a classically Russian style and elegance that serves them well. They don’t have the spark of some of the other teams, but they skate well, and were well above the rest of the field (although there was a significant gap between them and the Germans).

The pairs that will be going to Beijing are:

1. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER)
2. Pang/Tong (JPN)
3. Bazarova/Larionov (RUS)
4. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN)
5. Iliushechkina/Maisuradze (RUS)
6. Sui/Han (CHN)

And the alternates:

Takahashi/Tran (JPN)
Yankowskas/Coughlin (USA)
Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN)

Perhaps the skate of the competition belonged to the French ice dance team of Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Skating at home in front of a crowd that shrieked at the smallest hand motion, they skated a classic, timeless, elegant, sophisticated performance to a Chaplin Medley that stole the hearts of all who saw it. Their lines were stunning, their technique unmatched, and the character and expression they maintained throughout was the cherry on top of their Grand Prix sundae! It was fabulous. They will be competitive with the top teams at the Final, for sure.

Speaking of the Final, the dance line up:

1. Davis/White (USA)
2. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA)
3. Crone/Poirier (CAN)
4. Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
5. Weaver/Poje (CAN)
6. Noffmann/Zavozin (HUN)

The alternates (again, some unlucky Americans who just missed it after skating wonderfully this season!)

Shibutani/Shibutani (USA)
Chock/Zuerlein (USA)
Riazanova/Tkachenko (RUS)

Without some of the top North American dance teams on the scene (Virtue/Moir, Belbin/Agosto) the competition is a bit more diverse compared to recent years of so much North American dominance! That said, it will likely be a very competitive event, with Davis and White the early favorites.

And there you have it, friends! Another Grand Prix series nearly complete.

Anyone brave enough to make predictions for the Final?

 

In other news, the second episode of Skating with the Stars airs tonight…as I said, I reserve my judgement until after this show. I did see on Twitter that Tanith will have some kind of additional role tonight, as she said she’d be coming down from the “nest.” Can I just say that makes me MUCH happier? How much that helps, we shall see.

Then, on to Beijing!

Until then…