The Grand Prix season is upon us! And it starts tomorrow in Paris at Trophee Eric Bompard. Here is a look at the event.
Why to Watch: Virtue and Moir, Virtue and Moir, and...have I mentioned Virtue and Moir? This couple is a major contender for an Olympic gold medal, and here's their chance to start the season off right. Meanwhile, Great Britain's Sinead Kerr and John Kerr are fresh off a win at the Finlandia Trophy, and France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat are the home country's most likely chance for a gold here.
Keep an Eye Out For: U.S.'s Madison Hubbell and Kieffer Hubbell. They came in fourth in the U.S. National Championships this year and it's their first senior Grand Prix event. Let's see what scores they can bring in on this stage. Also, look out for France's Pernelle Carron and her new partner, Lloyd Jones (partnership with Matthieu Jost ended after last season).
1) Virtue and Moir
2) Pechalat and Bourzat
3) Kerr and Kerr
Why to Watch: This event showcases numerous Olympic medal contenders, but they are competitors who have been inconsistent in recent years. If Nobunari Oda is on his game, he can score big with his great components along with jumps. But he is so often off his game. Brian Joubert looked a bit out of it at French Masters, which is not that surprising at this point in the season, but is he ready for TEB? There is also Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, who came in fourth at the 2009 Worlds, Grand Prix past medalist Ryan Bradley of the U.S., and Russia's Sergei Voronov, along with the other French contenders. I have no idea how this one will shake out. I also have a feeling that it will have absolutely no bearing on these skaters' performances for the rest of the season, for better or for worse.
Keep an Eye Out For: The U.S.'s Adam Rippon, who is reportedly looking very good since switching coaches last season.
Predictions (and, I stress, I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA. I almost picked these out of a hat).
3) France's Yannick Ponsero
Why to Watch: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany are obviously hoping for that Olympic gold medal, and they have been on top for a few years now. They should win here and we can check out their programs.
Keep and Eye Out For: Russian pair Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov. They can score very high when they skate well, but they often appear to be battling each other and can't seem to put together two clean programs. Let's see if the drama continues into this season! Also, it's a chance to get a bit of information on American Olympic contenders Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, who missed the world team last season.
1) Savchenko and Szolkowy
2) Mukhortova and Trankov
3) Canada's Dube and Davison
Why to Watch: Well, we lost one reason to watch when Sasha Cohen had to withdraw due to tendinitis (can't figure out if anyone is going to be allowed to replace her - also, Aaron at Axels Loops and Spins points out that she skated at Improv Ice just last week, despite her tendinitis.) But, never fear, there is still plenty to see here. Particularly, the true biggest rivalry in skating, in my opinion: Japan's Mao Asada versus current world champion Yu-na Kim. For the past year, Asada has been banking on the strategy of landing two triple axels in her long program as a way of besting Kim. For the most part, it hasn't worked out. Additionally, she did not perform well at the recent Japan Open. If Asada is clean, she could win. If she's not clean, she is often bumped down to third or worse. Luckily, there are several other medal contenders here - including the U.S.'s Caroline Zhang and Japan's Yukari Nakano - although she is dealing with an ongoing shoulder issue.
Keep an Eye Out For: Italy's Carolina Kostner. After a complete meltdown at the 2009 world championships, Kostner moved to California to train with Frank Carroll. Will she manage to skate cleaner this season? Kostner is a judge favorite.
2) Carolina Kostner