Sorry for the lack of blogging lately. Life and illness sometimes get in the way of extra-curriculars, but I will hopefully be back on schedule soon.
So, let's break down the Grand Prix Final, which starts tomorrow in Tokyo, Japan.
I have to say that this group of pairs is about as good as it could get - all the major Olympic medal contenders - and this is the only discipline we can say that for at the GPF. Also, it's the first time this season that Germany's Savchenko and Szolkowy, and China's Pang and Tong and Shen and Zhao will face off against each other, and a lot of people are looking forward to it. Most expect it to come down to a competition between Shen and Zhao and Savchenko and Szolkowy. Most recently, Shen and Zhao had some mistakes in their Skate America free skate while Savchenko and Szolkowy, though not perfect, received a 10 in their components scores for a dominant skate at Skate Canada with their new free program to Out of Africa.
It will also be a chance to see how Zhang and Zhang react with such stacked competition - they have not been on their game so far this season and things will only get tougher for them as the Olympics get closer. Mukhortova and Trankov and Kavaguti and Smirnov are also very dangerous pairs, and pairs from Russia should never be counted out in an Olympic year. This should be a very good competition.
1) Savchenko and Szolkowy
2) Shen and Zhao
3) Pang and Tong*
*All season I have had a feeling about Kavaguti and Smirnov, but they've lost to Pang and Tong twice so I just could not pick them.
France's Brian Joubert pulled out of the competition due to a foot injury, but he was replaced by Czech Republic's Tomas Verner, who should have his quad on display. Japan's Nobunari Oda has another chance to give his Chaplin program a whirl - but will he have his quad as well?
This is also a meaningful competition because it pits who many regard as the top American male skaters - Jeremy Abbott, Evan Lysacek, and Johnny Weir, against each other for the first time this season. And not to be forgotten is Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, who seems to be gaining strength as the season wears on.
*Augh, this went from being Abbott to being Weir to finally being Takahashi. I DON'T KNOW.
This became a two-horse race when Belbin and Agosto withdrew. And to be honest, with the absence of Delobel and Schoenfelder and Domnina and Shabalin, the results here pretty much mean nothing to me in the grand scheme of things. But, on the bright side, this is the first ice dancing competition all season that may actually be a competition, so that's something to look forward to.
Neither Davis and White nor Virtue and Moir have been perfect this season, although it doesn't seem to have hurt either team too much. I think both of these teams are so wonderful to watch. The international judges have seemed to prefer Virtue and Moir when these teams compete head to head, so I am going to have to pick Virtue and Moir.
1) Virtue and Moir
2) Davis and White
3) Pechalat and Bourzat
I don't know what has happened with me and the ladies, but I am not thoroughly excited about this field. I'll be impressed if Yu-na Kim finally puts a complete and clean two programs together (remember she bailed on her triple flip at Trophee Eric Bompard) because she obviously does not have to do nearly her best to win these days. We can also look forward to "Queen Yu-na is back" headlines if she skates cleanly.
Major questions: will ANYONE skate clean? Will Joannie Rochette be the Joannie Rochette from last season or continue her 2009 mediocrity? Will Ashley Wagner continue to assert herself as deserving of a US Olympic slot? Does Alena Leonova continue her medal streak...I will be completely unsurprised if she finds herself on that podium. I would also be unsurprised if Rochette misses the podium, because her skating has not been up to par lately. Still, as you can see, I am playing it a bit safe in my predictions.
If I seem slightly cranky in this post, I blame it on the meds!