The second-to-last Grand Prix country event is this weekend in Moscow - the Rostelecom Cup. We're going to see some skaters scrambling for Grand Prix Final slots. Here's what I'll be looking for:
Why to Watch: It's the first competition for Russia's Kavaguti and Smirnov following her shoulder surgery earlier in the year. If they've had enough time to recover and work together, this should be an absolute cakewalk.
Keep an Eye Out For: USA's Evora and Ladwig should really medal here. Their personal best score is more about ten points more than the next closest pair. But they looked so lackluster at Cup of China that I wouldn't necessarily bet on them. Then there are two bronze medal teams: Japan's Takahashi and Tran and Canada's Lawrence and Swiegers. I didn't find either team impressive in their last outings but I'm sure at least one of those two pairs will make the podium.
1) Kavaguti and Smirnov
2) Takahashi and Tran
3) Evora and Ladwig
Why to Watch: I can't wait to see how many times Canada's Patrick Chan will be able to fall and still win. In years past I might have said this would be a tough competition between the USA's Jeremy Abbott and Chan, but I just don't know if Abbott can get near Chan's program components scores. I am interested to see Abbott's short program again; it is a very different style for him...lots of melodramatic arm movements.
Keep an Eye Out For: Basically, everybody. You have the Czech Republic's Tomas Verner, fresh off of his Cup of China bronze medal. Then there's last season's World Junior champ Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, who came in fourth at NHK Trophy; his country mate and this year's Nebelhorn Trophy champ Tatsuki Machida; and Russia's Konstantin Menshov who came in second to Machida at Nebelhorn. If Verner errs, any of them could step in, or even Italy's Samuel Contesti, Spain's Javier Fernandez, or France's Alban Preaubert. I think that leaves only three people who I don't think have a shot at medaling. Knowing my luck...
1) Chan (Canada)
2) Abbott (USA)
3) Verner (Czech Republic)
Why to Watch: To see if Italy's Faiella and Scali cut the skirts, of course. I don't think they're looking prepared this season, but considering their abilities and experience they should be able to win this competition, even though they recently came in after Bobrova and Soloviev of Russia at Skate Canada.
Keep an Eye Out For: Bronze medal will be contested here. There are quite a few fourth place finishers hoping to leap onto the podium. World junior champs Ilinykh and Katsalapov will try to fend off world junior silver medalists Paul and Islam of Canada.
1) Faiella and Scali (Italy)
2) Bobrova and Soloviev (Russia)
3) Ilinykh and Katsalapov (Russia)
Why to Watch: There are so many interesting skaters here! While I think Miki Ando of Japan is the favorite, her country mate Akiko Suzuki will look to challenge her more than she did a few weeks ago at Cup of China. And Russia's Alena Leonova will try to hold off the young rising star Ksenia Makarova, silver medalist at Skate Canada.
Keep an Eye Out For: I'm hoping USA's Ashley Wagner has a better showing here than she did at her last Grand Prix. I'm also wondering if Agnes Zawadzki can pull together a better free skate than she had at Skate Canada.
1) Miki Ando
2) Ksenia Makarova
3) Akiko Suzuki