We'll be halfway through the Grand Prix series country tournaments after this weekend. We wait so long for it and then it goes by so quickly! Here is what I think of the upcoming competition.
Why to Watch: There are a few world medal contenders in this group. I can't wait to see Jeremy Abbott compete. He may be the last hope for the American men to get a spot in the Grand Prix Final. It will also be good to see if Richard Dornbush can improve on his fourth place finish from Skate America. Japan's Nobunari Oda tends to do pretty well in these early Grand Prix events before he runs out of steam - can he continue the streak here? And will he have quads for us?
Keep an Eye Out For: Artur Gachinski of Russia. It seems like his breakthrough medal at the world championships was not a fluke and he may be one to watch all season. Will he still look like a mini-Plushenko? There is also up and coming Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu, who actually beat Abbott at last season's Four Continents. Brian Joubert has withdrawn from the competition due to injury.
1) Jeremy Abbott (USA)
2) Artur Gachinski (Russia)
3) Nobunari Oda (Japan)
Why to Watch: After seeing Elizaveta Tuktamisheva of Russia win Skate Canada last weekend, here is a chance to see the other Russian female wunderkind, Adelina Sotnikova, who regularly finishes just ahead of Tuktamisheva. Looking at the lineup, I'd say Sotnikova a good chance of repeating her countrymate's success here. We also have Skate America runner-up Carolina Kostner of Italy competing.
Keep an Eye Out For: Japan's Kanako Murakami is making her Grand Prix debut here, as is American Christina Gao. Gao has been recovering from a hip injury that cut into training time, so we'll see if there are lingering effects. And American Mirai Nagasu will be here looking to make up for a lackluster season start at Skate Canada.
1) Adelina Sotnikova (Russia)
2) Carolina Kostner (Italy)
3) Kanako Murakami (Japan)
Why to Watch: This is a very impressive lineup. We have three teams who have already medalled on this season's Grand Prix (Moore-Towers and Moscovitch of Canada, Sui and Han of China, Zhang and Zhang of China). And then we have perennial contenders Kavaguti and Smirnov of Russia, who are possibly the most spectacular of any of these pairs when they are on. They are not often "on," however.
Keep an Eye Out For: Evora and Ladwig of USA, always the bridesmaids but never the bride. Or national champs. Last season they were overshadowed by Yankowskas and Coughlin; this year it's Denney and Coughlin getting the press. I don't know that these two can sneak on the medal podium in this field but they have medaled on the Grand Prix before.
1) Kavaguti and Smirnov (Russia)
2) Zhang and Zhang (China)
3) Sui and Han (China)
Why to Watch: The Shibutanis are here and they are the top-ranked team after winning a world bronze medal last year. They'll most likely battle with Bobrova and Soloviev of Russia for the gold.
Keep an Eye Out For: This is the first Grand Prix event for new American pair Emily Samuelson and Todd Gilles. We'll see if they do any better than Samuelson's former partner Evan Bates did last weekend at Skate Canada.
1) Shibutani and Shibutani (USA)
2) Bobrova and Soloviev (Russia)
3) Carron and Jones (France)