Skate America: and what a battle it will be…

The first Grand Prix of the season is just around the corner and one thing is sure: Detroit will be a battlefield at the end of the week, at least in the men’s and ladies’ event.

I give you the names (though, I’m pretty sure you know them by heart): Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka (last year’s winner of the event) and Tatsuki Machida from Japan, Max Aaron, Adam Rippon and Jason Brown (second place at Nebelhorn Trophy, three weeks ago) from the United States, Denis Ten (the World silver medalist) from Kazakhstan, the Russian Artur Gachinski (third at Finlandia) and the Swedish Alexander Majorov. They’ll fight tooth and nail – and their ice-encounter will be the highlight of the weekend.

Daisuke Takahashi at the practice rink in Nice (Worlds, 2012)

Daisuke Takahashi at the practice rink in Nice (Worlds, 2012)

Takahiko Kozuka, surrounded by fans (Nice, 2012)

Takahiko Kozuka, surrounded by fans (Nice, 2012)

Adam Rippon in Nice, 2012, Free Program

Adam Rippon in Nice, 2012, Free Program

Jackie Wong, the Figure Skating Examiner, predicts a courageous Top Three – Max Aaron, Takahiko Kozuka, Daisuke Takahashi – given the fact that Max has, by far, the most difficult free program: three quadruples, two triple axels and five other triples. If he nails them all – what a boost of confidence and enthusiasm will be for the American at the beginning of the Olympic season.

For the fans of Daisuke Takahashi, Skate America will surely be a wonderful competition: Detroit is the place where the Japanese will show the world his new short program: an emotional composition, choreographed by Kenji Miyamoto, on the „Sonatina for Violin”, belonging to Mamoru Samuragochi, a deaf composer born in Hiroshima.

With only one spot in the men’s event at the Olympics in Sochi next year, Artur Gachinski finds himself in a rather difficult position. Will he, Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov eventually compete for that single spot or will Evgeni Plushenko be guaranteed the place? Cited by RiaNovosti, Tatiana Tarasova – who is coaching Maxim Kovtun – was categorical: „Zhenya’s participation in the Olympics and his place in the team aren’t up for discussion. If he’s fit, then he’ll compete”. According to Ria Novosti, „Kovtun is positioning himself as a potential Russian Olympian in case of injury to Plushenko and has added two quads to his short program”. Where does Artur Gachinski stand? It’s not that clear.

Arthur Gachinski (Worlds in Nice, 2012)

Arthur Gachinski (Worlds in Nice, 2012)

The ladies’ event at Skate America will be too a battle of nerves. Mao Asada, first in Japan Open, will present her new short program in Detroit – as will the winner of last year’s Skate America, Ashley Wagner. But the Russian girls will also be a joy to watch: the young and very talented Elena Radionova (the winner of Nebelhorn Trophy) and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, at her third Grand Prix season. Liza is actually “fighting” with three other Russian skaters – Alena Leonova, Adelina Sotnikova, Julia Lipnitskaya – for one of the two Olympic berths in the ladies’ event next year, in homeland Russia. Having earned her place in the Olympic competition three weeks ago in Oberstdorf, will Elene Gedevanishvili from Georgia finally skate consistently? As for me, I’m eager to discover the new programs of the Italian Valentina Marchei. She skated wonderfully last season, producing a surprise at the Europeans in Zagreb, where she was third after the short program.

Mao Asada, Short Program, Worlds in Nice, 2012

Mao Asada, Short Program, Worlds in Nice, 2012

Ashley Wagner, Short Program, Nice, 2012

Ashley Wagner, Short Program, Nice, 2012

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Elene Gedevanishvili (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Elene Gedevanishvili (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Valentina Marchei (Europeans, Short Program, Zagreb, 2013)

Valentina Marchei (Europeans, Short Program, Zagreb, 2013)

On the other hand, pairs’ event should lack surprises: the Russians Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, the winners of last year’s Skate America, have already earned a record score for their free skating at Nebelhorn Trophy. I’m more interested to see if they’re keeping their consistency so early in the season – and I’m thrilled by the idea of seeing the new programs of Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov; a pair that always amazes me by their originality. As I’m eager to see the start of the season for the Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, a pair that I particularly enjoyed last season.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

In the ice dance event it should be simple: Meryl Davis and Charlie White for the gold, as in 2012. Can’t wait to see the free programe of Maia and Alex Shibutani, a Michael Jackson Medley, and, also, the new routines of Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. On the other hand, during the last two seasons, I also rooted for Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov, the Russian skaters representing Azerbaijan. I do consider them a wonderful couple, with beautiful and original programs. Fingers crossed for them too.

Two more words: what a weekend!

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Worlds, Nice, 2012)

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Worlds, Nice, 2012)

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)

Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov (Europeans, Zagreb, 2013)