Cup of China: the battle for the Olympic bronze medal starts this weekend, in Beijing

The first duel of the season is pretty much on our doorstep: it will definitely be a fierce battle between Nathalie Péchalat&Fabian Bourzat and Ekaterina Bobrova&Dmitri Soloviev in the ice dance event at Cup of China. This is their first encounter since the 2013 Worlds in London, Canada – and a preview of their Olympic confrontation: the French and the Russians are in direct competition for the bronze medal in Sochi. One thing is sure: the result in Cup of China is crucial for any of the two teams.

by Florentina Tone

Nathalie and Fabian, posing for their fans in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, where they won the bronze medal

Nathalie and Fabian, posing for their fans in Nice, at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, where they won the bronze medal

I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes at this particular Grand Prix event. Both couples – the French and the Russians – are aware that this is it: Cup of China needs to be a great start for them; or it will jeopardize the entire Olympic season. I don’t want to sound melodramatic, but these are the facts: the battle for the Olympic bronze medal starts this weekend, in Beijing.

I’ve always rooted for Nathalie and Fabian (and I’m looking forward to seeing their brand new free dance: she – the rose, he – the prince), but I’m also intrigued, in a good way, by the musical choices of the Russians during the last seasons (choosing Alexander Zhulin as their coach was a great move for them, if you ask me). Zhulin is, in fact, their liaison; the Russian also coached Nathalie and Fabian until the spring of 2011.

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships (they've won the gold)

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships (they won the gold)

Another highlight of the Chinese Grand Prix: the premiere of Carolina Kostner’s programs for the Olympic season. The short one will be skated to “Humoresque” by Antonín Dvorák, while in the long Carolina will be Scheherazade. Both programs have been choreographed by Lori Nichol – and, for me, this is a guarantee: they’ll be wonderful; exquisite, actually.

The young lady who was ranked 16th at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver – a disappointing placement for this incredibly talented skater – will celebrate her 27 anniversary on 8th of February, next year, during the Olympic Games in Sochi. Hopefully, she will celebrate not only her birthday but also an Olympic medal; it would be a wonderful end of a long (and very beautiful) career.

Carolina Kostner, gold in Zagreb (2013 Europeans)

Carolina Kostner, gold in Zagreb (2013 Europeans)

In the pairs event, I’m looking forward to the throw triple axel of the Germans Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy; and I’m also eager to see their final scores. At Skate America, the first Grand Prix of the season, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov received a total of 237.71 points – a World record for the pairs. In Beijing, it’s Aliona and Robin’s time to shine.

Aliona and Robin, at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships

Aliona and Robin, at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships