Wednesday, October 20

Looking Ahead: NHK Trophy-- Preview and Predictions

The NHK Trophy kicks off the ever-exciting Grand Prix series this year, and competition begins Friday. This not only means there will be skating on the actual television, but also that I might decide to come out of hiding a little bit more often :-) Just kidding.. I have been working very hard on a database of sorts that will be up soon... more details on that later, but for now a little preview of NHK!

World Champion Daisuke Takahashi leads the way for the home-country team, which also includes potential spoiler and current World Junior Champion Yuzuru Hanu, and 2008/2009 Grand Prix Final Champion Jeremy Abbott of the USA. Abbott has been dealing with boot problems the last few weeks so his readiness is a question mark. Two other skaters with a shot for a medal come into this season with new coaches: French fan-favorite Florent Amodio, now with Nikolai Morozov, and Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, with Frank Carroll. Other outside-shot contenders include Belgium's Kevin Van der Perren, Canada's Shawn Sawyer and Jeremy Ten, Sweden's Adrian Schultheiss, and American Ross Miner- a bronze medalist at the Junior series Final a year ago.

What an unpredictable, less-than-consistent field we have here! Six or seven ladies have a chance at either medaling (or even winning the whole thing), or completely bombing and finishing near the bottom. World Champion Mao Asada may be considered an early favorite, but her performance at the recent Japan Open was nothing short of a disaster. European Champion Carolina Kostner has returned to old coach Michael Huth, but has never shown consistency in her career and generally does not fare well early in the season. The three Americans (Rachael Flatt, Ashley Wagner, and Caroline Zhang) all have had strong moments, but Flatt seems to have started the season out slowly in national competitions, while Zhang has a new coach (Tammy Gambill) who has hopefully cleared up some of her severe jumping issues. Wagner was the only American lady to qualify to the Grand Prix Final last season. World Junior Champion Kanako Murakami and Finland's Kiira Korpi are also skating here. Korpi won the silver medal at the recent Finlandia Trophy and started off the senior international season by winning the Nebelhorn Trophy.

World Champions Qing Pang / Jian Tong of China are the headliners here, while Russia's Vera Bazarova / Yuri Larionov and Americans Caydee Denney / Jeremy Barrett should battle it out for the other podium spots. Denney / Barrett are now coached by former US pairs Champion John Zimmerman and his wife, former Italian skater Silvia Fontana. Also in this field are Americans Caitlin Yankowskas / John Coughlin, and the Japanese team of Narumi Takahashi / Mervin Tran-- a pair that already has won two silver medals on the Junior Grand Prix this season and qualified a spot to Beijing for the Finals in December.

Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis / Charlie White of the USA are the heavy favorites, while Italians Anna Cappellini / Luca Lanotte and Russian World Junior Champions Elena Ilinykh / Nikita Katsalapov hope for medals. Cappellini / Lanotte look to rebound from the disaster they experienced at home during the World Championships last season, while Ilinykh / Katsalapov have already created a huge buzz while skating at the junior level. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver / Andrew Poje and American siblings Maia / Alex Shibutani have outside chances for the podium.

Men: Gold- Takahashi Silver- Hanyu Bronze- Abbott
Ladies: Gold- Wagner Silver- Asada Bronze- Zhang (however, who knows!)
Pairs: Gold- Pang/Tong Silver- Bazarova/Larionov Bronze- Denney/Barrett
Dance: Gold- Davis/White Silver- Ilinykh/Katsalapov Bronze- Cappellini/Lanotte

What am I looking forward to seeing the most? Shawn Sawyer has always been a favorite of mine, and I think his "Alice in Wonderland" free skate choice intrigued me the most of any music selection, so I definitely can't wait to see it. I'm also really looking forward to Jeremy Abbott's "Life is Beautiful" free skate. Any other pleasant surprises would be nice, too :-)


Anonymous said...

Happy to see your review and looking forward to the database. :-)

Anonymous said...

I was SO expecting you to share your NHK-predictions with us, Tony. Glad you have. Very interesting.

Personally, I think Abbott exaggerates his boot problems a bit to lower his fans expectations.

Hanyu's great & fierce baby, but I find his programs this season rather blah.

Yeah, having pleasant surprises in this event would be nice!

Anonymous said...

In Ice Dance I'm afraid you underrate Shpillband: Shibutanis have a style quite similar to Virtue Moir and I think that judges will give them very high marks.

Anonymous said...

Joe inman is in charge of the technical caller and he will try really hard to make abbott win. No one is more political in skating. watch takahashi have a revisit of the underrotation monster

Anonymous said...

I read Abbott isn't even attempting a quad (supposedly because of the issues he's having with his boots). I'm pretty sure Takahashi will, at least in the free skate. He tends to underrotate / 2f the 4T.
If (and it's a HUGE if) Abbott is clean on all his triples, I see him doing very well even without Joe Inman's help. But if he's a human zamboni, Inman's politiking won't work. Jeremy is often all-or-nothing skater.

Tony said...

To Anonymous539-- Cappellini/Lanotte, aside from last seasons disaster-Worlds, have been top 10 Worlds skaters for a few seasons. While the Shibutanis were 2nd in the World Juniors in 2009, they fell to 4th in 2010, 20 points behind Ilinykh and Katsalapov. Where exactly do you think the siblings will place?

Anonymous202-- I think Anonymous413 shared my exact thoughts. I must have missed a whole lot regarding Inman and his politicking (as I replied on my Formspring). If you look at the technical specialist and assistant technical specialist, both are from Asia (I'm guessing Japan and South Korea by the names). Two of the three in the panel need to be in agreement, so who would Inman "politick" with?

Roller Blades said...

Great post...