Thursday, November 4

Cup of China Begins Tonight-- Here's Your Preview

Hmm. To get up in the middle of the night and watch some of the first-day coverage of Cup of China or not? I do work tomorrow morning, so it's probably not a good idea. And since it's not a good idea, I'll probably do it.

The third and fourth-placed teams in the World Championships will face off here: Italy's Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali vs. France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. The French have already won two times this year, while this is the first competition for the Italians. The bronze-medal race also looks to be between two teams: Russian couple Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, and Hungary's Nora Hoffmann and Maxim Zavozin. The teams were ranked 8th and 10th at the 2010 World Championships.

Japanese ladies Miki Ando and Akiko Suzuki, American Mirai Nagasu, and Russian Alena Leonova hope to showcase top-level skating that has been missing from the first two Grand Prix events. Nagasu is coming off of an injury, while Suzuki bested Leonova earlier this year at the Finlandia Trophy. Aside from the Japan Open team competition, Ando has not yet competed this season.

This, once again, could be the most competitive discipline of the event. Brian Joubert of France, Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic, and Takahiko Kozuka of Japan all have their eyes on gold. Joubert comes into this season with a much different free skate than his norm-- a Beethoven Symphony choreographed by David Wilson. Verner, on the other hand, has left long-time coach Michael Huth and now trains in Canada and the United States. This is his season debut, so his consistency questions have yet to be answered. If any of the three should falter, Italy's Samuel Contesti, Japan's Tatsuki Machida, Russia's Sergei Voronov, and American Brandon Mroz all could have shots at a medal.

Aside from obvious favorites and current World Champions Qing Pang and Jiang Tong of China, the fight for the other two medals could get interesting here. Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze of Russia won Skate Canada a week ago, but will their long-distance traveling affect them here? America's second-ranked pair Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig start their season here, while teammates Caitlyn Yankowskas and John Coughlin look to build off of their decent NHK Trophy free skate two weeks ago. Current World Junior Champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China have already skated twice on the Junior Grand Prix, but look to impress at home in their senior debut. Rounding out the medal contenders are Italians Nicole Della Monica and Yannick Kocon. They finished just outside the top 10 at the Olympic Games last season.

Predictions? Offer them up!

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