Saturday, March 9

2013 World Championship Prediction - Ladies

A brief synopsis of the season so far and then my prediction for the ladies at the 2013 World Championships.


Medal Contenders

Ten ladies with a chance at the podium? I think so. The depth right now is really remarkable, and a far cry from the last several seasons.

Mao Asada (JPN) - Mao has revitalized her career this season, winning every competition she has entered, including the Grand Prix Final and Four Continents Championship. She plans a triple Axel in both programs as well as a triple-triple combination in her short program. Like Takahashi in the men, she's going to likely need to fully rotate the triple Axel to have a chance at gold.

Gracie Gold (USA) - Total outside shot to be near the top, but if she can get both of her programs to be consistent in one competition, who knows what could happen. Her free skate at the US National Championship was a total jump clinic.

Yuna Kim (KOR) - Coming back after missing the 2012 season, Kim proved that she again will be a threat after delivering a great free skate at an early-season international.

Carolina Kostner (ITA) - Carolina has re-added the triple Lutz to her free skate this season and is also attempting the triple flip-triple toe combination. She looks good for a medal, but she's going to have to put it all together once again to reign once more as champion.

Kanako Murakami (JPN) - A mistake with counting jumps cost Murakami a shot at the Grand Prix Final earlier in the season, but she delivered a solid competition at the Four Continents Championship. Remember, she was in 2nd place in the short program at Worlds last season.

Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) - After taking the skating world by storm earlier this season, Osmond faltered in the Four Continents Championship. Will she be able to rebound in front of a home-country audience in her first trip to Worlds?

Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) - Sotnitkova won the short program at the European Championships and narrowly lost the gold to Carolina Kostner overall. She's looking more and more solid as the season progresses.

Akiko Suzuki (JPN) - After a dip in the middle of the season that included a 4th-place finish at her own National Championship, Suzuki rebounded to win the silver medal with a great performance at the Four Continents Championship. She also won bronze at the Grand Prix Final and many people believe she out-skated Asada at NHK Trophy, where she was second.

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) - Like Sotnikova, Tuktamysheva is building as the season goes. She qualified for the Grand Prix Final and won the free skate at Europeans, as well as earning gold at Russian Nationals. A strong short program is important for Elizaveta here, as it may be difficult to rebound from outside the final group in the free skate on her quest for a medal.

Ashley Wagner (USA) - Strong showings earlier in the season, but Wagner fell twice in the free skate at her two most recent competitions, the Grand Prix Final and US Nationals. Without a triple-triple combination in the short program, Ashley may have to dig herself out of a deficit as many of the other ladies are planning one.


Wildcards

Alena Leonova (RUS) - Simply put, who knows where she will end up. She's had a disastrous season to say the least and is lucky to even be here, even though she's the reigning silver medalist.

Zijun Li (CHN) - Tremendous potential and had a great showing at the Four Continents Championship. Has a solid shot at the top 10 here.


My Prediction

1. Yuna Kim
2. Carolina Kostner
3. Mao Asada
4. Akiko Suzuki
5. Adelina Sotnikova
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva
7. Ashley Wagner
8. Kanako Murakami
9. Kaetlyn Osmond
10. Gracie Gold
11. Zijun Li
12. Alena Leonova
13. Valentina Marchei
14. Kexin Zhang
15. Viktoria Helgesson

Most Memorable Moments of the 2003 World Championships

Ten years ago already. Crazy talk. Here are some of my most memorable moments from the event, which was one of the first competitions that I attempted to watch via a live-stream on the internet. I believe this was the first season the streams were available, and I was watching from a 56k dial-up modem. Times have surely changed!


The Men

Michael Weiss and his pre-competition talk of winning. Does everyone remember that? And he had an amazing short program going (clean quad and triple Axel), but then missed his Lutz. Unfortunately there's no trace of the fall on YouTube.

Ryan Jahnke and Stephane Lambiel both had amazing performances in the qualifying round, only to fall apart in later segments. Here is Lambiel's qualifying free skate, which put him third in his group.



Jeffrey Buttle, who had been turning heads for the prior season and a half, fell from the top 10 to 19th in a disastrous free skate.

Sergei Davydov of Belarus found himself in the final free skate group and ended in 7th place overall. His long program was cut into by breaking news in the United States about the war.

Kevin Van der Perren was landing triple-triple-triples even back then. He fell on a spin of all things in his short program but had a really solid free skate technically (front-loaded as usual). Listen to the commentators reaction to the combination ;-)




The Ladies

Michelle Kwan's free skate. Enough said. I remember watching with my mother and exclaiming, "that was her last triple!" Dick Button echoed me a split second later :-)



Elena Sokolova was making waves with triple-triples all over the place and she did get three first-place ordinals over Kwan in the short program. I think this was one of her best skates ever.



Sasha Cohen decided to fall on a spin in her free skate. She was third in the segment, but finished 4th behind Fumie Suguri overall. Shizuka Arakawa also wiped out on a spin in her short program and finished in 8th place.

Sarah Hughes returned and gave a decent effort here, finishing in 6th.

Carolina Kostner, in her first Worlds, was 4th place in the short program! (Check out her technical content vs. the content that won her Worlds last season!)



Julia Lautowa decided to fall on her finishing pose in the free skate and had the entire audience laughing along with her.



Joannie Rochette skated in her first senior Worlds and delivered a solid short program. I knew there were much greater things to come! She was 17th overall.




The Pairs

Shen and Zhao's free skate. Just watch.




Dance

Denkova/Staviyski's original dance was such a masterpiece in my opinion in an otherwise boring year of dance. They won the bronze medal.

Watch here


What were your favorite memories?

2013 World Championship Prediction - Men

A brief synopsis of the season so far and then my prediction for the men at the 2013 World Championships.

Top Medal Contenders

Patrick Chan (CAN) - Chan is skating in his home country as the two-time defending World Champion. He has had a subpar season at best, only finishing 3rd at the Grand Prix Final. Will he get it together for London?

Javier Fernandez (ESP) - Fernandez upset Chan on his home ice early in the season at Skate Canada and also won the European Championship in January. However, a lackluster short program at the Grand Prix Final kept him off the podium, even with a three-quadruple jump free skate.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) - Hanyu started the season with a bang, twice setting the record for the highest score ever in a short program. However, he has had troubles with his free skate in the last few competitions, most recently dropping behind Kevin Reynolds overall to win silver at Four Continents.

Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) - Mixed bag of a season for the former World Champion. He won the Grand Prix Final over all three of the former men, but then completely unraveled at Four Continents to finish in 7th place overall. Daisuke has trouble fully-rotating his quadruple jump attempts, and he will be in serious trouble if the trend continues in London.

Others to Watch

Max Aaron (USA) - The surprise winner of the US National Championship followed it up with a second-best free skate at Four Continents, finishing in fourth place overall after a fall in the short program. The quadruple Salchow seems so effortless for him.

Florent Amodio (FRA) - A bit of an outside shot for Amodio, but he has been getting stronger and stronger as the season has progressed. Florent bested Fernandez in the short program at the European Championship.

Michal Brezina (CZE) - 'Mr. Fourth Place', as he would describe himself, finally moved onto the podium at the European Championships with a second-place free skate.

Brian Joubert (FRA) - The elder statesman of the group continues to show he isn't done just yet. He finished fourth at the World Championships last year and repeated the placement at Europeans this season. While a medal is unlikely, Brian has shown tremendous consistency in placement at the World Championships over the last ten (yes- ten!) seasons and could have an outside chance at a medal.

Ross Miner (USA) - One of the more consistent skaters lately for the United States, Ross had his (overdue?) 'off' performance at Four Continents. However, his scores at NHK Trophy earlier in the season give him the eighth-best competition score of the season of the men competing in London.

Takahito Mura (JPN) - A skater with gorgeous quality, Mura boosted himself into the top levels of Japanese skating by winning the Trophee Eric Bompard earlier this season and was able to get onto the podium at the National Championship to earn a ticket here.

Kevin Reynolds (CAN) - Biggest upset of the year when he won Four Continents with an amazing performance in the free skate. Reynolds, like Takahashi, sometimes has trouble getting the full rotation in his jumps, but he managed just fine in his last competition.

Wildcards

Some will either end up fifth or eighteenth. Some are fresh faces and unpredictable. These are the guys that really make predictions a headache sometimes.

Maksim Kovtun (RUS)
Nan Song (CHN)
Denis Ten (KAZ)
Tomas Verner (CZE)

MY PREDICTION

Enough talk. You know you're here for this part.

1. Yuzuru Hanyu- I think he'll be able to hold it together and grab the title here.
2. Patrick Chan- Finally shows greater consistency but just not enough for gold.
3. Javier Fernandez- Very high expectations from many people, solid skating for a medal but mistakes keep him from gold.
4. Florent Amodio- On an upwards trend.
5. Daisuke Takahashi- Really concerned about underrotation potential. It could bury him here.
6. Michal Brezina
7. Kevin Reynolds
8. Max Aaron
9. Brian Joubert
10. Ross Miner
11. Nan Song
12. Takahito Mura
13. Maksim Kovtun

Sunday, March 3

Worlds Pairs Predictions and Hypothetical Situation RE: USA Pairs

I was thinking about my prediction for the pairs event at the World Championships, and it got me thinking about a potential situation.

First, here are my fearless predictions:

1. Volosozhar/Trankov RUS
2. Savchenko/Szolkowy GER
3. Duhamel/Radford CAN
4. Bazarova/Larionov RUS
5. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch CAN
6. Pang/Tong CHN
7. Kavaguti/Smirnov RUS
8. Berton/Hotarek ITA
9. Sui/Han CHN
10. James/Cipres FRA
11. Castelli/Shnapir USA
12. Peng/Zhang CHN
13. Scimeca/Knierim USA
14. Vartmann/Van Cleave GER
15. Della Monica/Guarise ITA
16. Kemp/King GBR
[And we get rid of a whopping two pairs, likely to be the teams from Poland and Bulgaria, after the short]

This World Championship is important because it determines the first 16 qualifying spots for the Sochi Olympics, while the remaining 4 are earned at the Nebelhorn Trophy early next season.

Here is an interesting situation, though. Say that one of the following things happens:
A) Germany decides to only send Savchenko/Szolkowy. A top two finish earns three spots for the Olympics. With Vartmann/Van Cleave as the second team at this event, the two teams' combined placements would have to be 13 or less, which extremely unlikely.
B) Both Pang/Tong and Cong/Han (CHN) place one spot higher than I predicted, giving them the magic number 13 and three spots for the Olympics.

Going down the list of results, this is how the Sochi spots would work out if just plan B from above were to happen:
Russia, 3 spots
Germany, 2 spots
Canada, 3 spots
China, 3 spots
Italy, 2 spots
France, 2 spots
That's already 15 spots! Even with an 11th and 13th place showing from the Americans (which would maintain two spots), technically only one spot could be filled for the Olympics in order to reach the 16 entries.

What happens in this odd situation? Does a 17th spot automatically qualify at Worlds and then only three spots would be available at the Nebelhorn Trophy?

What if situations A and B both happen and the USA still qualifies two teams to the Olympics with the same placements as I predicted above? Would a 17th and 18th spot automatically qualify at Worlds, leaving only two spots available at Nebelhorn?