The Japanese men swept the podium at Skate America two weeks ago, and two of Japan’s best are on the ice this week in Shanghai for the 2012 Cup of China. After two North American events, the Grand Prix series now moves across the ocean to China. Let’s take a look at the competition in the men’s event this week.
Note: Examiner Figure Skating will be providing live coverage of Cup of China beginning this Friday.
GOLD Daisuke Takahashi JPN – Great start for the World silver medalist at Japan Open, who looked like he was ready to thoroughly dominate the season. He landed a quad toe in the free skate there and also planned a second one, exactly what he needs to match Patrick Chan on technical fire power.
Of course, these elements equate risk. And though Takahashi won’t have to be absolutely clean to win this week, he can’t afford to have too many of the underrotations that he had at Japan Open. But I’m seeing a comfortable win for Takahashi this week.
Related: Ladies’ preview/predictions
SILVER Tatsuki Machida JPN – Bronze at Skate America two weeks ago, Machida is, believe it or not, #5 on the totem pole of Japanese skaters on paper. A strong performance this week will be crucial to his chances to qualify for the World team, which stands slim at this point considering the four above him (Takahashi, Kozuka, Oda, Hanyu) have done well so far this season. But a silver this week is well within reach in this field.
BRONZE Adam Rippon USA – A coaching change moved Rippon from Michigan to California. Now training with Rafael Arutyunyan, who is known for his technical know-how, Rippon is certainly trying to hone his jumps, namely the quad sal and the triple axel.
It’s not a packed field at Cup of China like it was at Skate America and Skate Canada, so in some ways, the pressure is not as high to be absolutely perfect. Rippon’s medal chances will depend on those big jumps. If they come together, he will be on the podium.
4. Brian Joubert FRA – Where does the former World champion stand? He finished fourth at Worlds last season, showing that he’s still plenty relevant in the skating world. His showing at French Master’s about a month ago was neither here nor there, and it’s as if the French judges don’t even know how to assess him relative to the younger skaters anymore. Joubert is starting his 12th season as a senior, having won 13 Grand Prix medals in his career. He will have to jump his way onto the podium – the key for him this week will be the quads.
5. Nan Song CHN – The start of what seemed like a dream season for Song was at Cup of China last season, where he took bronze as a result of his jaw-dropping jumps. He would go on to win silver at Trophee Eric Bompard, and then inexplicably skate off the edge of the rink and finish 11th at Four Continents and then 14th at Worlds. Tough to really know where he is this week, but my guess is that he will be in the middle of the pack.
6. Kevin Reynolds CAN – Reynolds is known for the jumps. But he made some big strides in his programs last season, particularly with his short. He’s also known for his underrotations, which will be crucial for him this week if he is to break into the top four, which is possible.
7. Sergei Voronov RUS – Voronov’s 17th at Worlds last season must not have been too encouraging, and that happened partly due to an ankle injury he sustained at the competition. How has he recovered from the disappointing end to last season?
8. Jinlin Guan CHN – The former World junior bronze medalist certainly has not replicated that success on the senior ranks. He was eighth two years ago at Cup of China.
9. Yi Wang CHN – Ninth at Chinese Nationals last season, Wang is making his Grand Prix debut this week at home.
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