What’s the difference between a Grand Prix Lineup in 2009 and one in 2010? In a word… or a series of letters, at least… TBAs.
It’s a different world, competitively speaking, once the Olympic pinnacle is reached every four years. Some of the names and faces we’re familiar with announce early on that they’re skipping the GP series (see Joannie Rochette and Evan Lysacek). Some are listed, but you can’t help but see their name and sarcastically blurt out HA! In disbelief they’re still hanging in there (too many names to list here; we’ll discuss ‘em as we go). Some, praytell, even go old-school and officially retire from the competitive ranks (thank you for that, Belbin/Agosto).
But between the To Be Announced slots that perpetuate the GP list at this point of the new season—to be filled, presumably, by unknown starlets—and the names we know all too well that we’ll call BIWISIs (Believe It When I See It), there’s not as many fierce head-to-head battles on the docket as usual. At least, not yet.
So rather than list the best “battles” this time, I’m just looking down the respective lists to see what each event has to offer at this point. Covering the first three this time, in order of schedule:
For Pairs, the event looks wide open for Pang/Tong, with potential for Denney/Barrett to medal. For Men, we’ll have the mild amusement of two “Tens” competing (that would be Jeremy and Denis), though that’s surely happened before! Dice-K (Takahashi, current world champ) will be there, as will Jeremy Abbott… a 1-2 finish for them perhaps? As for Ladies, Mao Asada will surely be the ladies’ fave at her home event. U.S. champ Rachel Flatt and Ashley Wagner (who bested Asada at last year’s Rostelecom Cup) will be there to take her on, and Carolina Kostner is scheduled to show up too.
On the BIWISI list for NHK: Inoue/Baldwin and Kevin VanDerPerren, both to whom I’d like to say ohfortheloveofpetePLEASEretirealready. I’d say the same to Pang/Tong except that they’re still in their prime as far as I’m concerned, and I’m not ready to see them go just yet.
Reigning dance OGMs Virtue/Moir will debut their season at this event; that’s sure to be the highlight for many. But as with last season, there will be no direct duels with Davis/White until, we assume, the GP Final. So the closest competition I see for them will be the Kerrs… who are listed as attending, but very BIWISI if you ask me. Canadians Crone/Poirier will also be there, so it’ll be interesting to see how they progress (and rank alongside V/M) by then. In Pairs… it could be an easy win for Russia’s Kavaguti/Smirnov, who also appear to be continuing (with Dube/Davison and McLaughlin/Brubaker as their closest competition). For the Men, a Nobunari Oda vs. Patrick Chan showdown could be an interesting one; if Oda’s going to be competitive it’s likely to be in that first half of the year…As for the Ladies, I hate to say it, but sans Joannie Rochette (who is skipping the GP season), it could be Laura Lepisto’s first GP gold waiting for her there. Though it’d be awesome for someone like Cynthia Phaneuf or Alissa Czisny to upset her (especially Phaneuf, on home turf…)
Among the BIWISI’s for Canada besides the Kerrs: Johnny Weir and Fumie Suguri. I shake my head in disbelief at both of you.
CUP OF CHINA
In dance, the most interesting match-up here could be France’s Pechalat/Bourzat and Italy’s Faiella/Scali, possibly duking it out for 1-2 in dance just as challenged each other for world bronze a couple months back (Faiella/Scali took that one). This is assuming, though, that the Italian veterans continue and do the GP circuit. In Pairs, everything old is scheduled to be new again when Pang/Tong and Zhang/Zhang are pitted against each other on the home turf yet again… In the Men’s event, veteran Brian Joubert will go up against rising star Michal Brezina; could it be another bronze medal battle from Worlds resurfacing as a battle for the top? As for the Ladies, Kim Yu-Na is slated to debut her season here; her closest competition is likely to be Japan’s Miki Ando and the U.S.’s Mirai Nagasu (both of which also make their season debut here).
China’s BIWISI’s, aside from the aforementioned Faiella/Scali and Zhang/Zhang , is Anastasia Gimazetdinova. Who is she? The Uzbekistan skater who has now competed in 2 Olympics, 7 Worlds, 10 Four Continents, and has competed in GP events since 2003. Now at age 30, she even tops Suguri in the age department… but has nowhere near the pedigree; her best GP finish ever was a 7th at Cup of China 2005 and best Worlds finish was 19th in 2007. I guess the Lifelong Perseverance award in this sport could belong to her… if there was such a trophy!
As a tribute to that perseverance, here’s Gimazetdinova’s Olympic SP from the 2006 Olympics as the Clip of the Day. I'll analyze the second half of the GP next time...