Beijing will host the third stop in this year’s ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. 2010 Samsung Anycall Cup of China will take place from November 5 to 7 at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
In the past, Cup of China has been known for being a showdown between Americans Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto and Russians Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin. With both teams retired from competition, a new rivalry will take the stage this year. Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali of Italy, last year’s world bronze medalists, are expected to fight for gold with Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat of France, last year’s fourth-place finishers at the World Championships.
Faiella & Scali have been to Cup of China three times before, landing on the podium as bronze medalists in both 2007 and 2009. They have qualified for the Grand Prix Final only once before but are certainly favorites to qualify this year, since only one of the four teams that finished ahead of them at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White) is competing on this year’s Grand Prix circuit. Cup of China will mark the season debut for the Italian champions, who have been training in Aston, Penn., with Natalia Linichuk & Gennadi Karponosov for almost a year. Faiella & Scali will take on music from My Fair Lady in the short dance and will switch gears to a feisty flamenco for the free dance.
Péchalat & Bourzat picked up a pair of seventh-place finishes at their only Cup of China appearances in 2003 and 2004. Since then, they have ascended the rankings to become one of the top teams in the world, qualifying for two Grand Prix Finals along the way. Since they finished less than three points behind Faiella & Scali at the 2010 World Championships, this could be an important competition to set up the battle at the European Championships this winter. The French team already has a jump on the season, though, with appearances at Nebelhorn Trophy, the French Masters, and Finlandia Trophy — and victories at all three. With time to work on the level issues they noticed at their first three events, Péchalat & Bourzat are hoping to enter the Grand Prix with polished programs that score big.
Coming off of strong early-season performances at Ondrej Nepela Memorial (1st) and Finlandia Trophy (2nd), Hungary’s Nora Hoffmann & Maxim Zavozin are hoping to make a mark at their first Grand Prix event. They paired up in 2008 but didn’t have many chances to compete in 2008-2009 due to injuries, making last year feel like a debut season. Their 2010 season ended with a 10th-place finish at the World Championships. The duo hopes to continue their momentum through Cup of China, where they could be in the mix to win a bronze medal, especially if their “Gypsy Witch” free dance is performed well.
Like Péchalat & Bourzat, Russians Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev have been skating together for ten years. Bobrova & Soloviev entered the senior ranks in 2007 and broke into the top ten at the World Championships this year with an eighth-place finish. Last year on the Grand Prix, they picked up a pair of fourth places and would love to improve upon those results and land on the podium. Look for them to make a statement in their short dance when they skate to “Delilah” by Tom Jones.
A coaching change during the Grand Prix season last year put Americans Madison Hubbell & Keiffer Hubbell on a path that led to a bronze medal at the 2010 Four Continents Championships. The siblings began this year with a strong fourth-place finish at Finlandia Trophy, where they earned level four on both segments of the Golden Waltz in their Addams Family short dance. The Hubbells have now been training at the Detroit Skating Club with Anjelika Krylova, Pasquale Camerlengo, and Elizabeth Swallow for about a year now, and are hoping to have their most successful Grand Prix season yet.
Joining them on Team USA in China are Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello (pictured, right), making their senior international debut. Cannuscio & Lorello earned the Cup of China assignment after a strong final season on the junior level that saw them qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final. They are skating to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in the short dance and will interpret West Side Story in the free.
Although their senior international debut came last season with a sixth-place finish at the Four Continents Championships, Canadians Kharis Ralph & Asher Hill are entering their first senior Grand Prix series. They did well in juniors, qualifying for the Final twice and finishing fifth at the World Junior Championships in 2009. Ralph & Hill are known for their technical abilities and easily earn high levels when they skate well but have not always been known for having a refined look. They will address this issue this year by interpreting classics. They are skating to “Summertime” and “Smile” in the free dance.
2010 Winter Olympians China’s Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng will lead the Chinese team in Beijing. They caused quite a stir last season when they finished a surprising second in the compulsory dance at the Four Continents Championships. Although they could not quite maintain their momentum and fell to fourth overall, it was still their best finish at the ISU Championship event. This year, they are skating to the well-known Shostakovich jazz waltz for the short dance and Singin’ in the Rain for the free dance.
Chinese teammates Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang have often flip-flopped in the rankings with Huang & Zheng in the past, so when Huang & Zheng were awarded the Olympic spot, Yu & Wang were assigned to the 2010 World Championships. Both teams have choreography by Natalia Linichuk, and Yu & Wang will be skating to “The Blue Danube” in the short dance and “Beethoven’s Last Night” in the free. They are the only team in the field that has already competed on the Grand Prix this year: they finished ninth at NHK Trophy two weeks ago.
Xueting Guan & Meng Wang are the home country host pick to round out the roster of ten teams. They are making their senior Grand Prix debut after picking up two top-ten finishes on the Junior Grand Prix last year.
The short dance opens the event on Friday afternoon and free dances will be skated on Saturday.