Preview Archive

2010 NHK Trophy Preview

The first of six stops on the 2010-2011 ISU Grand Prix series is the NHK Trophy in Nagoya, Japan October 21-24. Ten ice dance teams will compete for medals, prize money, and points toward qualifying for the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China in December. Five of the ten teams scheduled to battle for the podium are making their senior Grand Prix debut this week. Throughout the summer competitions and the ISU Junior Grand Prix events, many teams were in for a rude awakening with their short dance scores. It will be very interesting to see if that pattern holds true in Nagoya.

Favorites for this event are 2010 Olympic and world silver medalists Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the United States. Together since 1997, they are the longest running partnership in their country and last year they were the first U.S. ice dancing team to be crowned Grand Prix Final champions. Davis & White are coached by Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. Although their training center in Canton, Michigan has had two public dress rehearsals, Davis & White have not competed yet this season. Fellow Americans and training mates Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani made their season — and senior — debut last month at Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. A fluke fall on the required twizzles in their short program left them in eighth place. They received only a level 1 on the second section of the Golden Waltz. The reigning JGP Final bronze and 2009 World Junior silver medalists rebounded with a second-place free dance that pulled them up to fifth overall. Nebelhorn was an invaluable learning experience for the siblings, and they head into Japan with that “first pancake” under their belts. And while they may not be the “home team,” the Shibutanis have been working on their Japanese language skills which should help endear them to the fans.

Team Japan is represented by another sibling duo, Cathy Reed & Chris Reed. Although they are from New Jersey, the Reeds have truly become an international dance team. When they are not in Japan doing competitions and shows, they are following their coaches, Nikolai Morozov and Walter Rizzo, from Russia and finally to Latvia for training. On the senior Grand Prix circuit since 2007, the 23-year-old Cathy and 21-year-old Chris have an Olympics and three World Championships on their resume and head into NHK hoping to better last year’s seventh-place finish.

cappellanotteNow in their second season training in Lyon, France with Muriel Zazoui and Romain Haguenauer, Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (pictured, right) started their season off with a bang, winning the short dance at Nebelhorn Trophy and taking home a silver medal. Cappellini & Lanotte won silver at both their GP events last year, earning a spot in the Final where they placed fifth. 2010 NHK marks the team’s ninth Grand Prix event.

Entering their fourth season on the Grand Prix, Canadian bronze medalists and 2010 Four Continents champions Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje of Canada are getting used to finding themselves on the podium. The team is coached by Shae-Lynn Bourne, Pasquale Camerlengo and Anjelika Krylova and took bronze at Skate Canada last year.

Perhaps the biggest wildcard in the ice dance event is the team of Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia, the reigning World Junior champions. Success as juniors ice dancers from Russia has not always translated into a team going to the top in seniors — at least not with the same partner. Ilinykh & Katsalapov had a dream season in ’09-’10. In addition to their junior world title, they placed second at the JGP Final after winning both their JGP events. Like the Shibutanis, Ilinykh & Katsalapov are 16 and 19, respectively. They train in Moscow with Alexander Zhulin.

2010 Olympians Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland, who have been together since 2005, are actually making their Grand Prix debut. (They did two junior JGPs back in 2007.) This season they have already competed twice, placing fourth at Ondrej Nepela Memorial and winning bronze last week at Cup of Nice. The knowledge and feedback from those events could prove quite beneficial in Nagoya.

Long-term partners Lucie Mysliveckova & Matej Novak (CZE) had a rough winter in 2010 after a broken elbow Mysliveckova suffered kept them out of the Olympics. Hoping for a more successful season, they had a busy autumn, competing in three events leading into NHK. The third (Ondrej Nepela Memorial) earned them a silver medal.

China Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang of China are Grand Prix veterans whose first senior GP event was 2003 Skate America in Reading, Penn., back in the days of the old 6.0 judging system. Last season they won over many fans with their “Cats” free dance, complete with tails and whisker makeup. Unfortunately, that program did not make it to the end of the season. This year they are skating to Trans-Siberian Orchestra choreographed by Natalia Linichuk.

Fresh off the junior circuit are Hungary’s Dora Turoczi & Balazs Major. They were a late addition, replacing Americans Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates. Bates underwent surgery for a severed Achilles tendon that occurred in a practice accident while preparing for NHK Trophy.

After an official practice day Thursday, competition gets underway with the short dance on Friday and concludes with the free dance on Saturday.

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