Skate America, the fourth event in the 2010 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, should be fairly open-and-shut: The team to beat will be Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the U.S., the 2010 national champions and silver medalists at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and World Championships. On their heels will be Vanessa Crone & Paul Poirier of Canada, but Davis & White are most likely to emerge victorious.
Davis & White, who train with Marina Zoueva and Igor Shpilband in Canton, Mich., will make their second Grand Prix appearance of the season. They won gold at the NHK Trophy — with 165.21, a 23+ point margin of victory — and a win here will qualify them to compete in the Grand Prix Final. They’ve had three weeks to tweak their tango free dance as well as get more mileage on their late-change short dance.
Crone & Poirier are coming off a gold-medal win at Skate Canada International where they scored 154.42 total points. Last season, Crone & Poirier came in 14th at the Olympic Games, seventh at Worlds and second at nationals. Their win in Kingston, Ontario two weeks ago over Great Britain’s Sinead & John Kerr came as a bit of an upset. Ironically, it was Christopher Dean (a Brit himself) whose choreography for Crone & Poirier helped them to the victory over the Kerrs. Can Crone & Poirier duplicate their success outside of Canada?
Fellow Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje also will make their second Grand Prix appearance of the season; they won silver behind Davis & White at NHK Trophy with 141.57. They earned level 3s on both sections of the Golden Waltz in the short dance, but an error on the twizzles in the free dance ranked them only third in that part of the competition. Last season, they won the Four Continents Championships and came in third at nationals.
American siblings Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani also will skate their second Grand Prix of the season. They were the bronze medalists at NHK Trophy and second in the free dance over Weaver & Poje. They gave us the season’s first long-skirt incident, when Alex skated over Maia’s dress in the shoot-the-duck portion of the Golden Waltz. He fell, she didn’t, but they wound up fifth for the short dance. They made their season — and senior — debut at Nebelhorn Trophy in September. A fall by Maia in the twizzles set them back to eighth place in the short dance, but they rebounded with a second place free dance to place fifth overall with 133.
Russia’s Ekaterina Riazanova & Ilia Tkachenko also started their international season at Nebelhorn Trophy, placing third with 141.92. This is their second season as a team, and they have previous Grand Prix experience last season at Cup of Russia where they placed sixth. With Russia’s dominance on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this season, Riazanova & Tkachenko will be looking to establish themselves quickly and stay one step ahead of the juniors coming up the ranks. Last season, they placed fourth at nationals.
It has been since 2007 that Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt of the U.S. have competed in a Grand Prix event. They finished 10th at Cup of Russia three years ago. After a strong showing at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, Kriengkrairut & Giulietti-Schmitt were assigned to Nebelhorn Trophy, where they placed sixth. These results helped earn the Ann Arbor-based team the host invite spot at Skate America. They came in eighth at U.S. Nationals the past two years and have won two international silver medals: 2009 Ice Challenge 2009 and 2008 Karl Schaefer Memorial.
Cathy Reed & Chris Reed, an American-Japanese brother-and-sister team representing Japan, finished seventh at NHK Trophy. Trouble with twizzles plagued them in both segments, as did a low GOE. At the 2010 Olympic Games, they came in 17th; at Worlds, they placed 15th. This will be the second time the Reeds have competed at Skate America; the first time was in 2007.
Stefanie Frohberg & Tim Giesen of Germany came in eighth overall at Skate Canada. New to the Golden Waltz, they still managed to earn a level 4 on their first sequence, but they dropped to a level 1 on the second pattern. Trouble with their rotational lift in the free dance left them with no level call for that element. They are the national junior champions and placed 11th at Junior Worlds.
Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte of Italy have announced they are changing coaches and have withdrawn from Skate America.
Official practices for Skate America will begin Thursday, Nov. 11. Teams will skate the short dance on Saturday, Nov. 13, and the free dance on Sunday, Nov. 14. The next Grand Prix event, Rostelecom Cup, will be held Nov. 19-21 in Moscow.