Cup of China Promises a Tight Race at the Top

12gpchn-pechalatbourzatby Jacquelyn Thayer

For the second consecutive season, Shanghai prepares to host Cup of China, the third stop on this year’s Grand Prix circuit. The competition here will mark the official season debuts for several teams, and the contest is challenging to predict. Its field of eight includes 2012 senior and junior World medalists, recent Grand Prix successes, and teams on an upswing.

Reigning world bronze medalists Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA) will be making their 2012-13 Grand Prix debut here. The team (pictured, right) handily captured gold at French Masters a few weeks ago, unveiling their can-can short dance and free dance to a medley from the Rolling Stones. Though their marks were strong, both programs were still in early-season form, and Péchalat & Bourzat are likely to come out much stronger here. This competition, however, also provides the team with a key first test against two others who have recently made an impact on the world scene. Detroit Skating Club training mates Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje finished only six points behind Péchalat & Bourzat at last year’s Worlds, and will be apt to make a good showing here, while Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev fared very well at their first Grand Prix event.

Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev, winners of last year’s Cup of China, enter with one Grand Prix success already under their belts, a silver at Skate America. More impressive still were their marks at the event, with the team earning the highest base value in the free dance. Bobrova & Soloviev have an excellent chance at reaching the podium here, but will also need to repeat that solid technical performance. The team finished behind Weaver & Poje in the short dance at Skate America, as well as in program component marks in the free dance, and the contest between the teams here is likely to be equally tight.

For Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, that contest will be particularly crucial. After placing second in the short dance at Skate America, the team finished with bronze as a result of several technical snags in the free dance, including level 2s on both step sequences. The couple will be aiming to improve their TES to the standard that they established last season. Adding to the competition’s significance is its impact on Weaver & Poje’s qualification for December’s Grand Prix Final. While a medal of any color will ensure that they remain in the running at this early point in the season, a silver or gold will certainly offer more insurance.  

Cup of China is the first and, so far, only Grand Prix event of the season for Americans Madison Chock & Evan Bates, who most recently saw victory at September’s Nebelhorn Trophy. Last year, the team competed at Skate Canada and Trophée Eric Bompard, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. While the competition at this event is likely to be close among its top entrants, Chock & Bates can also make a push. Their outings at the U.S. International Skating Classic and Nebelhorn were affected by some health and technical issues, but with that added program mileage, the duo is certainly capable of improving upon their levels and GOEs.

Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin of Russia are the 2012 World Junior Champions, here making their international senior debut with a country-western short dance to “Tennessee Waltz” and “Witch Doctor,” and a tango free dance to a selection from jazz composer Sergio Cammariere. As juniors, the team was particularly strong in technique, and it will be interesting to see how they stack up against the more established teams in the field here. Cup of China will also provide the duo with some helpful experience before their second Grand Prix event, on home turf at next week’s Rostelecom Cup.

Chinese national champions Xintong Huang & Xun Zheng enter this event after a good 2011-12 season, which saw them finishing an impressive twelfth at the World Championships. The team finished fifth at last year’s Cup of China, a result within reach of being repeated. The team’s new free dance, set to a Michael Bublé medley, will provide a contrast from last year’s tango, while their short dance will feature a waltz alongside the requisite polka rhythm. Huang & Zheng will also use this event as preparation for their second event at NHK Trophy.

National silver medalists Xiaoyang Yu & Chen Wang (CHN), who placed sixth at 2011 Cup of China, last competed at February’s Four Continents, where they finished seventh in the field of eleven. This year the team will be unveiling a new free dance to the Cirque du Soleil piece “The House of Dancing Water,” choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, along with a country short dance set to “Oh Susanna” and “Twilight Waltz.” Like their national teammates, Yu & Wang will later be competing at NHK Trophy.

Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri will be making their very first Grand Prix appearance at this event. The team finished fourth at Finlandia Trophy early in October, receiving good marks on their classical short dance and free dance scored to selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

The competition opens with practices on Thursday, November 1. The short dance is scheduled for Friday, and the free dance Saturday.