Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015-2016 Grand Prix Assignments: Thoughts, Speculations & Non-Predictions

Skating fans got a big off-season boost last week when the Grand Prix assignments for this upcoming 2015-2016 season were released.  It's always entertaining to take a look at the line up of competitors and allow our minds to run rampant with speculations and predictions.  I'll take a quick look at each Grand Prix event and then give my Non-Prediction as to how I think it will turn out.

Skate America: October 23-25

This should be a pretty good event to kick off the season.  We'll get to see Gracie Gold (USA) battling against two Russians again, only this time it will be Julia Lipnitskaya and Junior world champion Evgenia Medvedeva.  I expect most of the battle to be between those three with world silver medalist Satoko Miyahara (JPN) as a bit of a darkhorse of the event.  I think a strong skate from So Youn Park (KOR) could get her into the top 5 but there are a number of newcomers (Elizabet Turzynbaeva (KAZ), Mariah Bell (USA)) who could snag a spot in the top 5 too.

My Non-Prediction:  I might be in the minority but I think Julia is going to storm back next season. I don't know why...just a feeling.  I think she'll snag a gold medal here, beating out Gracie Gold who will take silver.  Evgenia will have a strong debut but she'll narrowly place 3rd beating out Satoko for bronze.

Skate Canada: October 30-November 1

For the most part I think this will be a head-to-head match up for Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) and Ashley Wagner (USA) with everyone else fighting for bronze.  Polina Edmunds (USA) has a good shot at the podium if she skates well and hometown favorite Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) has a shot too.  This will be Kaetlyn's first appearance at a Grand Prix event since 2013 when she withdrew from Skate Canada after the SP.  Alena Leonova (RUS) is still skating and, believe it or not, she's my darkhorse podium pick.  When she's on, she can be pretty impressive.

My Non-Prediction:  Liza T does what Liza T does and wins this one without too much of a fuss.  I think Ashley will have a solid performance that puts pressure on Liza T but not enough shake her.  Polina will finally have two strong skates at a Grand Prix event and will edge out Alena for the bronze medal.

Cup of China: November 6-8

Cup of China is usually a snoozer but I'm really looking forward to it this year. We'll see world bronze medalist Elena Radionova (RUS) in her season debut as well as Rika Hongo (JPN), Anna Pogorilaya (RUS), Zijun Li (CHN) and the senior debuts of Americans Karen Chen and Hannah Miller.  Most importantly, however, we'll see Mao Asada (JPN) in her return to the Grand Prix. This should be a good test for Mao when it comes to rotating her jumps under pressure and throwing out the difficult content with consistency.  I think Mao is a lock for the podium but I'm not 100% sure she'll win here.

My Non-Prediction:  This is a tough one.  It's going to come down to Elena's technical consistency versus Mao's amazing overall skating.  If Elena wins there could be issues regarding her high PCS (which I'd agree with); but if Mao wins with significantly fewer triples than Elena's usual seven, there could be issues there too (which, again, I'd agree with).  I can't call this one... Rika and Anna will battle for bronze though and I'm fairly certain about that.  I think Rika will come out on top.

Trophee Eric Bompard: November 13-15

Another interesting one.  We'll see Gracie facing off against two Russians again but I'm much more interested in the Russian vs. Russian dynamic of this event.  If my prediction is correct and Julia regains some of her BEAST MODE mojo, this could be an interesting showdown between her and Liza T.  Liza T can stack a lot of points with her incredible jumps but, lest we forget, Julia can stack major points across the board.  Kiira Korpi (FIN) is making her return to the Grand Prix after a two-year hiatus which should stir up the 4th-6th placements between her, Kanako Murakami (JPN) and Gabrielle Daleman (CAN).

My Non-Prediction:  My instincts say to pick Liza T because, well, duh...triple axel anyone?  But then again, I'm really feeling like Julia may rise this season.  Call me crazy, but I'm going to pick Julia to win this one over Liza T.  Why not?  Think how awesome I'll look if I'm right!  Gracie for bronze again...

Rostelecom Cup: November 20-22

Elena versus Evgenia should be interesting to watch, especially on home ice.  Both ladies are stacked when it comes to technical content, though Evgenia is known for squeezing out extra points from back-loading the crap out of her programs.  Then again Elena is the Russian national champion and will be holding that as well as a European and world medal over Evgenia's head.  If both skate well, we'll have to see who gets the home ice advantage over the other.  Polina and Rika will likely battle it out for bronze and strong skates from Yuka Nagai (JPN) could get her into the top 5.

My Non-Prediction:  I think Elena will take the title here.  Evgenia will be strong but Elena will charm the pants off the judges and she'll come out on top.  I'm going to pick Polina for bronze.  I say Rika is going to skate well but Polina will medal here too.

NHK Trophy: November 27-29

The final event of the Grand Prix is going to be an awesome one.  Lots of big names here...and what's more, it should be a pretty intense competition due to the fact that at least two spots to the Final will be determined by the outcome.  I foresee a pretty decent battle for all three podium spots in this one.  We'll have Mao, Satoko and Ashley battling head-to-head-to-head which should make for a really good competition.  I think Anna and Alena have an outside shot at the podium, but not without mistakes from the top 3.

My Non-Prediction:  Though all three contenders suffer from under-rotation issues (interesting...) I think I'm going to go with Mao.  Even when the jumps aren't all there, she's got enough substance to her skating to still score well.  I think Satoko is going to rise under the pressure and hold off Ashley for the silver medal.

So based on my Non-Predictions, I've got Julia with 30 points, Mao and Elena both with 28 or 30 points, Liza T with 28 points, and Ashley, Gracie and Evgenia all tied with 24 points which means the tiebreaker would come down to whoever had the lowest combined score of the three.  I'd say either Ashley or Gracie would miss out on the spot simply because Evgenia usually puts up pretty strong numbers.  That would be a kick-ass Final...I have no clue how that event would turn out.

Of course, this is nothing but speculation.  We have no idea how these ladies are going to skate.  Just think back to this time last year: if someone told you that Julia Lipnitskaya would basically tank and that Elizaveta Tuktamysheva would become the world champion, you'd have thought they were nuts.  Point is, there's just no way to tell what will happen.

Besides, things can and usually do change between now and the start of the Grand Prix.  The assignments are often treated like registering for classes; there's an Add/Drop period.  There will undoubtedly be changes to the current line ups.  For one, each event has a TBD slot (Cup of China has two).  Also, it should be noted that Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) has said she is coming back to competition this season but is not listed for any of the events.  Perhaps she'll be added to an event or two as we get closer to go-time which would definitely shake up the standings.  We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

We've got a long wait until October 23 when the 2015-2016 Grand Prix season officially begins.  Which events are you looking forward to most?  Who do you think will win?  Are my predictions 50 shades of cray-cray?  Let me know below.

Make sure to check back soon.  It's almost time for my Off Season Fun posts to start.  Ta for now!


  1. My ultimate wish would be to witness an all-Russian ladies GPF of Pogorilaya, Radionova, Tuktamysheva, Medvedeva, Lipnitskaya, and Sotnikova for maximum amusement purposes ;)

    1. Lol! That would be SO awesome! In all honesty, that would be a knock down-drag out competition if ever there was one...

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