2009 Grand Prix Final previews

November 29, 2009

Jo-Ann Barnas

Olympic tune-up awaits in Tokyo

BY JO-ANN BARNAS
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER

Without a doubt, this year's figure skating season -- just on the domestic side alone -- has produced more questions than answers. Among them:

Will 2006 Olympic ladies silver medalist Sasha Cohen, who withdrew from her Grand Prix assignments because of injury, compete at nationals?

Does Johnny Weir or reigning U.S. men's champ Jeremy Abbott of the Detroit SC have enough to beat world champ Evan Lysacek?

One thing is for certain: In ice dancing, we'll have to wait until nationals in January in Spokane, Wash., to see the top two American teams compete against each other this season.

That was assured when Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto withdrew last Tuesday from this week's ISU Grand Prix Final because Belbin underwent oral surgery for an infected tooth. The result leaves Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the Arctic FSC in Canton as the lone American team in Grand Prix final, but the duo have already proved they're among the world's best.

Davis and White won their first U.S. title last season without their former Canton teammates -- and five-time U.S. champs -- in the field (back injury for Agosto). But Davis and White's scores have been superior to Belbin and Agosto's this season: Davis and White: 201.10 (Russia Grand Prix) and 201.97 (Japan). Belbin and Agosto: 194.51 (China) and 195.85 (Skate America).

Along with Davis and White, and Abbott -- the defending ISU Grand Prix men's champ -- two-time world medalist ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada are the other locals who qualified for the senior final. Virtue and Moir, who won Skate Canada last week, train with Davis and White in Canton.

Junior final: There's also another event happening concurrently in Tokyo that starts Thursday: the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final.

The Detroit area has the following qualifiers: the brother/sister team of Maia and Alex Shibutani of the Arctic FSC is in the ice dance field, while Grant Hochstein of the St. Clair Shores FSC is competing in men's singles.

Here's a little bit more on them:

  • Alex and Maia Shibutani followed up their silver medal at the world junior championships by dominating their competition on Grand Prix junior circuit this fall. Their top score this season (175.95) would have been enough for the bronze medal at Skate Canada last week.

    And how's this for promise: Maia is just 15, Alex 18.

    "Last year, they were like teenagers, now Maia is becoming a young lady and Alex a young handsome man," said Marina Zoueva, who coaches the pair among others in Canton. "The tango free dance they do has given them a chance to grow."

  • Grant Hochstein, 19, qualified for the eighth and final spot in the men's event for the junior final. He commutes an hour each way from his hometown in Allentown to St. Clair Shores, where he has been coached by Lindsay O'Donoghue since he was 9.

    "I believe she has everything to take me to the top," Hochstein said.

    Hochstein, who won the silver medal at the junior Grand Prix in Budapest, Hungary, has a triple axel planned for his long program in Tokyo -- a must-have jump to be successful at the senior level. Hochstein will move up to seniors for nationals in January, and he hopes to do well enough to earn a spot on the junior world championship team.

  • 0 comments:

    Post a Comment