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Skate Today

Olympic Season Kicks off in Obersdtorf as Nebelhorn Trophy Takes Center Stage

Welcome to Skate today’s coverage of the 2009/2010 Olympic Season. We are currently in the quaint German town of Oberstdorf, and will do our best to bring you the highlights of the Nebelhorn Trophy. This competition which is currently in its 41st season, will serve as the Olympic qualifying event for the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. There are approximately 144 competitors from 50 countries on hand many who have hopes of qualifying for the remaining spots that were not awarded at the past World Championships in Los Angeles. Six men, six ladies, five dance and four pair spots will be filled here in Oberstdorf. Should countries who have earned berths in Los Angeles not use all spots earned for their country, those berths will be returned to the ISU and shall be awarded to the countries who placed in order here in Germany. For example, Switzerland who has earned the right to send two ladies to the Olympics, but if they only sends one, the berth will be returned to the ISU and awarded to the country of the lady who placed seventh of the qualifying ladies.

In addition to the qualifying competition, several countries who have already obtained their Olympic berths are on board and are using the event for some of their top contenders to tune up their Olympic programs and to receive valuable feedback from the international judges. The top five in each discipline will also receive World ranking points. Due to the overwhelming demand for this event non-qualifying countries were limited to one entrant per discipline. The event which includes some of the top names in the sport will be held over three days and should prove to be a fun and exciting competition.

Two-time and reigning World Champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are sure to be a highlight of the pair event. If they perform to their usual standard their unique choreography and powerful elements should set them apart from the rest of the field. Yet, they are not without competition here and face strong challenges from 2008 Canadian Champions Annabelle Langlois and Cody Hay and three-time Ukrainian Champions and training mates Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morosov. Langlois and Hay are returning to competition after missing the entire 2008/2009 season due to Langlois’s foot injury. If the rumors proves to be true this team is now healthy, and they enter this season in fabulous form. Volosozhar and Morosov had some impressive results last season, most notably a placing fourth at the Europeans and fourth place at the Grand Prix Final in Goyang City, Korea. 2007 American Champions Brooke Castille and Benjamin Okolski could prove to be the underdogs here and would love to capture a medal here in Oberstdorf. 2008 World Junior Champions Ksenia Krasilnikova and Konstantin Bezmaternikh could also be in the mix for the podium. Most notably all the above countries have already been allotted their share of Olympic spots come next February.

The men’s event will feature the return of Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and 2004 World bronze medalist Stefan Lindemann of Germany. Lambiel shocked the skating World when he stated he was retiring from Olympic eligible competition at the beginning of the last season. Known best for his extremely creative artistry and outstanding spins the Swiss has reconsidered his decision and hopes for a third attempt at the Olympic Games. Lindemann who has struggled with injuries over the last several seasons hopes to claim an Olympic spot for Germany and prove he once again should be a considered a Olympic contender. 2003 Canadian bronze medalist Fedor Andreev is now representing the country of Azerbaijan and hoped to qualify for his first Olympic Game, but has failed to file the appropriate paperwork and is out of the event. The field is packed with other top talents such as NHK bronze medalist Yannick Ponsero of France, Skate Canada silver medalist Ryan Bradleyof the USA, Chinese Champion Jialang Wu and Junior World silver medalist Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic.

Grand Prix bronze medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the clear front-runners in the dance event, leaving only the silver and bronze medals up for grabs. The brother and sister team of Alexandra and Roman Zaretski of Israel have a great shot at the silver medal. The battle should be for the bronze medal and Nora Hoffman and Matthew Zavozin of Hungary or Lithuanian Champions Katherine Copley and Devidas Stagniunas would be my pick for the remaining spots on the podium, although Junior World bronze medalist Ekaterina Riazanova and new partner Ilia Tkachenko could prove to be the spoiler.

The ladies’ field consists of a whopping thirty-seven competitors. Most of which are trying to qualify for a trip to the Olympics, but a podium finish, here is unlikely. The battle for the medals will most likely be the battle of the nerves as most of the contenders have struggled with anxiety during competition. Best bets would be 2007 European bronze medalist Kira Korpi of Finland, and 2008 Skate Canada bronze medalist Alissa Czisny of the United States. Julia Sebestyen was the first Hungarian to win the European title for Hungary when she did so in 2004, but has been unable to regain her form in the last few seasons. Best known for the height of her jumps and the duration in Olympic level competition, the 28- year-old is hoping for the fairytale ending to her eligible career.

The event begins Thursday for three days of almost nonstop action from the wee hours of the morning to after eleven in the evening. Due to the hectic schedule and doing double duty of writing and photographing reports may be delayed and will be shorter than usual.

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Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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