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Skate Today

Final Spots up for Grabs at Homesense Skate Canada

The 2009/2010 Grand Prix Series winds down this week in Kitchener, Ontario with the final qualifying event Homesense Skate Canada International. Approximately, sixty skaters from sixteen countries are on hand to make a final bid for remaining spots in the Grand Prix Final. The final will be held in Tokyo, Japan December 3-6, 2009. With the 2010 Vancouver Olympics less than three months away the Canadians are bursting with Olympic enthusiasm. The Kitchener Memorial Arena will play host to the event which features many Olympic hopefuls as they continue on their journey to Vancouver in February.

Canada has yet to qualify any entrants into the Grand Prix Final, but if all goes as expected that will change here in Kitchener. World silver medalist Joannie Rochette was the front-runner in her first Grand Prix event. However, she imploded during her short program at Cup of China. However, with the help of her fellow competitors she rebounded in the free skate to capture the bronze medal. The Canadian should regain her form on home ice and defend her Skate Canada title. Rochette must be no lower than third to have any chance at the final.

Gunning for Rochette is the Cup of China Champion Akiko Suzuki of Japan, who claimed an unexpected win over Rochette last month with a sterling performance in Beijing. Two Americans Alissa Czisny and Caroline Zhang are long shots for the final and could contend for the podium here at Skate Canada.

Czisny placed fourth at the Rostelcom Cup in Russia last month as she continued to struggle with nerves during competitions. Should the American Champion get her competitive meddle she can compete with the best. Her programs are crowd pleasing and packed with gorgeous spins and spirals. It will take a near-perfect performance here for the 22-year-old to qualify for the final.

Zhang also struggled at her first Grand Prix event Trophee Bompard when the 16-year-old failed to fully rotate two jumps in Paris. The former Junior World Champion will need to win here to have a sure spot in the final.

Other medal contenders to watch are 2008 American Champion Mirai Negasu and European Champion Laura Lepisto of Finland. Negasu shined during the short program placing first after the short program in Beijing. However, in the free skate the teen was penalized for under-rotating five of her jumps. She plummeted to fifth place overall after placing sixth in the free skate, essentially ending her dream of a spot in the final. Lepisto the first Finn to win the European title will need to be in top form and fight for a medal here in Kitchener.

World silver medalist Patrick Chan will go up against a series of top talent in his first event of the season. The 19-year-old from Toronto, Ontario has been struggling with a tear in his left calf which caused him to withdraw from Rostelcom Cup last month in Moscow. The Canadian Champ is back on the ice but admits he continues to have pain with certain jumps. The key for Chan is the triple Axel. He has no hopes of the final. It will be no walk-in-the-park for the youngster, and he looks forward to competing against 2007 World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi for the third time.

Takahashi is known as an all around skater that not only has artistry but strong jumping ability also. Yet he too has struggled with injury and missed the entire 2008-2009 season. He made his comeback at Finlandia capturing the title, but had a disappointing fourth placement at NHK Trophy two weeks ago in Nagano.

Junior World silver medalist Michal Brezina came out swinging in his Grand Prix debut at NHK shocking himself with a bronze medal in a very deep field of competitors.. His American in Paris free skate was near-flawless. The Czech silver medalist is hoping to build on that performance to qualify for the Grand Prix Final next month in Tokyo.

Other challenges should come from Italy’s Samuel Contesti who is fresh off a fourth place performance at Cup of China and American Champ Jeremy Abbott. Abbott had a dismal showing placing fifth at NHK. Will he use his disappointment in Nagano to propel himself to victory here at Skate Canada? We will have to wait and see.

Dennis Ten of Kazakhstan is a diamond in the rough. The 16-year-old was the first skater from Kazakhstan to win an ISU medal when he did so at the Junior Grand Prix Final in 2008. He currently trains in Russia under Elena Bulanova and Tatiana Tarosova.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are likely to lead Team Canada to a Grand Prix spot after winning their first event of the season, Trophee Bompard. The World bronze medalists have tweaked their program since then and are the clear front-runners for gold here in Kitchener. Their deep edges and innovative lifts should clearly distance themselves from the rest of the pack.

Former grand prix finalists Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat have a clear shot of making a return trip to the final after placing second to Virtue and Moir at Trophee Bompard last month. The French highlight their programs with intriguing choreography and playfulness.

The battle here should be for the bronze medal between 2007 Junior World Champions Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, 2008 World Junior Champions Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, and 2008 World Junior bronze medalists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

Weaver and Poje went to Spain this summer and worked with a famous Flamenco dancer. Their expression and line have improved as a result. Samuelson and Bates placed fourth at Trophee Bompard last month in Paris and Bobrova and Soloviev placed fourth at NHK trophy two weeks ago in Japan.

In the pair’s event it will be a re-match of the first event of the season Trophee Bompard. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are hoping to rebound from their disastrous performance last month in Paris but will have to overtake the teams that beat them.

This is no easy task as the Russians Maria Mukhurtova and Maxim Trankov have shown more consistency this season and have the confidence of having won the event in Paris.

Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison have been known to give their competitions away with mistakes in the short program. Have they won the battle and overcome those nerves? All three couple’s are vying for a place in the Grand Prix Final. Will all three couples make it to Tokyo? We will wait to find out here in Kitchener.

The event kicks off Friday with the Pair short program followed by ladies, compulsory dance and men’s short program.

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