The Cup of China is the third event of the Grand Prix series and this year will be held in Beijing from November 6-8. Colloquially, this event last year became known as the “Cup of Disaster” after several incidents, including the now infamous Yuzuru Hanyu/Han Yan collision which resulted in a change to rules surrounding concussion, the ensuing ridiculous results, and one of the Russian ladies refusing to attend the medal ceremony…
Fans this year have one general hope for the competition: that this is not another Cup of Disaster! Fingers are crossed that all the zany was relieved from the system at Skate Canada. We shall see…
This will be reigning World Champion Javier Fernandez’s first outing of the year, and he has an easier start of it than some of the other big guns, with a significantly easier field to face. That does not mean, however, that Fernandez is guaranteed to win; he will still have to hit all his jumps and perform consistently to do so, and that is by no means guaranteed. That said, he is still my pick to win this event.
This event will also play host to the battle of China’s big guns, with Han Yan, Nan Song and technical superstar Boyang Jin all in attendance. On paper, Han Yan is the favourite, but a sketchy outing at Skate America will have weakened his stock, while Boyang Jin is fresh out of Juniors and ready to impress with some insane technical prowess, including the world’s first quadruple Lutz-triple toe combination (!!!) and an unprecedented four quadruple long program. That said, however, Jin’s component marks do not keep pace with his technical mark, and his programs, while packed with hard jumps, are not as complex as that of his rivals, which could hurt his placement here.
Russian talent Sergei Voronov will also open his season here, and will be particularly hoping to impress in light of a lack of results from the other Russian men and ahead of Maxim Kovtun’s season opener next week. Voronov is capable of some big tech, and his programs are usually a different kind of quirky that you love or hate.
Team USA will be represented here by Richard Dornbush and Grant Hochstein. Dornbush was the bronze medallist at this event last year, but has shifted to full-time study this year (engineering), and it is not yet certain how this will effect his skating. Hochstein is returning to the Grand Prix for the first time in several years, and will be hoping to impress. Other names to watch at this event include perpetual fan-favourite Misha Ge (from Uzbekistan), Canadian Elladj Balde, the Nebelhorn Trophy champion, and Michael Christian Martinez from the Philippines.
PREDICTION: Fernandez, Jin, Voronov
All eyes in this event will be on the return of the Japanese superstar Mao Asada. Initially retired after the Sochi Winter Olympics, Asada decided to return to competition this year and her triple Axel battle with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva has many fans salivating already. Asada proved that she is still capable of a strong long program at the Japan Open, but whether or not she is up to the challenge across two segments remains to be seen.
Asada’s return may be generating excitement, but my pick for this event is actually the Russian star Elena Radionova. Radionova had a superb last season, winning the National title and taking home a bronze from Worlds, and will be hoping to stake a claim as a potential Russian number one. Her compatriot Anna Pogorilaya had some strong Challenger Series showings, and could be in medal contention here.
Team USA has sent three ladies – Karen Chen, Hannah Miller and Courtney Hicks – but their medal hopes really rest with Chen. The reigning US bronze medallist, Chen had a strong outing at Skate America, finishing fifth in her Senior debut. Hicks may attempt the triple Axel here, but her success rate is low, and it is often to the detriment of her other skating.
Other ladies to watch here include Chinese favourite Zijun Li, Korean So Youn Park and Japanese silver medallist Rika Hongo.
PREDICTIONS: Radionova, Asada, Chen
China’s best hope of a home gold medal certainly lies in this event, with Wenjing Sui and Cong Han in fine form going in. They had a strong victory at Skate America just two weeks ago and are looking strong at this point of the season, and this time out they get the bonus of skating in front of a home crowd. It’s probably no surprise then that they are my picks to win at Cup of China.
Don’t count out Russian veteran pair Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, however. After missing last season through injury, Kavaguti and Smirnov have started their comeback strongly, regaining their harder elements with ease, and will be looking to restore their position among the top echelon of Russian pairs. Their compatriots Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov may not be in medal contention here, but their participation will be an important step in their development.
Canadian pair Lubov Iliushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch will have their first Grand Prix outing of the season here, and will be in strong contention for a medal. Their compatriots Vanessa Grenier and Maxime Deschamps will be hoping for a strong result to further their world standing, but are unlikely to medal.
Other pairs to watch are the up-and-coming German pair Mari Vartmann and Ruben Blommaert, fresh from their victory at the Ice Challenge, and Chinese second pair Xuehan Wang and Lei Wang.
PREDICTIONS: Sui/Han, Kavaguti/Smirnov, Iliushechkina/Moscovitch
The dance segment of this event promises a tasty battle between three top teams for the win, each with their own strengths. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates do however have momentum behind them, following their World silver medal with a win at Skate America two weeks ago. Coming to grips with their third short dance this season did not seem to have put them off at all, and they are my pick to take out the win here.
Russian couple Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin come into this season as the reigning National champions and were boosted by an excellent performance at the Mordovian Ornament. With other Russian couples now growing stronger, they will be looking to cement their position as the number ones ahead of Russian Nationals.
The Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had a strong last season, finishing second at the European championships and fourth at Worlds. A strong start to the year at Cup of China would help to bolster their quest to become medal contenders at Worlds this season.
Other couples to watch include Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and Slovakian couple Federica Testa and Lukas Csolley.
PREDICTIONS: Chock/Bates, Ilinykh/Zhinganshin, Cappellini/Lanotte
All times are AEDT.
Short Program - Friday November 6 - 10:00pm - 11:35pm
Long Program - Saturday November 7 - 9:45pm - 11:40pm
Short Program - Friday November 6 - 8:00pm - 9:35pm
Long Program - Saturday November 7 - 7:35pm - 9:25pm
Short Program - Saturday November 7 - 12:00am (midnight) - 1:05am
Long Program - Sunday November 8 - 12:00am (midnight) - 1:25am
Short dance - Friday November 6 - 6:30pm - 7:40pm
Free dance - Saturday November 7 - 6:00pm - 7:15pm