Rostelecom Cup Men’s Preview

Takahiko Kozuka rebounded from his up and down season last year to claim gold at Skate America.  He hit two quads and two triple axels in his free skate at that event and most importantly, he beat two of his Japanese rivals.  The Japanese men have been superb this season and Kozuka will need a gold or silver medal if he wants to head to Sochi for the Grand Prix Final.

Patrick Chan finished in a surprising 2nd place at Skate Canada.  As many of the other skaters have upped their technical ante to match Chan, he can no longer afford to make the mistakes that he got away with last season.  He also has two quads and good triple axels along with good PCS qualities but he often makes mistakes such as falling on his step sequence.  His Skate Canada score was 8 points lower than Kozuka’s Skate America score.  While neither man was perfect in their first outing, Chan will have to play catch-up if he wants to beat Kozuka.  He’ll need a gold or silver medal to qualify for the Final.

After boot problems last season kept Richard Dornbush from the podium at U.S. nationals he is back with new skates and seems to have regained the form which took him to a JGPF title and 9th place at Worlds.  The triple axel seemed to bother him last season and he’ll need it He started his season at Finlandia Trophy with a silver medal.  His score at Finlandia was only 3 points behind Chan’s at Skate Canada but Senior B events are often scored higher than Grand Prix events but he should be firmly in the mix for the podium.

Oda won the bronze medal at Skate Canada showing that he’s returned from the injury that cut his season short last year.  With a deep Japanese field, he’ll need a good performance here if he wants to stay in contention for the World team.  He’ll need a gold medal if he wants to qualify for the Final and a silver medal will keep him in the running.

Johnny Weir is returning to the Grand Prix for the first time since 2009 but he’s admitted his comeback is a work in progress.  He’ll need a 30 point improvement over Finlandia if he hopes to contend for the podium here.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Takahiko Kozuka
Silver: Patrick Chan
Bronze: Nobunari Oda

Bios of the competitors:
Patrick Chan, CAN: He is the reigning World Champion and Four Continents Champion.  He won silver at Skate Canada.  He qualified for the Grand Prix Final last season and won gold.  He is the 2011 World Champion, 2009 and 2010 World silver medalist, 2009 Four Continents Champion and 2007 World Junior silver medalist.  His personal best is 280.98.  He is 21 years old.

Michal Brezina, CZE: He placed 6th at Worlds and 8th at Europeans.  He placed 6th at Skate America.  He placed 6th at the Grand Prix Final last season.  He is the 2009 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 236.06.  He is 22 years old.

Takahiko Kozuka, JPN: He finished 11th at Worlds. He won gold at Skate America.  He is the 2011 World Silver Medalist, 2009 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2006 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 258.41.  He is 23 years old.

Nobunari Oda, JPN: He won bronze at Skate Canada.  He is the 2006 Four Continents Champion and 2005 Junior World Champion.  His personal best is 244.56.  He is 25 years old.

Denis Ten, KAZ: He finished 7th at Worlds, 6th at Four Continents and 4th at Junior Worlds.  He placed 6th at Skate America.  His personal best is 229.70.  He is 19 years old.

Zhan Bush, RUS: He placed 5th at Junior Worlds.  His personal best is 196.06.  He is 19 years old.

Artur Gachinski, RUS: He finished 18th at Worlds and is the reigning European Silver Medalist.  He placed 9th at Skate Canada.  He is the 2011 World Bronze Medalist and 2010 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 246.27.  He is 19 years old.

Konstantin Menshov, RUS: He placed 4th at Skate America.  His personal best is 212.53.  He is 29 years old.

Richard Dornbush, USA: He placed 4th at Skate America and 6th at Cup of China last season.  His personal best is 222.42.  He is 21 years old.

Johnny Weir, USA: He is the 2008 World Bronze Medalist and 2001 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 238.87.  He is 28 years old.