Skate America Men’s Preview

The first stop on the 2011 Grand Prix series is Skate America.  While the first event can sometimes be a little rough as the skaters may not have had judge’s feedback on their programs yet, this is a solid group of competitors with only 2 skaters making their Grand Prix debut.  The skaters collectively hold 1 World medal, 1 Four Continents medal, 2 World Junior medals and 4 European medals.

Reigning World silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka headlines this event.  He has a very elegant style and an ease and consistency to his jumps.  While he’s a more introverted performer, his clean technique and high element scores give him an edge in the scoring.

Michal Brezina finished 4th at the last two World Championships.  Last season he was battling an injury and missed the entire Grand Prix season.  He’s taking advantage of the new rule in which skaters who finish top 6 at Worlds can compete at three Grand Prix events.  He has quads and a really nice style to his skating.  When he’s on, he can put up big scores, but he’s a young skater and the consistency isn’t always there.

Richard Dornbush is making his Grand Prix debut after a breakout season.  He won the Junior Grand Prix Final and went on to claim the silver medal at U.S. nationals and earn a trip to the World Championships.  He has such a fun personality on the ice and really gets into the characters of his programs and delivers an engaging performance.  He’s been working on quads but his triple axel was inconsistent in a recent show.

Florent Amodio is the reigning European Champion and while his skating can be entertaining he can take it over the edge.  Last season at Worlds he risked a music deduction when he included music with lyrics in his free skate.  This season the costume he debuted at French Masters is a tiger print.  This boldness can make it difficult sometimes to focus on his skating, but he has added a quad to his repertoire to up his difficulty.

Other contenders include Kevin van der Perren who is a jumping machine and can put up big numbers if all his elements are clean and Armin Mahbanoozadeh who had the skate of his life to take home the bronze medal from this event last season.

Evan Lysacek recently pulled out of this event, citing financial disagreements with USFSA and was replaced by Douglas Razzano who has had strong showings at Senior B events the last two seasons but hasn’t competed at an ISU event since 2008.  His personal best score should significantly improve here.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Takahiko Kozuka
Silver: Michal Brezina
Bronze: Richard Dornbush

Bios of the competitors:
Kevin van der Perren, BEL: He finished 17th at Worlds and 4th at Europeans.  He placed 8th at NHK Trophy and 6th at Skate America last season.  He is the 2007 and 2009 European bronze medalist.  His personal best is 219.36.  He is 29 years old.

Michal Brezina, CZE: He placed 4th at Worlds and 8th at Europeans.  He is the 2009 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 236.06.  He is 21 years old.

Florent Amodio, FRA: He placed 7th at Worlds and is the reigning European Champion.  He won bronze at NHK Trophy and silver at Trophee Eric Bompard last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he finished 6th.  His personal best is 229.68.  He is 21 years old.

Samuel Contesti, ITA: He finished 18th at Worlds and 6th at Europeans.  He placed 6th at Cup of China and 4th at Cup of Russia last season.  He is the 2009 European silver medalist.  His personal best is 226.97.  He is 28 years old.

Takahiko Kozuka, JPN: He is the reigning World silver medalist and finished 4th at Four Continents.  He won Cup of China and Trophee Eric Bompard last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won bronze.  He is the 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist and 2006 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 258.41.  He is 22 years old.

Daisuke Murakami, JPN: He finished 5th at Skate America last season.  His personal best is 203.00.  He is 20 years old.

Denis Ten, KAZ: He finished 14th at the World Championships.  He placed 12th at NHK Trophy and 11th at Skate America last season.  His personal best is 211.43.  He is 18 years old.

Richard Dornbush, USA: He finished 9th at Worlds.  This is his Grand Prix debut.  He finished 4th at JGP Austria and won JGP Germany last season to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where he won gold.  His personal best is 222.42.  He is 20 years old.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh, USA: He finished 7th at Four Continents.  He won bronze at Skate America last season.  His personal best is 211.17.  He is 20 years old.

Douglas Razzano, USA: This is his Grand Prix debut.  His personal best is 174.71.  He is 22 years old.