Lineups announced for 2012 Grand Prix Series
Ando, Weir receive two assignments each in comeback attempts
|Japan's Miki Ando plans to return to competition in 2012-13. She's slated to compete at Cup of China and Trophée Eric Bompard. (Getty Images)|
The Grand Prix Series will feature all four reigning world champions -- Italy's Carolina Kostner (ladies), Canada's Patrick Chan (men's), Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (pairs) and Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (ice dancing) -- as well as former world champions, current and former world medalists, and European champions.
The series kicks off with Skate America in Kent, Wash., Oct. 19-21. The event features a trio of reigning world silver medalists: ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., and Alena Leonova and pairs team Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia. Also gracing the ice at the ShoWare Center will be China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, and reigning world bronze medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan.
The gold-medal favorites in men's and dance at Skate Canada will also be the crowd favorites, as Chan and country mates Virtue and Moir are scheduled to compete Oct. 26-28 in Windsor, Ontario. The event also features four-time and reigning world pairs champions Savchenko and Szolkowy. Other competitors include world bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki of Japan, 2011 European champion Florent Amodio of France and Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Javier Fernandez of Spain. World junior silver medalist Gracie Gold of the U.S. makes her Grand Prix debut in Windsor.
A strong ladies field highlights the Cup of China. Kostner (ITA), two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan, world junior champion Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia and two-time world champion Miki Ando of Japan, who returns to the Grand Prix circuit after sitting out last season, will vie for medals Nov. 2-4 in Shanghai. World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan and world bronze medalist ice dancers Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat of France appear to be the favorites in their respective disciplines. The pairs field includes a trio of strong Asian-based teams -- Pang and Tong, Four Continents champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China and world bronze medalists Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran of Japan -- plus the debut of new Chinese team Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang. Zhang won the 2006 Olympic silver medal with his former partner, Dan Zhang.
American Johnny Weir starts his comeback on the Grand Prix circuit at the Rostelecom Cup. Also competing Nov. 9-11 in Moscow are Chan, Volosozhar and Trankov, Virtue and Moir, Leonova, 2011 world junior champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, and 2011 world bronze medalist ice dancers Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the U.S.
Kostner and Ando again square off, this time at Trophée Eric Bompard. They'll be joined on the Parisian ice Nov. 16-18 by Lipnitskaia, two-time 2011 Grand Prix Series gold medalist Elizaveta Tuktamisheva of Russia and Four Continents champion Ashley Wagner of the U.S. In pairs, Savchenko and Szolkowy will be challenged by two-time world bronze medalists Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia. The men's competition looks to be a "U.S. vs. France" showdown, as Amodio and Brian Joubert will meet three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and Weir.
A loaded men's field at the NHK Trophy includes Takahashi, Hanyu and Fernandez. Country mates Asada and Suzuki will vie for top ladies honors Nov. 23-25 in Miyagi, Japan. Davis and White, the Shibutanis and European bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia will battle for dance supremacy, while Takahashi and Tran, Sui and Han, and European silver medalists Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov of Russia will duke it out in pairs.
For full entry lists of the 2012 Grand Prix Series, visit www.isu.org.
The top six qualifiers in each discipline will proceed to the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, Dec. 6-9, 2012.
Information from the International Skating Union was used in this report.