Wellman's fantasy skating tips: Rostelecom Cup

Toss-ups abound at season's fourth Grand Prix event

Does Tara Wellman think Patrick Chan will rebound from his subpar performance at Skate Canada?
Does Tara Wellman think Patrick Chan will rebound from his subpar performance at Skate Canada? (Getty Images)


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By Tara Wellman, special to
(11/08/2012) - Just like that, we're halfway home. Well, to the Grand Prix Final, at least. Three events down, three to go. And this week, the Rostelecom Cup competitor list boasts reigning world champions, up-and-coming Russians and, of course, the return of Johnny Weir. The "real life" competition could be fierce. But now, it's time to talk fantasy.


Group A - Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani

Both the American and Russian teams in this group are making their Grand Prix debuts for the season. Ilinykh and Katsalapov, though, are fresh off the ice at the Crystal Skate competition, where they posted an impressive 174+ total score. That kind of mark has them in gold-medal range. But, senior B scores often are a bit high.

The Shibutanis, wildly talented but still very young, haven't quite been able to break through against the very best teams.

Virtue and Moir, were less than pleased with their scores at Skate Canada. But they are still the cream of the crop, and if they make a few minor level adjustments, they should be golden -- both in the fantasy world and the real one.

Group B - Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi, Ksenia Monko and Kirill Khaliavin, Victoria Sinitsina and Ruslan Zhiganshin

This group features the last two world junior and Junior Grand Prix Final champions, as well as a sibling rivalry. Germans Zhiganshina and Gazsi finished fifth at Skate America to start the season. Monko and Khaliavin are coming off a win at the Cup of Nice, where they scored a 140+. Meanwhile, Sinitsina and Zhiganshin (Nelli's younger brother) posted a solid 137.46 in their senior debut last week at Cup of China.

The brother/sister battle could be tight, but I'm picking the young Sinitsina and Zhinganshin in Group B.

Group C - Nicole Orford and Thomas Williams, Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland

Orford and Williams are making their senior Grand Prix debut after a sixth-place finish at the 2012 World Junior Championships. Their personal best of 134.61 is more than 10 points shy of Coomes and Buckland's highest mark, set at last season's European championships.

This is, though, as it is the first event of the season for the Brits, too.

Still, I'm choosing in favor of senior experience and going with Coomes and Buckland.


Group A - Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov

Is this a preview of Russian nationals, perhaps?

Bazarova and Larionov are making their delayed debut. (Injuries forced them out of the Nebelhorn Trophy.) But they'll have their work cut out for them, as Volosozhar and Trankov are looking to secure a spot in the Final.

The reigning two-time world silver medalists won gold at Skate America with flawed programs. If they can clean it up, this should be their title to win.

Group B - Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin

Lawrence and Sweigers held strong in fourth place at Skate Canada, but their 158.33 total score was just under 20 points short of Denney and Coughlin's score at Skate America, where the Americans finished third.

The Americans have made great strides and have a technical advantage, so I'm going with Denney and Coughlin.

Group C - Nicole della Monica and Matteo Guarise, Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov, Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin

Both the Russians and the Americans have season-high scores just over 140 points. However, the senior B event scores haven't been the clearest predictor thus far. Plus, Martiusheva and Rogonov fall short on the experience factor, once again leaving Vise and Baldwin the "on-paper" choice. Their 141.21 score at Skate Canada was without clean programs. Not known for their consistency, they will need to step it up, but they should take Group C.


Group A - Patrick Chan, Takahiko Kozuka, Nobunari Oda

Talk about a nail-biter! Will Chan bounce back? Can Kozuka go full-steam ahead? Is Oda really "back?"

All three men medaled at their first Grand Prixs. Only Kozuka won gold, and only Kozuka topped 250 points.

I expect Chan to improve as the season progresses. But, we can't forget, Kozuka wants to improve also, especially considering the competition he'll face at Japanese nationals.

I say Chan improves on his Skate Canada performance but not enough to overtake Kozuka.

Group B - Michal Březina, Denis Ten, Artur Gachinski, Weir

Ahh, the much-anticipated return of Johnny Weir.

As much as we love what he brings to the sport, he has yet to prove he's willing to skate by the IJS's terms. I'm anxious to see what he has to offer, but I'm not expecting him to contend here.

So, between Ten, Gachinski, and Brezina, I'm going to play it by the numbers.

Brezina at Skate America: 209.67 (sixth)
Ten at Skate Canada: 203.70 (sixth)
Gachinski at Skate Canada: 199.58 (ninth)

Yes, Gachinski is skating at home. That could help him. But Brezina was not only not clean at Skate America -- he was quite unsatisfied with his performance. I expect he cleans things up a bit. Enough, at least, to take group B.

Group C - Zhan Bush, Konstantin Menshov, Richard Dornbush

It's Menshov vs. Dornbush. Menshov, who placed fourth with a 212.53 at Skate America, had some quad troubles there. Dornbush, who placed second at the Finlandia Trophy with a 239.99, looks to be back in fine form after struggling last season.

Yes, Finlandia is a senior B. But 27 points is a significant gap.

I say Dornbush rebounds well in Moscow.


Group A - Kanako Murakami, Alena Leonova, Adelina Sotnikova

If Leonova didn't do some soul searching after Skate America, she may be in trouble. With a host of capable Russians coming up behind her, there's no room to falter now.

Sotnikova is one of those up-and-comers. She slipped to third overall at Skate America after a bumpy free skate. However, she has multiple triple-triple combinations in her back pocket that can push her over the edge.

Murakami has matured beautifully. She was just 0.92 points shy of Sotnikova's mark in her own third-place finish in Canada. But, Sotnikova missed elements she typically hits. She has more room for improvement.

For me, Sotnikova is the one to beat.

Group B - Kiira Korpi, Viktoria Helgesson, Gracie Gold, Agnes Zawadzki

And we have another toss-up.

Korpi is on the comeback trail. Gold has a lot of potential to live up to. Zawadzki can't wait to show back-to-back clean programs in a big competition.

Last week, I leaned away from Korpi and regretted it. This week, I'm picking her. And hopefully celebrating it!

Group C - Valentina Marchei, Polina Korobeynikova, Caroline Zhang

Zhang was not at her best at Skate Canada. Korobeynikova was third at the Junior Grand Prix Final and fourth at Europeans last year.

However, Italy's Marchei impressed at Skate America, where she was fourth place, with 158+ overall, and was ever-so-focused all week, from practice to the ice.

She looks strong, and is my pick for Group C.