Wellman's fantasy skating tips: Trophee Bompard
Fifth Grand Prix stop presents intriguing choice in Ladies Group A
|Does Tara Wellman believe Ashley Wagner can stave off a pair of Russian dynamos to capture the gold medal in Paris? (Getty Images)|
Last year, this would have gone to the Russians, no questions asked. This year, though, not only are Duhamel and Radford stronger than ever, but Kavaguti and Smirnov haven't looked sharp.
Both earned silver medals in their first events, but Duhamel and Radford scored nearly seven points higher. Yes, they were skating at home. But after seeing both sets of programs, I believe more in the Canadians for now.
They're my A pick.
At Skate Canada, Berton and Hotarek posted a 172.03 en route to a bronze-medal finish.
At Cup of China, Stolbova and Klimov bested that mark by 0.52, earning their own bronze medal.
Neither team is exceptionally consistent. However, Berton and Hotarek's score swings are a little less dramatic. Either team has a legitimate shot at the podium.
Call it a toss-up, but I'm taking the Italians.
No one impressed me more at Skate America than James and Ciprès. They earned the early-season "Most Improved" award, without a doubt. They're not quite maxed out on finesse just yet, but they're much closer, and their technical elements have improved dramatically.
In front of the home crowd, I say they top teammates Popova and Massot for a Group C win.
Nothing like a pair of Russian dynamos breathing down your neck, eh, Ashley?
Lipnitskaia finished second to Mao Asada in her debut in China, while Tuktamisheva took fourth at Skate Canada to start her international season.
U.S. champ Wagner, however, picked up right where she left off, skating two captivating -- and clean -- programs for Skate America gold. She'll attempt to make it two in a row here, and while the potential add-in triple-triple increases the possibility of trouble, she easily has the components scores -- and a host of non-jump technical elements -- to push her over the top.
She's my A pick.
By a scoring margin of nearly 20 points, American Gao is easily the favorite in this group. Not only does she have a beautiful triple-triple in the short, but she has maturity and detail like never before in the long. She, too, impressed at Skate America, where she earned her first Grand Prix medal -- a silver, behind Wagner.
This will be the test: duplicating the powerful performances. But, if she does, she'll keep raking in those high scores.
The new minimum score requirements for the world championships created the possibility of some veterans being left on the outside looking in.
McCorkell was on that bubble.
So, what does she do? Head out to the Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria, and throw down a 161+ for the win ... and the worlds qualification mark.
Marrocco is at home, and Helgesson is looking to rebound after a seventh-place finish in China, but I'm sticking with McCorkell. She's riding the high of the win in Graz and looking to repeat those scores.
Joubert, at this point, is still very much a question mark. He withdrew after the short program from Cup of China, so we don't have a clear idea of where he is on the ice.
Teammate Amodio is fighting for his life with inconsistent quads.
Abbott fought to get off the ice in his free skate at Skate America.
Any one of this talented trio is capable. But, even with the physical problems Abbott had in Kent, he was just seven points shy of Amodio's fourth-place mark in Canada.
This is tough, but I'm picking Jeremy for the comeback.
Song withdrew prior to the free skate at Cup of China after a collision with Adam Rippon. Verner, though, has been less than successful thus far, but there were glimmers of the old Verner at Skate America. And Mura just doesn't seem "there" yet.
It's another toss-up, but this time I'm going with Verner, the veteran. (You're not surprised, are you?)
Belgian Hendrickx is the only one of this crew to have topped 200 points this season, when he scored 202.06 to place fourth at the Cup of Nice. The men's Group C is quite often my "by the numbers" pick, and here it is again. The 200+ means Hendrickx it is.
World bronze medalists. Cup of China champs. Skating at home.
No contest, Péchalat and Bourzat top the Russians for Group A and their second gold.
This is a full-on Skate Canada rematch!
American's Hubbell and Donohue and Canadians Gilles and Poirier will be battling it out for years to come. The sheer talent between these teams is certainly exciting!
But it's the Italians who capitalized on successes last year and hard work in the offseason to hold their own against Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at Skate Canada. They finished second by just over nine points after "Dueling Carmens" between the top two left people all hot and bothered!
I don't expect the year's first results between these three to shift much. Cappellini and Lanotte it is.
The top season scores in this group are tight. Mostly, they stay in the 130+ range. No great disadvantage, but no strong advantages either, making the task of choosing even harder.
As much as I'd like to think Carron and Jones take the group for the home crowd, I'm going to take the risk with Zlobina and Sitnikov instead.