We are days away from the start of another Grand Prix skating season.
It struck me that there are a couple of things that will define this season: returning skaters and a significant rule change.
Can you ever go home again? There is a lot of talent in this pre-Olympic season that is hoping so.
Russia's Evgeni Plushenko is a modern day gladiator. As a two-time Olympic silver medallist and the Olympic champion in 2006, one might have thought that he had accomplished enough to be able to enjoy retirement and rest on his laurels. In fact, he has already retired twice - after the Olympics in 2006 and 2010, only to return to competition.
It's a good thing too, as Russia needs Plushenko. After an eternity of strong men, Russia only has one spot for worlds in 2013 where the number of entries for the Olympics will be determined.
The 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek from the United States also wants in. I confirmed with Lori Nichol, choreographer extraordinaire, that she worked with him for the upcoming season; a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, a groin injury is preventing Lysacek from making his debut this season at the Skate America event in Kent, Wash., this weekend.
If he is able to keep up with the competition, we won't know it until the US Nationals in January 2013.
Johnny Weir is one of my skating "guilty pleasures." Like many of you, there isn't a Johnny Weir story that comes out that I don't read. I have always been a fan of his skating and in particular his line on the ice; such elegance. More than anything, I am amazed by the way he has been able to parlay his skating stardom into fame extending far beyond the rink boards: TV shows, fashion, and books to name a few.
That said, a fourth-place finish at the recent Finlandia competition tells me that in order to compete successfully against the "youngsters" like Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who won that event, he will have to up his game.
Last but certainly not least, South Korea's Yu-Na Kim, the 2010 Olympic champion, is looking to defend her title in Sochi in 2014.
Kim's career can be categorized as what I like to call a "phenom-anomaly." Unlike Japan's program where success in women's skating has led to lots of success, Korea's subsequent ladies haven't registered on the world stage.
Enter Kim whose probable appearance at the world championships in London, Ont., will undoubtedly secure two spots for Korean women at the Olympics. What I see is an admirable sense of duty and loyalty to one's country.Changes for the season
For the rank and file skaters, this season's changes mean more skaters have to be at the top of their game earlier in the season. Here is the reason why: the preliminary round of competition at worlds has been eliminated. The skaters will have to achieve a minimum technical score in order to qualify for entry to worlds as well as meet any other requirements like final placement at home championships set by their national federation.
In an email to CBCSports.ca, the ISU vice president David Dore commented: "As vice president, the council took the responsible step in June in reaction to the Congress decision to cancel the preliminary round. This decision was to establish TES scores equal to the level of the particular championship based on statistics from the past protocols of that championship.
The Council is maintaining ongoing lists of skaters' progress and will plot the numbers of skaters available at each championship closing date. At that time the TES may be adjusted either up or down to establish a reasonable entry list in each discipline."
There are two things at play with this minimum score. The first is setting the bar high enough so that in an ideal world it brings out the best come competition time while having the option of moving the bar up or down if needed.
There is a bigger issue though and that is if a country is not represented by a skater at worlds in 2013 because they couldn't make the minimum score, then they will not be represented in the judging pool from which the judges for the Olympics and next year's worlds are drawn.
I know I say it every year. It's going to be an interesting season.
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