The Grand Prix of China, otherwise known as the Samsung Anycall Cup of China, took place over the weekend in Beijing with mixed results for some of the more well-known competitors.
In the men's event, Tomas Verner, the 2008 European champion from the Czech Republic, and Brian Joubert, the two-time European champion and 2007 world champion from France, were thought to be the two biggest contenders heading into this event.
The eventual champion was Takahiko Kozuka from Japan, who walked away with the gold, winning both the short and free programs with a decisive 16.71 point margin.
In a surprising twist, Brandon Mroz from the United States was second in the free program which moved him up after a fourth place finish in the short to take the silver medal.
Verner took the bronze, skating to a respectable third place in both competition segments. Joubert was poised to try and take the lead from a second place finish after the short but failed to deliver and dropped to fourth place overall.
In ice dance, the title went to Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat of France who finished in fourth place in the world over the last two years. They may have gotten the notice they needed to become a real threat for the European title later this season, taking the gold in Beijing with a sizable 14.20 lead over second place.
They prevailed over their rivals from Italy, Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, the 2010 world bronze medallists who were off their pace, dropping from second after the Short Dance to third with an overall score that was 20.07 points out of first.
The Italians faltered with costume-related problems in both the short and free dances where Massimo's blades got tangled with Federica's skirts causing a stumble in the Golden Waltz during the short and both skaters to fall during a lift in the free which will certainly mean shorter skirts for the next time.
The real surprise was the silver medal awarded to the Russian 2007 Junior World Champions, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, who are starting to get the recognition they deserve.
The ladies event was all over the place with the exception of Japan's Akiko Suzuki who skated a solid second place performance in both the short and the free programs to take the silver.
The short program leader from the United States struggled in her all-too-familiar way of winning the short program and then coming apart at the seams with a fifth place finish in the free and a fourth place finish overall.
Miki Ando, the 2007 world champion from Japan, was wobbly in the short program but won the free program that secured the gold medal for her. Russia's Alena Leonova was shaky with a fifth place finish in the short and although still lukewarm in the free program, was able to pull up from fifth place to take the bronze medal.
The pair's event showed that it doesn't matter how high you get, you can never rest on your laurels.
Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the two-time and defending world champions and Olympic silver medallists from China, squeaked through this event to take their second Grand Prix title and qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December.
Their biggest competition was from teammates and 2010 Junior World Champions, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han.
They appear to be the recipients of the "pair torch" in Chinese pair skating whose goal this season was to qualify not only for the Junior Grand Prix Final (already done), but the senior final as well.
This is totally achievable if they are able to add one more Grand Prix medal to the silver they earned here.
They still have a long way to go with their expression but with the execution of a quad throw Salchow (with a two-foot landing but fully rotated) in the free program, it is clear that they have the technical arsenal to compete at the senior level.
The bronze medal belonged to the American team of Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin with two third place programs.
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