13 figure skaters to watch at Cup of China
Javier Fernandez, Canada's Elladj Balde among those aiming for gold at Grand Prix event in Beijing
Some of what goes on during the Grand Prix season has as much to do with star power as skating power. In Beijing at the upcoming Cup of China event, whose star will continue to shine?
All skaters want to win a world title. Yet getting to the top is one thing; figuring out how to stay there is another. Using Grand Prix assignments as a way of measuring what works — and what doesn't — is an important tactic in a skater's overall season strategy.
Men: Javier Fernandez's charismatic style and great technical elements earned him the 2015 world title and three back-to-back European titles. In 2015-16 he needs to demonstrate that everything he can do in practice, including two different quad jumps, also happens in competition, every time.
Ladies: Three-time world champion Mao Asada (2008, 2010, 2014) returns to competition after a year off. Her biggest push always came from her rivalry with 2010 Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim, who retired in 2014. Will internal motivation be enough to propel her to victory?
Pairs: Three-time junior champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (2010, 2011, 2012) followed up on their early success with a world silver medal in 2015. Their decisive win at Skate America demonstrates they have made the complete transformation from talented juniors to contending seniors. Now, and as hometown favourites, they have everything they might need to threaten for the world title.
Dance: Italy's Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte had a Cinderella season in 2014, when they won the European and world titles. Last season was uncharacteristically bumpy. They will need to capitalize on their solid technique, speed and presentation to be taken seriously — and that effort starts here.
Nothing at the Cup of China can be considered a walk in the park, especially with the following rising stars looking to make their mark.
Elladj Balde — Balde's not just starting another international competition season; he's returning after a life-altering experience and some serious soul searching. That focus and sense of purpose helped the Canadian win his first international title at the Nebelhorn Trophy event in September — and could push him to even greater heights.
Boyang Jin — The 2015 world junior silver medallist is capable of two quads in the short, including a quad Lutz/triple toe jump combination, and four quads in the free. He's done it before and will no doubt want to do it again in front of a hometown crowd. He is a jumping machine and all those jumps can rack up a huge number of points.
Elena Radionova — In a field packed with young Russian talent, it can be hard to stand out. Radionova took bronze at worlds and silver at Europeans in her first trip to each event in 2015. She was the first woman to win two world junior titles (2013, 2014) which makes it clear she has the talent. So will she do well because of others' mistakes or because of her own ability?
Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin — As world junior pair champions in 2014 and 2015, it is a little surprising that this team doesn't get more play. They made it to the Grand Prix Final last year and have the sort of talent that can sneak right up the middle to take gold, on home ice, given half the chance.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates — The reigning American champions ended just shy of where they wanted to be last season, taking a silver medal at worlds. They won Skate America, in Milwaukee in October, with a bang. They know what they have to do and have proven willing to do it, including scrapping their short dance and creating a new one two weeks before heading to Wisconsin.