The figure skating grand prix circuit begins in Chicago for the second time in three years when Skate America is Friday through Sunday at Sears Centre Arena.
The field of women’s and men’s singles, pairs and ice dancers include medalists from the Olympic Winter Games and world championships, including American Ashley Wagner, who this past spring ended a 10-year drought in which the U.S. women failed to medal at either the Winter Games or world championships when she won a world silver medal in Boston.
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Here’s a brief look at the athletes who will be competing in the weekend’s competition.
The Big Two: Wagner And Gold Highlight Women’s Field
The two big names in U.S. women’s figure skating, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold, highlight the women’s field, and they’ll be joined by a number of other skaters hoping to start the season well, including Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia and Japan's Mao Asada. Gold, who is a hometown favorite in Chicago, is the reigning U.S. champion, but it was Wagner who ended the U.S. women’s medal drought at the world championships when she won silver at last spring’s competition. Gold led that competition following the short program, but a poor showing in the long program saw her drop to fourth place.
The 2014 Olympic teammates will face a number of challengers including Lipnitskaia, who, at the age of 14, became the youngest figure skater to win gold at the Olympic Winter Games under modern rules when Russia won the team gold in 2014. Last March she won gold at the Cup of Tyrol for her first gold medal in two years. Asada, the three-time world champion and 2010 Olympic silver medalist, is coming off a second-place finish at the Finlandia Trophy.
Other skaters scheduled to appear include Gabrielle Daleman (Canada), Roberta Rodeghiero (Italy), Mai Mihara (Japan), Kanako Murakami (Japan), So Youn Park (Korea), Angelina Kuchvalska (Latvia), Serafima Sakhanovich (Russia) and Mariah Bell (USA).
It’s Already Round Two For Brown and Rippon
Skate America will mark the second time in this young season that top American men Jason Brown and Adam Rippon will meet on the ice. Brown, a 2014 Olympian and the 2015 U.S. champion, is coming off a win at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic held last month in Salt Lake City, in which Rippon placed third. After missing much of last season with a back injury and finding himself unable to defend his national title, Brown, like Gracie Gold, will also have the advantage of skating in front of a hometown crowd. Rippon, who was sixth at the world championships last year, led in Salt Lake City last month after the short program. He is the reigning U.S. champion, winning for the first time in January at the age of 26.
Also scheduled to appear are Brendan Kerry (Australia), Jorik Hendrickx (Belgium), Nam Nguyen (Canada), 2016 world championships bronze medalist Jin Boyang (China), Daisuke Murakami (Japan), Shoma Uno (Japan), 2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten (Kazakhstan), Maxim Kovtun (Russia), Sergei Voronov (Russia), and Timothy Dolensky (USA). Boyang, 19, is the first skater to successfully land a quad lutz-triple toe loop combination in international competition and also the first skater to land four quads in a free skate. Ten, 23, trains with Frank Carroll, who coached Evan Lysacek, Michelle Kwan and Gold.
Shibutanis Building Ice Dance Momentum
Reigning U.S. champions Maia and Alex Shibutani headline the list of ice dancers who will be competing at Skate America. The brother-and-sister duo won silver at nationals in 2011, ’12 and ’15 before capturing their first title in 2016. The win came two years after representing the United States at the Olympic Winter Games, where they finished ninth. They followed the national title up with a silver medal at the world championships for their first world medal since earning bronze in 2011, their first season on the senior circuit.
Joining them on the ice will be Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who finished third at nationals last year and sixth at the world championships, and Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit. Other skaters scheduled to compete include Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri (Italy), Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin (Korea), Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed (Japan), Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko (Israel), Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (Russia), Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin (Russia), and Alisa Agafonova and Alper Ucar (Turkey).
Kayne And O’Shea Lead Three U.S. Pairs
Headlining the pairs field are reigning U.S. national champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, who earned 211.65 points at last year’s competition, the highest mark ever at nationals. Kayne and O’Shea are coming off a season-opening fifth-place finish at the Finlandia Trophy.
Fellow Americans include Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, and 2014 Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran.
The pairs event will also feature Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau (Canada), who recently won gold at the Autumn Classic in Montreal, Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek (Italy), Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (France), Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov (Russia), Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (Russia), who finished fifth at the world championships in 2016.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.