What have the stages of the Grand Prix turned into without Hanyu, Chen, Valieva and Shcherbakova?

The International Skating Union has posted the distribution lists for the Grand Prix stages for the 22/23 season.


Let’s see what awaits the fans in the new season and what kind of figure skating ISU wants to offer us.
The first thing that catches your eye is, of course, the absence of the main leaders of the last Olympic cycle in all sports. There are practically no names that “make” the ISU box office and attract most of the spectators to the stands. There are promising, promising guys and those who are in the top, but at the same time, in the presence of leaders, they have never been a favorite of the competition.

Men

The world level of men’s single skating still looks the most acceptable among all types, at least there is no obvious degradation yet. But even so, the lists of singles still look pretty faded.
Expectedly missing are Olympic champions Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, who warned fans in advance of their plans. Hanyu announced his retirement, and Chen took a break to concentrate on his studies.


Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen personified men’s single skating for many years, young skaters looked up to them, their performances were followed by the whole world. Hanyu could gather entire stadiums by his mere presence on the ice. It is difficult to imagine further competitions without their participation.
Like it or not, the absence of two kings of men’s single skating is a serious loss not only for ISU, but for the sport as a whole. Many fans (especially Hanyu) will take time to let someone else into their hearts who they will be interested in following and who they will want to buy tickets for.


In addition to the absence of Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu, Jason Brown and Vincent Zhou are also missing from the list. Brown, who delivered the short program to Daniel Grassl, probably also plans to completely miss the season or even end his sports career.


Of the leaders of the US men’s team, only the budding Ilya Malinin remained, from whom everyone in the new season will be waiting for the landing of the quadruple axel at the competition. The guy, of course, looks promising, his jumping technique is impressive, I want to believe that he will still write his name in history, but I must admit that today Ilya is a no-name figure skater for most figure skating fans.
He has yet to prove himself in the international arena, win the love of the audience, prove his right to lead, and for this many factors must come together.


The Japanese will have to save the male loner and maintain the level of spectator interest. First of all, of course, this is the silver medalist of the Beijing Olympics Yuma Kagiyama and the newly-baked world champion Shoma Uno.


Yuma has every chance to take the lead among men. He is stable, he has a serious jump set, soft skating and, not least, he is very young, he is only 19 years old.


Shome Uno, due to age, will be somewhat more difficult. However, under the leadership of Stephane Lambiel, it continues to flourish and will certainly surprise us more than once.


Perhaps next season, the young Kao Miura and Shun Sato will also be able to prove themselves. They have a serious jump set, but they need more stability and self-confidence.


It will also be interesting to look at Daniel Grassl, Matteo Rizzo, Kevin Amos, Denis.

Women

The girls are pleased with the presence of Rika Kihira, who missed the entire last season, but it is difficult to say what level of skating the skater will be able to show at the Grand Prix stages. I was especially upset by the fact that, according to the skater, she still has not completely got rid of the pain in her ankle. So returning to the previous level is unlikely to be easy.


After a serious injury, the American Brady Tennell will also try to return to the ice. But her teammates Mariah Bell and Karen Chen for some reason were not announced for the stages, although Mariah planned to ride more in the absence of the Russians.


The leader of the female single without Russian figure skaters, apparently, will continue to be Kaori Sakamoto. It is hard to imagine who will be able to impose a fight on her among the declared participants if the Japanese woman does not make gross mistakes.


As for the ultra-c elements, there is a feeling that the skaters will prefer not to take risks, choosing the “better simpler, cleaner” tactic. Unless a triple axel can be expected from Young Yu and Riki Kihira (but here a lot depends on the state of health).


Hypothetically, the triple axel can still be shown by Amber Glenn, Wakaba Higuchi and Mana Kawabe.
Isabeau Levito will make her debut at the senior level and can seriously compete with other participants. At the junior starts, she looked very good and promising, the Russian school of figure skating was felt (her coaches were Evgeny Platov and Yulia Kuznetsova). The figure skater tried to study the quadruple sheepskin coat, but last year there was only one attempt at the local tournament, the jump turned out to be low.


You can’t expect miracles from other skaters. And if for men the bar clearly does not drop below the usual level, without 4-5 quadruple jumps in a free program it will be difficult to count on victory, then for women the picture will be completely different, and this is sad.

Pairs

In pairs without Russians and Olympic champions Sui/Han, the situation is even worse than in women’s singles.


The 2022 world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Fraser, who have shown the best skates in their careers in France, are unlikely to be able to demonstrate stability at future starts.


There are still the Chinese couple Cheng Peng and Yang Jin, the Japanese Riku Miura and Ryuichi. But there is clearly no need to talk about some flowering of pair skating.

Ice Dance

In dancing, it is worth recognizing, it is also not yet clear who could replace Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron. Among the participants of the Grand Prix series there is not a single dance duo who could even come close to the level of the French.


Apparently, Madison Chalk and Evan Bates will take the lead in dancing, and Italians Charlene Gignard and Marco Fabbri and Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier will try to impose a fight on them. They will most likely be assessed much better than before, so that the situation does not look too stalemate.

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