This week’s US Figure Skating Championships are taking place in what might be the only warm place in the lower 48 at the moment: San Jose, California. Oh, the irony: an event focused on ice taking place in the only state where it’s not blistering cold.
I was blessed to cover two US Championships (2014 and 2015) and wish I could be there in San Jose this week. However, since having my son, I’ve had to cut back on my writing travel, so I’m watching this week’s action from afar. If you’re looking for a great writer reporting from the event, follow my neighbor Claire Cloutier (@clairecloutier), who will be covering the event for Figure Skaters Online (@fsonline.) You also can’t go wrong reading Christine Brennan’s work for USA Today, Jackie Wong’s work for Rocker Skating and IceNetwork, and Lynn Rutherford also of IceNetwork (who I wish I got to know better when I did cover Nationals – she’s a skating writing machine.)
If I were a betting woman in Vegas, I’d feel safest betting on the men’s, ice dance and pairs events this week. I would stay away from the ladies because….well, read through my predictions and notes to see why.
- Nathan Chen
- Adam Rippon
- Vincent Zhou
- Jason Brown
- Alex Krasnozhon
To watch: I am stepping out on a limb placing Alex Krasnozhon (Junior Grand Prix champion) so high. I feel like he is going to make a huge splash here. I think the highest judges will possibly put him is fifth, but he will skate better than at least one of the skaters above him. When he is on, he is quite impressive. Starting this fall, he will be one of the nation’s top men on the international scene…Boston’s Ross Miner competes in what he is calling his final National Championships. He tends to do very well in the short program at Nationals, and I expect that again this week. He will not make the Olympic team, but if he can skate to his full potential in the long program, he’ll make the Four Continents team.
Senior Ice Dance
To watch: The two and three spots will be interesting to watch. To be honest, I like Chock/Bates’ free dance more than Hubbell/Donahue’s, and I think it will be very close between the two. Chock and Bates may not have the most difficult elements, and Hubbell and Donahue are the entire package, but can make poorly timed mistakes…Do you follow the absolutely hysterical @JoeJohnsonIce on Twitter? He competes in this event, and should finish in the top ten. He has one of the best Twitter accounts of 2017…I am expecting a good week for Hawayek and Baker, namely because 2018 is apparently the Year of the Buffaloian (Hawayek is from East Aurora.) BUFFALO’S HAPPENING NOW, WE’RE ON THE MOVE NOW.
- Scimeca Knierim/Knierim
To watch: The only lock is Scimeca Knierim/Knierim, who on a great day are a complete joy to watch. She has an incredible story, undergoing a few serious abdominal surgeries in 2016 and making it back to compete late last season at Four Continents and the World Championships. (From experience, I can tell you that once those muscles are cut through, it takes a while to get back to the point where you don’t feel like you’ve been sawed in half. Kudos to her for returning as fast as she did.) … As usual, there is a strong New England contingent in the pairs event, with Rhode Island’s Marissa Castelli hoping to land another national medal with Mervin Tran, and Allison Timlen/Justin Highgate-Brutman, who train in Boxborough, MA. Their side-by-side jumps are looking magnificent on social media.
- Mirai Nagasu
- Ashley Wagner
- Bradie Tennell
- Karen Chen
- Angela Wang
- Emmy Ma
To watch: This event is totally up in the air. Many of these skaters have been inconsistent through the fall international season. Nagasu, who was controversially left off the Olympic team in a decision made in the back rooms of the TD Garden four years ago, is the current buzz of practices in San Jose. She has a triple Axel and a lot of crowd support …. Tennell had one of the best performances of a US woman in years at November’s Skate America, and also is skating well in official practices. I do fear that the hype could get to Tennell, who has struggled with injuries in previous years….Wagner seems a lock to make the Olympic team – she secured that spot with a silver medal at the 2016 World Championships in Boston. She won’t win here, though, due to pesky underrotation calls….Defending national champion Chen is so inconsistent. She could win the whole thing, or she could place fifth. She could skate lights out, or fall on two or three jumps. Seeking confidence, Chen has switched back to the programs that landed her last year’s title….My dark horse is Newton, MA’s Emmy Ma. If former ABC commentators Dick Button and Peggy Fleming were still in the announcing booth, I am sure Button would proclaim Ma, “Very nice” and Fleming would say, “She skates with an ethereal quality.” Ma, along with Tennell and Starr Andrews (another skater who could be a huge surprise this week), will make up many future US squads.