Detroit, Michigan; back again.
This year's Skate Detroit ... I mean Skate America ... is the third installment of Skate America to be held in Detroit; the first two being in 1995 and 1997. The field is a little weak in most of the events, but the men's event promises to be a good show with Yagudin, Stojko, Urmanov, and Weiss all here. Skate America, like all the Grand Prix event - formerly the Champions Series - is suffering from the ISU placing its new "Open" events in direct competition with the Grand Prix. Many of the top eligible skaters have opted for an easy payday in the Open events, leaving the Grand Prix a little thin.
In the ladies event Maria Butyrskaya should have an easy time of it, with her nearest challenger likely to be Anna Rechnio. Rechnio showed moment of brilliance at the end of last season, but she is inconsistent and did not do well at Goodwill Games. Nicole Bobek is beginning yet another comeback attempt, with her self stated goal here to tune up her new programs and work on consistency. She is back again with coach Richard Callaghan with whom she had her greatest success in 1995.
Elena Berezhnaya & Anton Sikharulidze lead an otherwise mediocre field, with US fans mostly interested in how the top US teams will compare to each other in their quest for the US title, which is up for grabs this year with the retirement from eligible skating of Meno & Sand and Ina & Dungjen.
The dance event offers the first opportunity to check out the new dance event formats at the top level. Anissina & Peizerat, Lobacheva & Averbukh, and Fusar Poli & Margaglio are sure bets for the top three, after which the event is pretty weak. Among the US couples, the event seems sure to highlight just how little depth the US has in dance with the retirement from eligible skating of Punsalan & Swallow.
A minor controversy rages over whether Todd Eldredge will be allowed to skate in the exhibition Sunday. The USFSA wants it but ISU President Cinquanta does not. Todd wrote to Cinquanta indicating his desire to skate but Cinquanta replied that he would prefer he didn't. The situation is being compared to Edmonton Worlds when Kurt Browning wanted to skate in that exhibition, but it is a poor comparison. Browning was an ineligible skater appearing in an eligible event, a clear violation of the rules. Eldredge, however, is still an ISU eligible skater, and local eligible skaters from time to time have appeared in exhibitions in the past and in 1995 Polish skater Zuzanna Szwed did not compete in the competition but skated in the exhibition at Skate America - a competition at which Mr. Cinquanta, it turns out, was also present. Further, it is quickly becoming a rare thing for an elite skater such as Eldredge to offer to perform in an ISU or USFSA event for free. You would think it would be something the ISU would be grateful for and want to encourage, but apparently Eldredge is caught up in some form of pissing contest going on behind the scenes.
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