Skate America Ready to Kick Off in Hartford
|Kimmie Meissner at the Campbells' Cup|
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
(10/24/06) - The 2006 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series begins with a bang this week at Skate America in Hartford, Conn. Team USA will compete against 15 other countries, all vying for points and prize money in this first of six events in the series. Skate America will take place at the Hartford Civic Center and begin with the ice dancing compulsory competition on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Team USA will come out in full force for Skate America, sending 18 skaters to compete in the four different disciplines. In ladies, World champion Kimmie Meissner will compete, along with U.S. bronze medalist Emily Hughes and Four Continents champion Katy Taylor. On the men's side, two-time World bronze medalist Evan Lysacek, who placed second at Skate America last year, will return. He is joined by Scott Smith, the 2005 Ondrej Nepela Memorial champion, and Ryan Bradley, the two-time U.S. Collegiate Championships winner.
In pairs, Rena Inoue & John Baldwin will lead the field after placing second at 2005 Skate America and first at the 2006 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Their U.S. teammates at the event are U.S. fifth-place finishers Naomi Nari Nam & Themistocles Leftheris, and U.S. sixth-place finishers Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent. Melissa Gregory & Denis Petukhov lead the U.S. ice dancing contingent, with three U.S. Championships silver medals in their trophy case, along with 2005 World Junior champions Morgan Matthews & Max Zavozin, and 2006 Karl Schaefer Memorial bronze medalists Kimberly Navarro & Brent Bommentre.
The U.S. skaters will face strong competition in Hartford. The ladies competition is packed, as it includes the Japanese one-two-three punch of Mao Asada, Mai Asada and Miki Ando, which placed first in the ladies team competition at the 2006 U.S. Figure Skating Campbell's Cup earlier in the month. Mao Asada is the 2005 Grand Prix Final champion, and Ando finished fourth at that event. Switzerland's Sarah Meier, who took eighth place at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, will also be a skater to watch. The men's field is home to Japan's Nobunari Oda, who placed fourth at the 2006 World Championships, and Belgian fan favorite Kevin Van Der Perren, who took ninth place at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
In the pairs competition are Poland's Dorota Zagorska and Mariusz Siudek, who placed ninth at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, and 2005 World Junior champions Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov of Russia. The dance competition features World champions Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski of Bulgaria. Also competing are Great Britain's Sinead Kerr and John Kerr, who placed 10th at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Skate America marks the first of six events in six countries, concluding in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the Grand Prix Final. Skaters can compete in two of the six events, and the top six point-earners in all four disciplines – ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing – earn a spot at the Grand Prix Final. Athletes will compete for $180,000 at Skate America and more than $1.35 million in prize money throughout the series and the Grand Prix Final.
In the 2005 Grand Prix Series, U.S. skaters took home nine medals, including one in each discipline at Skate America. Alissa Czisny placed first and second at her two events, while Lysacek took home a pair of silver medals from his. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto finished first at their only event in the series. Sasha Cohen, Johnny Weir, Inoue and Baldwin, and Gregory and Petukhov all medaled at events.
Tickets for Skate America are now on sale and may be purchased at the Hartford Civic Center Box Office, by calling 860.240.7618 or at www.ticketmaster.com.