We may still be three months away from the 2015 Skate America in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but it's never too early to get excited about the first Grand Prix event of the season! Here are five pre-preview thoughts.
Related: 2015 Skate America entrants
1. Aaron's transformation
Could Skate America be the rebirth of 2013 U.S. champ Max Aaron? At World Team Trophy late last season, Aaron debuted two brand new programs that were the talk of the town. Choreographically, the two Phillip Mills programs - his Black Swan free skate (below) in particular - were just huge steps above what he's ever delivered. Of course, Mills masterminded the Black Swan free skate that became Ashley Wagner's springboard to the top. We know he's got the jumps, and if he can grab some consistency again, 2015-16 could be a new, more successful era of Aaron's career.
2. Gold and Lipnitskaia redemption?
Last season wasn't the greatest for Gracie Gold, though her career-high 4th-place finish at Worlds would say otherwise. But while Gold's inconsistent performances gave her an up-and-down season, Julia Lipnitskaia's slump that led to a 9th at Russians and a boot off the World team was downright devastating. Skate America will be their return to the big stage this season, and early-season momentum could be crucial for them. Particularly for Lipnitskaia, a couple of strong skates against the likes of Gold, Satoko Miyahara, and Evgenia Medvedeva may mean a world of difference for her confidence, which was at an all-time low at the end of last season.
Speaking of Gold, though, check of her triple axel (on harness) in practice below.
3. Highly-anticipated debuts
It is perhaps the most exciting field of junior-turned-seniors we've got this season. Three of the four Junior World champions will be making their senior Grand Prix debuts. Japan's Shoma Uno, who was definitely already ready for senior competition last season, will certainly be in medal contention at Skate America. Russian junior champ and senior bronze medalist Evgenia Medvedeva will bring her elegance and array of Tano triples to Milwaukee. She will also be a medal contender. Her teammates, Anna Yanovskaya/Sergey Mozgov, will also be in their first senior GP after a very decorated junior career.
Add to that list Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau, who had a superb last season to finish 8th at senior Worlds, Japan's Miyu Nakashio, and Kazakhstan's newest phenom, Elizabet Tursynbaeva, and you've got yourself a great opening Grand Prix.
4. The return of Stolbova/Klimov
Many will remember that Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov cut their last season short after going into Europeans as the heavy, heavy favorite and finishing second (cue the array of angry podium photos from Euros). They were heavily missed at Worlds, but their decision came as they tried to regroup in anticipation of the 2018 Olympics. One of their goals with the early end to their season was to increase their technical difficulty. We'll see if any new elements are ready, but for me (and plenty of others), it'll be great to see them back.
5. An array of American all-stars
With the exception of Ashley Wagner, who makes her season GP debut the following week at Skate Canada, Skate America will be inundated with the current U.S. champs. Jason Brown showed during Worlds that he's plenty competitive without the quad, so we know that even one quad can take him to the World podium. Alexa Sciemca/Chris Knierim notched the highest Worlds pairs finish for the U.S. in a few years. And newly-crowned World silver medalists Madison Chock/Evan Bates are looking to repeat as Skate America champs.