Carriere, Nagasu among China entrants

Stephen CarriereGrand Prix veterans Stephen Carriere and Mirai Nagasu are among the members of Team USA headed to Cup of China, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, in Beijing. Joining them are Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, Rachael Flatt, Beatrisa Liang, Evan Lysacek and Armin Mahbanoozadeh.

While both five-time U.S. Champions in ice dance Belbin and Agosto and 2009 World Champion Lysacek have won Grand Prix gold before, and even medaled at the Grand Prix Final, Cup of China marks the first senior competition Mahbanoozadeh and ice dancers Chock and Zuerlein.

In the ladies event, the three Americans face a strong field of competitors that includes Finland’s Kiira Korpi, 2007 European Championship bronze medalist; Canada’s Joannie Rochette, the 2009 World silver medalist; Japan’s Fumie Suguri, two-time World bronze medalist; and Japan’s Akiko Suzuki, silver medalist at 2008 NHK Trophy.

Flatt comes to Beijing following her tremendously successful debut as a senior international competitor in the 2008-09 season. Following her fourth place Grand Prix debut at Skate America, she won the silver medal at Cup of Russia, making her the highest ranked American woman on the international scene. She won a silver medal at the U.S. Championships in January then finished the season with a fifth place showing at Worlds and first place team win at the World Team Trophy.

Nagasu, the 2007 U.S. Junior Ladies Champion and 2008 U.S. Champion, returns to competition in China after who battling an ankle injury for most of last season. She finished fifth, behind Flatt, at 2008 Skate America, eighth at NHK Trophy, fifth at the 2009 U.S. Championships and withdrew from the World Junior Championships.

Liang will also compete for the first time since her 14th place showing at nationals last season. On the 2008 Grand Prix circuit, she was sixth at Skate Canada and fifth at Trophee Eric Bompard. She also finished fifth at the 2008 U.S. Championships and then 10th at Worlds.

In the men’s competition, tw0-time World bronze medalist Lysacek, a competitor at the World Team Trophy, will make his first appearance in an individual competition since winning the World Championship. He has won Grand Prix gold to his credit from 2006 Cup of China. He has five silvers and won bronze at Skate America and Skate Canada last year.

Carriere started his season with a bronze medal at Finlandia Trophy. Last season, Carriere finished second at Cup of China, sixth at the NHK Trophy and ninth at the U.S. Championships. He made his Grand Prix debut with a fourth place showing at 2007 Skate America then followed it with bronze at NHK Trophy.

Mahbanoozadeh is making his senior debut in Beijing. On the 2008 Junior Grand Prix circuit, he finished second in Courchevel, France, first in Madrid, Spain and second at the final in Goyang City, Korea. He stumbled at nationals, finishing sixth in junior men’s.

The American men face Japan’s Nobunari Oda, who started the season by winning Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris. Also competing are France’s Yannick Ponsero, the national champion who took fifth in Paris, and Russia’s Sergei Voronov, the two-time national champion who finished sixth in Paris.

In the pairs competition, Team USA will be represented by Evora and Ladwig, who were fourth at the 2009 U.S. Championships. Last season, they were seventh at Skate Canada and fourth at Cup of China. They were also fourth at 2007 Skate America.

Evora and Ladwig face two Chinese pairs that won Olympic medals in 2006. Returning to the competition for the first time since winning the 2007 World title, Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao, Olympic bronze medalists, are among favorites to win gold in Beijing despite their season long absence from competition. Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang, who have four World medals including the 2009 silver, are also competing.

Ukranians Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov could also contend at Cup of China. They were second at 2008 Cup of China, third at Cup of Russia and fourth at the Grand Prix Final last season.

In ice dance, the favorites are reigning World silver medalists Belbin and Agosto, who were second at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games. They will contend against Russians Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski, the European Champions, and Italians Federica Faiella and Massimo, the European silver medalists.

U.S. Junior Ice Dance Champions Chock and Zuerlein went undefeated last season, winning two Junior Grand Prix events, the Junior Grand Prix Final, the national title and the World Junior Championship.

Cup of China is the second event of the 2009 International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating circuit. The series, now in its 15th season, consists of six international events in a cumulative, point-scoring format. The top six scoring athletes in each discipline move onto the Grand Prix Final, Dec. 3-6, in Tokyo, Japan, which will be combined with the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final for the second consecutive season.

The six Grand Prix events are Trophee Eric Bompard, Oct. 15-18, in Paris, France; Rostelecom Cup, Oct. 22-25, in Moscow Russia; Cup of China, Oct. 29-Nov. 1, in Beijing, China; NHK Trophy, Nov. 5-8, in Nagano, Japan; Skate America, Nov. 12-15, in Lake Placid, N.Y.; and Skate Canada, Nov. 19-22, in Kitchener, Canada.

The points toward the Grand Prix Final that are awarded for each place are 15 points for first; 13 points for second; 11 points for third; nine points for fourth; seven points for fifth; five points for sixth place; four points for seventh place; and three points for eighth. In pair skating, only the top six receive points.

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