Team USA at the Cup of China
|Bebe Liang and coach Ken Congemi. ()|
More than 60 skaters from 19 countries are competing for points and prize money at the Cup of China. Nine skaters from the United States will compete in four disciplines: ladies, men's, pairs and ice dancing. The U.S. team hails from four different states: California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The Grand Prix Series, now in its 13th season, consists of six international events in a cumulative point-scoring format. Approximately 300 athletes from 29 countries are expected to participate in the series. Each athlete is eligible to score points in two of the six scheduled events. The top six point-earners in each of the disciplines then qualify for the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Torino, Italy, Dec. 13-16. Athletes will be vying for a total of more than $1.35 million in prize money throughout the series.
At last week's Skate Canada, U.S. skaters were shut out of the medal haul. The best U.S. finisher was Emily Hughes, who finished fourth in ladies. Japan's Mao Asada and France's Brian Joubert won the ladies and men's competitions, respectively. Rounding out the gold medal winners were the German pair of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy and Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. U.S. ice dancers Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov withdrew from the competition after suffering a serious fall during Sunday's free dance warm-up.
Alissa Czisny is back for her third Grand Prix season, and her first Grand Prix assignment of this season. The bronze medalist at the 2007 State Farm U.S. Championships, Czisny finished fourth at Skate Canada and ninth at the Cup of Russia last year. Bebe Liang, the 2007 U.S. fourth-place finisher, is back for her second Cup of China, having finished fifth at last year's event. Czisny and Liang will be joined by Caroline Zhang . This is the first year of senior-level competition for Zhang, who is fresh off her bronze-medal-winning debut at Skate America in Reading, Pa. The reigning World Junior champion, Zhang had an outstanding Junior Grand Prix (JGP) season in 2006, taking home gold from each of her two JGP assignments and winning the gold at the JGP Final.
After winning a silver medal at his first Grand Prix assignment - Skate America - Evan Lysacek heads to China with hopes of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. The two-time World bronze medalist and reigning U.S. champion, Lysacek won medals at both of his 2006 Grand Prix events: silver at Skate America and gold at Cup of China. Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir is making his 2007 Grand Prix debut this weekend. In 2006 Weir garnered silver at Cup of Russia and bronze at Skate Canada.
The pairs team of Keauna McLaughlin/Rockne Brubaker hope to continue their gold-medal winning streak at Cup of China. The pair has brought home a total of five gold medals, one in every competition they've entered since their debut at last year's JGP Hungary.
Reigning U.S. champions Tanith Belbin/Benjamin Agosto return to Cup of China, having brought home gold in 2004 and silver in 2006. The 2006 Olympic silver medalists come to Harbin fresh off winning the gold at Skate America.