Grand Affairs: 2011-12 Grand Prix Preview

Susan D. Russell
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy

An exciting new season is on the horizon. After an unsettling spring and summer that saw a number of splits and retirements in the pairs and ice dance ranks, the 2011 Grand Prix Series will light up the international stages starting in mid-October with a number of new faces.

The pressure this season is perhaps even greater than usual for the veterans of the circuit. Resting on past laurels is definitely not an option — here come the young guns, and they will be in the hunt not only for medals, they will be chasing those coveted titles.


As noted in our August issue, the Series has undergone a restructuring this season. International Skating Union (ISU) vice president David Dore told IFS the Grand Prix committee took several factors into account when deciding upon the new format.

“The organizers were concerned at the number of skaters last season who dropped out at the last moment, thus having to be replaced by weaker skaters, which made for overall weak events in some cases,” Dore said.

“The criteria were tightened to ensure that the best were considered for each event, in the proper order. You can no longer lobby to get into the Grand Prix or invite your friends to participate in the Series.”

This season, the number of competitors in three of the four disciplines has been reduced. Dore said the ISU had to take economic factors into consideration. “The cost to stage an individual event has risen, which meant some things had to be shortened,” he explained.

The ISU also reinstated the option for the top skaters to participate in a third event. “The intent of this offering to the high-level skaters was because there are few opportunities to earn money these days,” Dore said. “It was seen as a way for them to earn extra prize money.”

The changes to the Series were not good news for some of last season’s junior medalists, who did not receive a senior Grand Prix assignment. When asked what the premise was for selection was, Dore said it was all in the math.

“With the reduced number of skaters this season, the concentration in all the categories was the top six; then, those who ranked seven to 12 followed by the top 24 scorers,” he explained. “We then looked at the top 24 in the world and the returning athletes such as Evan Lysacek. The juniors were the final consideration for an event.

“Thus the junior gold medalists from last season earned an assignment, but not necessarily the other medalists in that discipline. For example, Andrei Rogozine has a top-24 placement and he was the gold medalist at Junior Worlds, so he fits into another category.

“This was unfortunate, but a reality in meeting the new numbers. Juniors still have a look in the window, which is good. It is something they did not have five years ago.”

Fans welcomed the news in early June that the ISU had inked a deal with CBC television to cover, among other events, all six Grand Prix competitions. “Not only is it a contract that covers a large number of events over a long term, it is also very supportive of the ISU and its current objectives,” Dore said. “For North America this is like turning a page after nine long years.

“I believe there is an appetite for figure skating in North America and this could be the turning point. North American audiences are very important to the success of the sport, much like the Asian market is.

"We need to have a strong Series to interest both the public and the television broadcasters," Dore added.

Editor's Note: There have been changes to the line-ups for the first three events since IFS went to print. The line-ups online are the most up-to-date listings and may differ from the print version.

Originally published in October 2011