BATTLE MASTERS 2013 is COMING
The third edition of BATTLE MASTERS will take place on April 29th, in Beijing like always.
That competition is unique in the World Slalom Series: REGISTRATION BY INVITATION ONLY. And guess what the requirements are? You should be in the Men's Top-16 or in the Women's Top-8 !
(see Feb.13 World Ranking: http://www.worldslalomseries.com/rankings/ upon which are based the invitations).
The aim of the event? Mixing the elite of the discipline and offering the potentially best quality show of the moment in a merciless fight at the highest heights of technique and freestyle! Each year, the competition gathers the top-skaters and a few other great skaters being offered wild cards by the organization. The men will be 20 and the girls 10 to fight for Gold.
In the men's as in the women's, almost ALL skaters in each category answered YES to the organization. All but a few… and not the least! The most expected declines were those of Men's current #2 Kim Sung Jin (Kor), having no time to practice, as well as women's current #4 freshly retired Polina Semenova (Rus) (see interviews: KSJ http://www.worldslalomseries.com/news/articles/itw-kimsungjin/ and P.Semenova http://www.worldslalomseries.com/news/articles/itw-p-semenova/ ).
But there is a third negative answer that is even more decisive: the Biggest Threat of the women's competition is not available! Su Fei Qian (#5), the current double world champion in Classic and Battle and winner of the last edition cannot come because of exams! Which leaves the door open to a multitude of possibilities…
This year the most represented country is still China with 9 men and 3 women, but the Europeans are more numerous than ever: 9 men and 6 women (the majority!)
will make the trip. 9 nationalities are taking part in the competition.
Back to the Future
The wind has changed since last year: some freestylers have quit, some have dropped in the ranking and some have gained places...
Last year, the world leaders of today, D.Kuznetsova (#1) and K.Hartmanis (#2) had been knocked out as soon as the first round. The biggest threat, Su Fei Qian will not be there to defend her title. Feng Hui, the second of last year's edition, is at the #21 place despite a Junior world title in Classic and a Bronze in battle, while Guan Yu Xiang is only #14 this month. Yet the two little Chinese were given wild cards and will be taking part in the event, together with rising Thai skater Chanya Mongkolchareonchok (#23).
Newcomers such as Angelika Prucnal (#6) and Olga Semenikhina (#9), as well as Zoé Granjon (#7), the first French representative in the Women's category at
Battle Masters, will also be introduced for the first time.
The Men's landscape has changed even more that the Women's since last year. Polish Michal Sulinowski (#3) will make his first appearance in the closed sphere, Igor Cheremetieff (#8) is back in the game, as well as Russians Viktor Meleshkevich (#9) and Roman Gordin (#13). All these comers throw out several personalities, including Singaporean Clarence Cheung and Chinese Fu Chao and Liao Jie.
Last year's winner Chinese prodigy Ye Hao Qin (#15) qualifies by a whisker, hanging on to the Top16, despite his absence during last season -- his second world title of battle in a row saved him! Same comment for world vice-champion Zhang Hao (#12) (also junior champion in Classic), whose world championship performances enabled him to stay in the Top-16!
All the wild cards delivered in the Men's category go to Chinese skaters, including Lan Wang Heng, the winner of the first edition who has dropped in the
The groups are sealed
WARNING: these are only previsional groups, in no case should they be taken as an official announcement.
The battle groups are already sealed and the competitors already know who they will have to fight against, and the potential dangers they will meet along their
way, if they take the time to make a quick calculation...
In the Women's category, the competition will start with thirds of finals : Two groups of 3 and one group of 4...
WOMEN'S PREVISIONAL GROUPS
In the men's category, it's a long way to the top: 20 competitors means completing three rounds with success if you want to rock'n roll in the final: First round, Quarter finals, Semi finals... and then you still have to master the Finals!
MEN'S PREVISIONAL GROUPS
...of two newcomers in the Battle Masters,
MICHAL SULINOWSKI (Pol, men's #3) and ZOE GRANJON (Fra, women's #7).
Objective: Showing what they are WORTH!
* It is the first time you two compete in that invitational event. How does it feel?
M.Sulinowski. "I'm really happy that I can take part in such a prestigious event. It's like reaching a new level of skating! I'm also proud to compete with the best skaters and learn from them."
Z.Granjon. "I'm very glad to be selected, it is a great opportunity to go and represent France
(note: Zoe is the first ever feminine representative of France in the event). I feel good and I can't wait for the competition to start, can't wait to meet the best skaters and see super
* What are your minimum goals? Do you have your battle plans ready?
M.Sulinowski. "My minimum goal is… giving 100% of myself. If I do so, I will be satisfied regardless of the final result. I didn't analyze my opponents but I analyzed my last battle rounds and I did some changes. If I do everything as planned, it should be very good."
Z.Granjon. "I don't have a plan of attack yet. No special objective either, but I will do my best
and show the best of me."
…of two European recidivists at Battle Masters, MARTIN SLOBODA (Ger, #6) and ROMAIN LEBOIS (Fra, #1).
They point out the rising of European skaters since last years, and the importance of group motivation as they will be all cheering for one another…
MARTIN SLOBODA (ger, #6) did the very first edition but had to decline last year's invitation for exam reasons. The least to say is that things have evolved in two years. Yet, he is quite CONFIDENT today!
"Everything is open, the level is crazy, let's see…"
* Compared to the first edition, the Top-16 landscape has changed a lot…
M.Sloboda. "Doubtlessly, It's a big relief that many guys from Europe are coming, not like some
years ago when three-quarters of all competitors were Asian. It's more balanced now and it gives you kind of a backing when all your friends compete with you."
* What are your expectations for the coming edition? Are your mood, your goals, different from two years ago?
M.Sloboda. "Well, it's hard to say as the technical level of all skaters exploded within the last 2 years. But I think as long as the runs are proper, fast, clean and stylish you can have a chance to stem the asian tech level. My mood is quite good and I'm pretty confident of doing a good performance. Expectations - I think everybody in this battle has the chance to get the title. Everything is open, the level is crazy, let's see what will happen. It's gonna be fun!"
The current World #1, French ROMAIN LEBOIS, has already experienced the Battle Masters last year.
He had done pretty well, as he had finished 1st European skater behind two Chinese who where in the final of the 2012 World Championships: Ye Hao Qin
(current world champion) and Zang Hao. Now is time for MORE!
* Compared to last year, the situation is quite different with your world ranking and the skaters who come and go. Do you put the bar higher this year? Are you confident?
R.Lebois. "Indeed, despite my exam period, I still train a lot to try to beat my two rivals. I worked on new tricks and I think that the fight will be great, that's why I love going to Asia. Everytime I'm back in France, I'm even more motivated to beat them.
But you should not forget the Europeans and the Koreans, because this year, the European Seba Team is going to force their way through Asia! Which is quite a
good thing because we are all going to support one another."
* Do you have a plan of attack? What are going to be your main obstacles and your main assets?
R.Lebois. "I will follow my instinct, as usual big wheeling tricks and good variations with sitting tricks, freestyle footwork and several heel wheeling tricks too.
Obviously the two Chinese Zang Hao and Ye Hao Qin are going to be my main obstacles, but there will be Alexandre Claris too and I think that this year, if everything goes well, we will be in the Final together.
Now that I master the Christie wheeling pretty well, it will be my main advantage against all the skaters."
… And the TRICKY QUESTION as a CONCLUSION:
* Between Battle Masters and the World Championships, which event means the most to you?
M.Sulinowski. "Both are huge and very important, and they have the highest level in the world. In my opinion the World Championships are more important because of the number of disciplines (battle, classic, speed, slides and pair slalom). Battle Masters has only battle. But I've never taken part in it and my opinion may change after the event!"
Z.Granjon. "Battle Masters is important because it is the current best skaters in the world confronting one another, and it is where the highest level is. We will be only 8 women, and we will have to give all our best right from the beginning.
At the World's, there are more skaters but with different levels. You have more time to prepare, but the stakes are bigger: Who never dreamt of getting a medal at the World Championships?"
M.Sloboda. "I think Battle Masters is pretty much on the same level as the World Championships with the slight difference that you have the Top16 concentrated in one competition, which makes every single group to a big showdown instead of the whole slalom globe mixed in a gigantic battle where it's sometimes about luck. The Battle Masters is literally the "state-of-the-art" concerning technical slalom level. Concerning the value, I would rather say it's the World Championships as the title, once achieved, remains memorable for ever. You'll be able to tell this to your children one day."
R.Lebois. "Both competitions are important, same level, same goals, but with the Battle Masters you can check and compare your level and meet again at the World Championships for the final confrontation."
by Chloe Seyres