After two months of competition, the final stage of 2014 has been set in Barcelona, Spain. The Grand Prix Final will give us intrigue and suspense, much like a Hollywood blockbuster. The difference is, there won’t be any explosions. Here are our picks for this weekend.
Analysis: Spain’s Javier Fernandez has the home ice advantage in this competition. Fresh off his gold performance at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow and a silver medal at Skate Canada, he’ll be competing against a strong contingent of skaters from Japan. The most notable is Olympic champion. Yuzuru Hanyu, who barely made it into the final after the near disaster at Cup of China. Hanyu finished with enough points to eke our American Jason Brown for the final spot this weekend. Tatsuki Machida finished 4th in last year’s final and will look to improve, while Takahito Mura looks to win his first GP championship. The wild cards are the Russians skaters. Sergei Voronov had two 2nd place finishes at Rostelecom Cup and NHK Trophy. Maxim Kovtun leads the Grand Prix series standings and is the only man to have struck gold in both his events (Cup of China and Trophée Bompard). If I were a betting man, I’d stay far away from this category.
Smooth’s Picks –
1. Maxim Kovtun (RUS)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
Analysis: One thing’s for certain, a Russian lady who will grace the podium this weekend. The question is, “which one?” and “what place will they end up?” 2014 has been the best season ever for Russian ladies. Between winning gold at Sochi and this year’s Grand Prix final, the country has the potential to dominate the ladies division well into 2018. Their two biggest chances for gold are Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Anna Pogorilaya. Tuktamysheva’s comeback trail has been vast, winning 5 of 6 competitions this season. Pogorilaya’s accession to the top has been quick, winning Skate Canada and finishing 2nd at Rostelecom Cup. The rest of the field comprises of Elena Radionova, who dominated both competitions (Skate America and Trophée Bompard) and Olympic champion Julia Lipnitskaia, who has 2nd place finishes (Cup of China and Trophée Bompard). It will be a tough task for the other two ladies to catch up this weekend. American Ashley Wagner has had a successful Grand Prix season, finishing 2nd at Skate America and 3rd at Trophée Bompard. Japan’s Rika Hongo is a last minute replacement for American Gracie Gold who withdrew due to injury. Hongo’s chances for the podium are slim, but could surprise, noting her 1st place finish at Rostelecom Cup.
Smooth’s Picks –
1. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)
2. Elena Radionova (RUS)
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)
Analysis: The matchup everyone has been waiting for will finally take place this weekend. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have been dominant in their competitions this season, winning Skate Canada and NHK Trophy. Russian skaters Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov have been equally dominant, winning Rostelecom Cup and Trophée Bompard. The result is a 1.23 point separation between the two teams. Something’s gotta give. What may give are three Chinese teams who may upset both, most notably, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang, who won at Cup of China and placed 3rd at Skate America. Teammates Wenjing Sui & Cong Han have 2nd place finishes at Skate Canada and Trophée Bompard. Their third team, Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin had a strong showing in Grand Prix competition, finishing 2nd at Cup of China and 3rd at NHK Trophy. The wild card will be from the Russian team of Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov, who won at Skate America and placed 2nd at NHK Trophy. Of all the competitions, this may be the one to watch this weekend.
Smooth’s Picks –
1. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov (RUS)
2. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN)
3. Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang (CHN)
Analysis: The search to find the next great ice dance team may have been found this season with the emergence of Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates. The team has picked up the mantle left by Davis & White and they’ve never looked back, winning Skate America and Rostelecom Cup. Their competition this weekend comes from a team that flew under the radar all last season. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron of France surprised many with their amazing performance at Cup of China. They made sure is wasn’t a fluke by winning their home tournament at and Trophée Bompard. They’re sure to make the podium this weekend against some stiff competition. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje will be their main obstacle to anything higher than silver. They also dominated their competitions, winning Skate Canada and NHK Trophy. Americans Maia & Alex Shibutani had a good GP season, finishing 2nd at Skate America and Cup of China, but will be tasked to improve their performance this weekend. The same will be said for Canadians Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, who also had a couple of 2nd place finishes (Skate Canada and Trophée Bompard). The big sleeper however is from the Russian team of Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin, who in only their third competition together, made the Grand Prix final, an incredible accomplishment. Look for a three way logjam for positioning this weekend.
Smooth’s Picks –
1. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
2. Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)
3. Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume (FRA)
As an added bonus, here are my selections for the Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating