The final leg of the Grand Prix series ends in Nagano, Japan; where 55 skaters will compete for slots in the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona. A few skaters are guaranteed slots, barring disaster. Some have an outside chance of making the final. The ISU accepted a proposal from the Russian Figure Skating Federation that allowed skaters affected by the cancelation of Trophée Bompard to have their results count in the Grand Prix final. Two extra spots will be added to each category. Here are our predictions.
Analysis – Yuzuru Hanyu leads a strong Japanese contingent. He’s coming off a silver medal at Skate Canada, where he struggled in the short program and recovered with a strong long program. Teammates Takahito Mura and Keji Tanaka round out the field. China’s Boyang Jin won silver Cup of China in Record setting fashion. Russia’s Maxim Kovtun was ranked second at Trophée Bompard in the Short Program prior to cancelation, but his results will count towards the GP Final. Canada’s Elladj Balde had a disastrous result at Cup of China (11th) and is looking to recover.
Skaters to Watch – The Czech Rupublic’s Michal Brezina has flown under the radar this GP season with a lackluster performance at Skate Canada (8th), but can make a play for the podium with a strong performance this weekend. Russia Konstantin Menshov had a 5th place finish at Skate America and won a non-GP event this season (Merano Cup). Australia’s Brendan Kerry takes over for an ailing Jason Brown (USA). His best finish was 8th at Skate America. Richard Dornbush and Grant Hochstein leads the American contingent.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
- Boyang Jin (CHN)
- Konstantin Menshov (RUS)
Analysis – Japan’s Mao Asada returned to the ice after a one year layoff and made it seem like she never left, winning Cup of Canada. Her comeback tour gets more difficult, as she’ll compete with American Ashley Wagner, who won Skate Canada last month. Asada’s teammate Satoko Miyahara finished 3rd at Skate America and is poised to make the podium this weekend. Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya is expected to do better than her 4th place finish at Cup of China two weeks ago. Her teammate Alena Leonova also faltered in GP competition, finishing 8th at Skate Canada. But a win at the non-GP Merano Cup puts her back in contention.
Skaters to Watch – Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond enters a key phase in her comeback from injury. Her performance at Skate Canada was a mixed bag, finishing 4th in the short but struggling in the long. China’s Zijun Li competes in her 3rd NHK Trophy competition. Her previous finishes were 7th in 2014 and 4th in 2012. American Mirai Nagasu competes in what could be her final Grand Prix event.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Mao Asada (JPN)
- Ashley Wagner (USA)
- Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
Analysis – Canadians Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford continue to run thru the competition (1st in Skate Canada) and are looking for another gold medal in Nagano and a ticket to Barcelona. They’re the odds-on favorites to win this weekend. Americans Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim are looking to reach their first ever GP Final, having won silver at Skate America. China’s Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin are also looking at a finals birth with a 3rd place finish at Cup of China. France’s Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres ranked second in the Short Program in Bordeaux before cancelation and are also in contention for Barcelona.
Skaters to Watch – Russia’s Vera Bazarova & Andrei Deputat had a 4th place finish in last year’s competition and will look to better their results this weekend. Canada’s Lubov Ilioshechkina & Dylan Moscovitch had a 7th place finish in their first GP event at Cup of China. Two other teams, Americans Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu and Great Britain’s Amani Fancy & Christopher Boyadji skate in their first Grand Prix event.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
- Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim (USA)
- Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin (CHN)
Analysis – In a wide open competition, all podium slots are up for grabs with no clear favorites. Americans Maia & Alex Shibutani have the most experience and clearest path to Barcelona. Their best NHK Trophy finish was 2nd in 2013. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev finished with a bronze at Skate Canada and are obvious contenders. Three teams were affected by the Trophée Bompard cancelation. Americans Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue, who ranked first in the Short, Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin, who placed third and Great Britain’s Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR), fourth.
Skaters to Watch – For the first time, Japan’s Cathy and Chris Reed will not be competing in Ice Dance. Replacing the retired Cathy is Kana Muramoto. Both have extensive Ice Dance experience and will be interesting to see the results this weekend. Japan’s other entry is Emi Hirai & Marien de la Asuncion, who finished 8th in last year’s competition. Americans Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus were last minute entries due to the withdrawal of Canadians Alexandra Paul & Mitchell Islam.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (USA)
- Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
- Maia & Alex Shibutani (USA)