The final skating event of the year takes place in Tokyo, where 6 countries vie for the top spot in figure skating. This event is more for the fans rather than the skaters. But don’t kid yourself. The skaters want to be at their best for next season, and it will be all on the line in Korea for the Winter Olympics.
Analysis – Japan comes in as heavy favorites in this division, as two of the best skaters in the world will compete this weekend. Yuzuru Hanyu is fresh off re-gaining his world championship after a three year drought. Shoma Uno had an outstanding free skate at worlds to finish 2nd. Their main competitors will be from the United States. Nathan Chen had a disappointing performance at worlds, finishing 6th. He’ll look to gain valuable international experience this weekend. Jason Brown’s season started with promise after a 2nd place finish at Skate America, but collapsed after disappointing showings at Nationals (3rd), 4CC (6th) and last month’s worlds (7th). Canada’s Patrick Chan comes off his second straight 5th place finish at worlds. Kevin Reynolds is finally skating health after two years of injuries.
Skaters to Watch – China’s Boyang Jin had a great comeback season, capped with a 3rd finish at worlds. Teammate Tangxu Li will compete in his first senior international competition this weekend. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun could give the country valuable points with top 5 finishes. France enters the tournament with Chafik Besseghier and Kevin Aymoz.
1. Nathan Chen (USA)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)
Analysis – Two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and gives Russia what could be “a lock’ on this weekend’s competition. However, teammate Elena Radionova hasn’t skated in international competition since February (1st at Winter Universiade). It could be to Russia’s benefit. The United States are their biggest competition, led by veteran skater Ashley Wagner. She comes off a disappointing 7th place finish at worlds. Teammate Karen Chen saved the Americans third spot for the Winter Olympics with an outstanding free skate and a 4th place finish at worlds. Canada’s Gabby Daleman was part of the historic 2-3 finish at world, giving the country an extra spot in Korea next year. That spot could go to teammate, Alaine Chartrand, who gets a chance at redemption after a disappointing Grand Prix season.
Skaters to Watch – This is the post-Mao Asada era for Japan, as two young and upcoming skaters get the chance to follow their dreams with her retirement. Mai Mihara could be the heir apparent, after winning the 4CC title in February and finishing 5th. Teammate Wakaba Higuchi had a rough senior debut, but has a triple axel in her arsenal and could hit it for valuable points this weekend. China’s Zijun Li, finishing 21st at worlds. Teammate Xiangning Li fared better, finishing 14th. France’s Laurine Lecavelier and Mae Berenice Meite look to get valuable points for contention.
1. Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
2. Gabby Daleman (CAN)
3. Karen Chen (USA)
Analysis – Six teams look to take advantage this weekend. The favorites this weekend are Russia’s Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won the Grand Prix Final and had a 3rd place finish at worlds. France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres could give them a run for their money after a 3rd place finish at Europeans. China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin finish their first season together as national champions and 2nd place finishes on the Grand Prix circuit.
Skaters to Watch – Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy Leduc get the chance to showcase their talents after being looked over at worlds by US Figure Skating officials. They do have a 9th place finish at 4CC. Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro had an injury plagued season, but recovered in time for nationals and finished 3rd, good enough for an international placement. Despite winning Japan’s national championship, Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet have struggled in international competition, finishing 17th at worlds.
1. Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (RUS)
2. Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (FRA)
3. Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (CHN)
Analysis – Most of the top teams participated at worlds, but there are few holdovers making it an interesting matchup. Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the slight favorites this weekend. Despite a drop in the internationals standings, Chock and Bates finished no worse than 2nd at nationals since 2012. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have also experienced a drop due to the return of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. However, they haven’t finished lower than 3rd in their Grand Prix careers. Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev won their 6th national championship and despite injuries, finished 5th at worlds.
Skaters to Watch – Japan’s Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed complete their second year as national champions, but have struggled on the international circuit, finishing 23rd at worlds. China’s Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu improved on their performance at worlds, climbing from 22nd in 2016 to 16th in 2017. France’s Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac finished 21st at worlds last month.
1. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
3. Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN)
Smooth’s Team Winners
2. United States