The third round of the Grand Prix series moves to Beijing for the Cup of China. A couple of world champions make their debut this season, while a few skaters have a chance to move on to the final. Beijing will get the winter Olympics in 2022, marking the first time a city has had both summer and winter Olympics.
Analysis – Reigning two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain makes his Grand Prix season debut this weekend. He beat out Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu at the Autum Classic in September and despite the long layoff is still the odds on favorite this weekend. His main competition will be from China’s Boyang Jin, who finished 2nd in this competition last season. Teammate Han Yan has struggled with injuries and poor skating that last few years, but has bounced back with a win at Cup of Nice last month. American Vincent Zhou will make his senior Grand Prix debut this weekend and is the current world junior champion. His second place showing at US nationals last season gives the judges something to look at this weekend.
Skaters to Watch – Since winning Skate America in 2015, American Max Aaron has only managed a 4th place best finish in last year’s Cup of China. He still has the ability to place this weekend. Canada’s Kevin Reynolds has endured ups and downs in his career. Injuries have curtailed his potential the last few years, but this weekend could be a new start for him. Other skaters looking to score valuable international experience include China’s He Zhang, and Japan’s Keiji Tanaka.
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
2. Boyang Jin (CHN)
3. Vincent Zhou (USA)
Analysis – An active field of ladies may make it tough to read who has the advantage this weekend. Japan’s three skaters have the potential to sweep the podium. Wakaba Higuchi had a 3rd place finish at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. Marin Honda finished 5th at Skate Canada last weekend. But the best of the three may be Mai Mihara, who placed 2nd at the Autumn Classic in September. Russia also has three skaters who could place this weekend. Elena Radionova placed 4th at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. Liza Tuktamysheva makes her Grand Prix return. She’s had four competitions under her belt the last 8 months with her best finish at The Nordics finishing 2nd. Alina Zagitova could have the most to gain this weekend. She makes her senior debut and has already won one competition (at Lombardia) this season.
Skaters to Watch – Canada’s Gabby Daleman took home bronze last season at worlds, but a 6th place finish at Finlandia brought a disappointing start to the season. The lone American entry is Amber Glenn, who will use this weekend to improve her international standing. This is her first senior Grand Prix competition. China enters two skaters who aren’t expected to medal. Xiangning Li and Ziquan Zhao finished 10th and 11th respectedly at Cup of China last season.
1. Alina Zagitova (RUS)
2. Mai Mihara (JPN)
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN)
Analysis – Only seven teams are participating this weekend. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Xhang are the defending Cup of China champs. They also finished 2nd at last year’s Grand Prix Final. Teammates Wenjing Sui and Cong Han are the defending world champs, but haven’t participated at the Grand Prix in two years, where they finished 2nd at Cup of China. Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Mariano are probably the best team to make the podium. They won the US International Classic in September and their best Grand Prix finish was 3rd at Skate Canada in 2015. Italy’s Valentina Marchei and Ondrej Hotarek are also contenders to medal. They came up short at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago, finishing 4th.
Skaters to Watch – Americans Ashley Cain and Tim Leduc replaced Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea back in September due to injury. They finished a surprising 3rd at US Nationals after less than a year as a team. Though it’s an outside chance to sweep the podium this weekend, China’s Mingyang Zhang and Bowen Song make only their second competition as a team. The other team competing is Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise who finished 5th at last year’s Cup of China.
1. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (CHN)
2. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Xhang (CHN)
3. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Mariano (CAN)
Analysis – France’s two-time world ice dance champs Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are off to a quick start, as they started their season with a win at Finlandia Trophy. They’re the favorites to win this weekend. A win or a 2nd place finish by Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev will put them in good shape for the Grand Prix Final. They finished 2nd at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. There are two American teams that will challenge for the third spot. Perennial favorites Madison Chock and Evan Bates figure to be in the mix. They’ve reached the Grand Prix final twice in two years. Despite being in their first senior Grand Prix competition Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter have dominated on the junior level and have the potential to be the next big ice dance team.
Skaters to Watch – China brings three teams to the ice this weekend. Of the three, Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu have the most experience and are most likely to contend. They 6th at last season’s Cup of China. Russia’s unlikely pairing of Tiffani Zagorski and Jonathan Guerrio could make a splash this weekend. They were 2nd at Minsk Arena Ice Star earlier this season.
1. Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)
2. Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (RUS)
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates (USA)