It's the World champ vs. the rest this week at the 2015 Rostelecom Cup. Javier Fernandez is looking to win his second Grand Prix of the season, and hopefully in cleaner fashion than he won Cup of China two weeks ago. But once again, he faces a slew of skaters on the men's side whom he should defeat with relative ease. But if he starts getting careless, there are certainly challengers for that gold medal.
Rocker Predictions: 2015 Rostelecom Cup
GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP - One of those rare times when you can say "heavy favorite" and actually mean it. Fernandez is the only skater here capable of monstrous scores as a result of his technical and components prowess. What I've been raving about with him this season is his attention to music and character, which he shows in both programs. He has the tendency to hit the big jumps and then completely melt down on the easier stuff - we saw that at Cup of China. But if he cleans those up even to 80% of what he's capable of, Fernandez is just going to completely run away with the title.
SILVER Nam Nguyen CAN - We saw first-hand at Skate Canada where Nam Nguyen is still a step or two behind the top skaters. His fifth-place finish there was less a function of mistakes and more a function of lower component marks. Against the Chans, Hanyus, and even Rippons of the world, Nguyen is just a bit slower and a bit less intense. But I'm betting on his jumps this week making up for that and putting him on the podium.
BRONZE Adam Rippon USA - Rippon's fourth-place at Skate Canada was definitely a solid start to his Grand Prix. What was telling there was that he is no longer making mistakes in popping jumps, which is such a killer on your technical mark. He's rotating his triples and making sure that he's maxing out on those jumps, and that keeps him very competitive. If he has somehow mustered the quad lutz into at least an underrotated form this week, his upward potential goes up dramatically.
4. Adian Pitkeev RUS - Sixth at Skate America, we are seeing the Russian youngster impress in his second senior season with strong jumps and solid musicality. I'm betting that this GP is going to be a bit of a breakthrough for him. It's the right field and atmosphere for his time to shine, and he's got the technical skills to make that happen.
5. Sergei Voronov RUS - So far this season, Voronov hasn't been skater we saw in the Grand Prix last year - the one who hits his quads and skates generally clean programs to leapfrog ahead of the skaters with mistakes. He's been making mistakes, which don't help him make up for his less-than-comparable components.
6. Mikhail Kolyada RUS - After taking the surprise silver at Ondrej Nepela earlier this season, Kolyada will be making his Grand Prix debut this week. He's likely the most under-the-radar skater at this event, but if he pulls those quads together, he's got a chance to surprise.
7. Takahiko Kozuka JPN - To be perfectly honest, Kozuka was a name I did not expect to see back in the mix this season. After all, this is a former World silver medalist who has just seen his consistency deteriorate for the past few seasons. What makes this prediction so tough is the combination of his confidence and consistency, and the fact that a left ankle injury took him out of Cup of China just two weeks ago. What's his status this week? We'll see.
8. Ross Miner USA - Seventh at Skate America, Miner still isn't the consistent skater that he was a few seasons ago. He's making mistakes on jumps that are (were?) in his wheelhouse. And whether that's confidence or concentration, he needs every piece of those elements in order to challenge for the top half this week.
9. Peter Liebers GER - The injury that took him out of the first half of last season just completely stagnated the progress he made the season before. After all, Liebers was eighth at the Olympics with a solid quad toe. He's now trying to rebuild, but once again, injuries have hampered his early season this year. UPDATE: After the morning practice before the short programs, Liebers decided to withdraw.
10. Alexei Bychenko ISR - After breaking through last season to finish fourth at Euros, Bychenko has just been on a spiral in the wrong direction this season. His confidence is severely lacking right now, and his lack of trust on his jumps is going to be his downfall this week.
11. Ivan Righini ITA - Tenth at Cup of China, Righini will need to clean up his jumps to have a chance to make his way back up the standings.
WD Alexander Majorov SWE