What do you do when 8 out of 11 of the competitors in the field have won Grand Prix medals? If you are me, then you just blindfold yourself and throw some darts at the board. With the exception of Patrick Chan, the medals race seems to be pretty wide open.
Cup of China Predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #CoC16
GOLD Patrick Chan CAN - Chan looked early-season solid at Skate Canada. And while he wasn't perfect there, he did skate well enough to take the title over Yuzuru Hanyu. This week will be about Chan's progress in stabilizing his triple axel and another shot at the quad salchow in the free skate. Unless something goes terribly wrong, it is his competition (and Grand Prix Final berth) to lose.
SILVER Boyang Jin CHN - The big shock at Skate America was the World bronze medalist's disastrous short program, which left him eighth after the short and digging out of an enormous deficit. But he picked himself back up and moved up to fifth. Even though he's improved in components, it's still going to be the jumps that will determine whether or not he makes it onto the podium here.
BRONZE Sergei Voronov RUS - If Jin represented the biggest shock in the men's event at Skate America, Voronov was the biggest surprise there. For me, he delivered the free skate of his career - his jumps were spot on AND he delivered a spirited interpretation of the music, and you can probably attribute the latter to the former. It will be interesting to see if he can repeat those performances here this week, and firmly assert himself as one of the best in Russia once again.
4. Max Aaron USA - Aaron's first Grand Prix was much like Jin's - a rough short that left him in eighth and then a redeeming free that brought him up to fifth. For Aaron, Cup of China is his opportunity to reinsert himself into the conversation at U.S. Nationals. So far this season, we've seen three skaters rise to the top among the American men. And Aaron can very well be in that top group heading into Nationals. But he will certainly need to find that consistency that he had last season. (I'll also say that I'm still not so sure about the techno remix in the FS.)
5. Michal Brezina CZE - Brezina's fourth-place finish at Skate Canada was quite the revelation. After spending much of last season trying to figure out how to not fall in a competition, he made a coaching change and entered this season looking refreshed. A couple more strong performances and he can certainly find himself back on a GP podium.
6. Daniel Samohin ISR - Samohin's season started poorly - a 13th-place finish at Finlandia Trophy was certainly not what he had hoped for. But in just a couple of weeks, he was able to pull himself back together and earn a fifth-place Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada. Truth be told, Samohin is probably the most likely to be a surprise medalist here, and we all know he's got the jumps and the charisma to get there.
7. Han Yan CHN - Third here last season, Yan is always the enigma that everyone is trying to figure out. Lapses in concentration during his programs have become much too common, and he just takes himself out of the running time and time again. He's either on the podium this week or he's out of the top half of the group.
8. Maxim Kovtun RUS - Speaking of lapses in concentration, Kovtun is similarly temperamental when it comes to getting through a program. At his best, he's in the running for a medal here - he's won Grand Prix competitions before. But what we keep seeing is the inability to string together anything close to a clean program, and that's going to hurt his chances here.
9. Alexander Petrov RUS - Seventh at Skate Canada, Petrov has been one of the more consistent skaters in the men's field. But his lack of a quad will keep him from really reaching that top group in Beijing.
10. Ross Miner USA - Miner had his worst ever showing on the Grand Prix at Skate Canada a few weeks ago, finishing last out of 12. But the fact is that he was looking solid in practices, but fell apart in competition. There are a lot of people rooting for him to rediscover his form, and if he does, a top six finish is definitely within his reach.
WD 11. Rungi Liu CHN - A very late entry in the field as of 11/15 (and then a very late withdrawal as of 11/16), Liu replaces Daisuke Murakami, who withdrew. He is basically a complete unknown quantity - we last saw him in competition at a Junior Grand Prix in 2015, where he was 14th.