The potential for incredibleness this week is outrageous. It's time for another battle between the three men who won the past six World titles. Bring in Shoma Uno, who took bronze here last season, and the two Americans, who are the first American men to make it to the Grand Prix Final in five years (last was Jeremy Abbott in 2011), and you've got yourself one heck of a competition. Does Yuzuru Hanyu have another out-of-this-world skate? Or does Javier Fernandez finally win his first GPF? Or does someone claim spoiler? Let's have a look.
2016 Grand Prix Final predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #GPFinal
GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP - Oh no, how to choose! I flipped a coin. But no, really. Fernandez as my pick for gold this week has more to do with the percentages he's put down this season so far - starting at Japan Open and through the two Grand Prix events. Between him and Hanyu, he's been the more consistent one by just a tad bit. Fernandez, though, has made it a bit of a habit to make a non-disastrous-but-still-critical mistake each of his two short programs this season. And at Rostelecom Cup, he had to come from behind to win over Uno because of it. For Fernandez to take gold here, it is all the more important for him to get that 100+ short program score.
SILVER Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - Hanyu is certainly building momentum. Two short programs with mistakes to start his season, and he was much more in line with his potential two weeks ago at NHK Trophy. Many skating fans will remember his performances here last season, where he set those world records (for a second time last season). And remember, he has more difficult programs this year with the quad loop in his arsenal. But as we've seen, Hanyu is not immune from mistakes, and falls often take the fire out of his eyes a bit. I'm guessing he will have just one more mistake than he can take against Fernandez here, but it wouldn't be a surprise if he proved me wrong once again and just skated lights out.
BRONZE Shoma Uno JPN - In a lot of ways, Uno has inserted himself between those three World champions as the third best skater of the season so far. The introduction of the quad flip into both programs has had a lot to do with it, along with his improvements in components since Worlds. Arguably, this is the battle for bronze between him and Chan, and Uno will need to build an advantage in the short program to hold him off.
4. Patrick Chan CAN - It's sort of like last year all over again. Chan's short programs have left a lot to be desired, but his free skates have been the saving grace. A lot of his chances to get on the podium at this week's Grand Prix Final will depend on his short program. With the other men here, he just can't afford to be playing catch-up yet again after a subpar short. That said, he does not have a two-quad short, which puts him at a technical disadvantage to four of the other five guys. And seeing how strong his quad toe has been so far this season, it may be the triple axel that decides the medal for him.
5. Nathan Chen USA - The Americans in the field are disadvantaged in precisely the opposite ways, but that's not to say that they don't have a path to the podium. Chen brings the most difficult technical content in the world to this competition, but his advantage there will be tempered by the lowest components potential of the field. His medal hopes lie in clean execution of his 4,982 quads (ok, his 6-7 quads), which have not been as precise as he's needed them to be so far this season. He's batting about 0.500 right now with the quads, but two clean programs get him in the conversation for a medal.
6. Adam Rippon USA - On the other hand, Rippon has the components but not the technical repertoire. It's likely yet too soon for us to see another quad in the free skate, though whether he adds the quad toe to his short this week remains to be seen. The issue with his strength in components, though, is that it's not rated to be quite up there with the rest of the top men, particularly in the short. Rippon's free skate is exquisite and arguably one of the most original programs of the season, and another clean go at it like he had at Trophee de France could rocket his components up to levels he's never seen in international competition before. But one thing is for sure, for him to have any chance at a medal, it is absolutely necessary for him to deliver two clean programs.