Three months ago, who would've thought that the Grand Prix Final men's event would consist of three Americans, two Russians, and one Japanese? It's been a world's loopiest roller coaster kind of Grand Prix series, and after injuries, inconsistencies, and surprises, we have landed on these six men for Nagoya this week. Will it be another crazy week of skating?
Grand Prix Final predictions
Unofficial hashtag: #GPFinal
GOLD Nathan Chen USA - Is it redemption week for Chen? After delivering a career-best short program at Skate America, he unraveled in the free skate and held on to the gold on the basis of his short program score. He isn't one to back down from adversity, and it's that kind of disappointment that is going to light a fire under him. Last year's Grand Prix Final was the competition that announced his arrival to the very top of the international stage; this year's could be the one that bolsters his status for the Olympics in two months.
SILVER Shoma Uno JPN - He's had one extra week than Chen to practice for the Final, but like Chen, Uno comes into the Final on the heels of a less-than-stellar second Grand Prix event. You do wonder if he peaked too early with the way he skated at Lombardia Trophy in September, and his trajectory since. What will be of most interest to watch for in Nagoya will be Uno's component marks relative to Chen's - it will say a lot, not only about the results this week, but also about how the Olympics may play out. But Uno does have home ice advantage in Japan this week, so that could be the key to his victory here.
BRONZE Adam Rippon USA - A dislocated shoulder isn't going to stop him. Rippon aggravated a right shoulder injury on a mistimed quad lutz in his Skate America free skate, but he showed his resolve and skated the rest of his program cleanly. It is exactly that grit and drive that has pushed him to his best season ever - on his tenth season on the Grand Prix. You wonder if the quad lutz is back in the program this week, with only one full week of training since he won his silver at Skate America. But the international panel have finally taken notice of his strength in interpretation and choreography, and that will help him a lot here.
4. Mikhail Kolyada RUS - He's got the technical goods to really challenge for the podium, but he has not had the kind of consistency to sustain it - and it's partially because he has been putting in the quad lutz and quad sal, neither of which are high-percentage jumps for him. Two clean programs for Kolyada puts him squarely on the podium and challenges for the title, but I just don't see his consistency getting that much better this week.
5. Jason Brown USA - Coming in as first substitute after Boyang Jin withdrew, Brown is absolutely looking to make the best of his second chance this week in Nagoya. Having the Grand Prix Final under his belt already puts him in the elite group of three (Chen, Rippon, and Brown) going into the U.S. Championships, but a high finish, especially over Rippon, could be valuable for his chances to get back onto the Olympic team. The big question is whether we will get the consistent Brown who showed up late last season or the tentative Brown who was fourth at NHK Trophy a few weeks ago. Two clean programs can put him on the podium.
6. Sergei Voronov RUS - At age 30, Voronov won his very first Grand Prix title, and he did it in Japan at NHK Trophy. This will be his second career Grand Prix Final - he was third in 2014. But more importantly, a strong finish here will help his chances at the Olympic team when he heads to the Russian Championships later this month. Skating-wise, Voronov is the weakest of the six in Nagoya, but never count out the power of consistency in this day and age in men's figure skating.