The men's event at this week's 2015 Audi Cup of China could go basically anywhere with the standings. There are a number of supremely talented guys in this competition who just has a tough time putting any semblance of two clean programs together. That's to say that you could see a lot of inconsistency, or you could see a lot of brilliance. I'm guessing there's going to be a bit of both.
Rocker predictions: 2015 Cup of China
GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP - Like Mao Asada, Javier Fernandez has not done a full competition this season yet, just the free-skate only Japan Open. So unlike many of the others, who have competed a full competition or three already, he hasn't given us too much info to work off of. But the little that we know from Japan Open was pretty promising. His technical prowess is definitely already pretty solid early in the season, and he's growing artistically. Cup of China should be a walk in the park for Fernandez.
SILVER Han Yan CHN - Doing a little regression to the mean here (but assuming that Han Yan's mean in consistency is higher than what we saw at Skate America), I'd imagine that after that not-so-great free skate at Skate America, we will see something a little better from him at his home Grand Prix this week. But as always, Yan is a wild card when it comes to landing his jumps one after another. If I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet on him, but my gut feeling tells me he will do better at this competition than eh did at the last.
BRONZE Elladj Balde CAN - My early vote for breakthrough of the season, Elladj Balde showed a new side of his skating at Nebelhorn a month ago, where he won the first international of his career. That new side consisted of 1) consistency, and 2) confidence - both in his place in the skating world and in his performance. His new performances are less about just being showy as they had been in the past; rather they are much more well-rounded while preserving his showmanship. It's great to see his improvement, and a first Grand Prix medal is well within his reach this week in Beijing.
4. Richard Dornbush USA - Cup of China was the site of Richard Dornbush's first Grand Prix medal last year, and it was also the site of his strongest showing of the season. As I've raved about before, his free skate could be a masterpiece if he goes clean. But as many American skating fans have pulled their hair out with Dornbush's inability to find consistency in competition, because he really is that great of a skater. For his own confidence's sake, he needs a solid competition to bring him some momentum. He's got medal chances written all over him.
5. Sergei Voronov RUS - Bronze at Finlandia to start the season, Sergei Voronov has lost a bit of the consistency that took him to the Grand Prix Final last year. He's not as components-friendly of a skater as some of his competitors are here, so he always need to rely on those big jumps to get him on the podium. A strong short will be key for his medal hopes.
6. Boyang Jin CHN - Quad lutz? Perhaps so. He's been landing them in training and he landed one in September at a domestic event in China. Jin is a supremely talented jumper and Cup of China could be the first time we ever see a quad lutz-triple toe combination in international competition. His TES will be through the roof this week if he's clean, and that could vault him up to the medals. But, of course, with incredible difficulty come incredible risk.
7. Misha Ge UZB - Visa drama has left Misha Ge with just this one Grand Prix this season, which is a shame. Like Balde, he's quite the showman. And he's now got a quad toe in both programs, which he debuted at the Denkova-Staviski Cup two weeks ago. But that quad was called underrotated in both programs, and he will need to count on the consistency on the rest of his jumps to get him up there. I see some growing pains with the introduction of that new element, but if he hits it, he's got podium chances as well.
8. Grant Hochstein USA - Seventh at Nebelhorn to start the season, Hochstein is an elegant skater without a consistent set of jumps ... which, come to think of it, seems to be the theme of this men's event. Cup of China this week will be his first appearance on the Grand Prix in five years.
9. Nan Song CHN - Song looked like he might have a breakthrough a a few years ago, when he medaled at two GPs, but he's just continued to be inconsistent and his overall skating has remained a bit stagnant.
10. Moris Kvitelashvili RUS - Bronze at home at Mordovian Ornament, Kvitelashvili had a disappointing GP debut last season, with a 12th place at Rostelecom Cup.
11. Michael Christian Martinez PHI - Skating in his second career Grand Prix event, Martinez will look to improve on that 10th place finish he had at Skate America last year. He was ninth at Finlandia a few weeks back.
12. Ivan Righini ITA - The two-time Italian champ has had an unlucky time this season so far. He withdrew from Ondrej Nepela with an injury and then broke a blade at Cup of Nice. We have no idea where his recovery is right now, but you have to think his confidence isn't quite there.