On the bubble: Analyzing Grand Prix Final chances

Update after day one at NHK Trophy. This is where the skaters stand and how their Grand Prix Final chances are changing during the competition.


  • Yuzuru Hanyu (13 pts): Virtually a lock based on the double-digit SP lead he has (projected 28 qualifying points)
  • Nathan Chen (9 pts): Very high - did himself a lot of favors by being in second and taking a ~10pt lead over Kolyada, ~13pt lead over Bychenko, ~14pt lead over Brown (projected 22 qualifying points, 1st tiebreaker over Rippon)
  • Jason Brown (13 pts): Medium - just over 3pts behind fourth, Brown will need to make a comeback (and from the 1st group of free skates); it's very possible, and looking at the competition, I would put his chances of getting in just a tad higher than Rippon's (projected 22 qualifying points, 1st tiebreaker over Rippon)
  • Adam Rippon (22 pts/GP complete): Medium - Hanyu and Chen will likely overtake him, but Brown is the X factor (22 qualifying points)
  • Mikhail Kolyada (9 pts): Low - will need to overcome a ~10pt deficit to Chen with a FS that has much lower technical content (projected 20 qualifying points)
  • Alexei Bychenko (11 pts): Very low - will likely need to move up to second to surpass Chen because he would most likely lose a tiebreak to Rippon if he finished third (projected 14-16 qualifying points)


  • Anna Pogorilaya (15 pts): Very high (projected 30 qualifying points)
  • Maria Sotskova (13 pts): Very high (projected 26 qualifying points)
  • Satoko Miyahara (11 pts): Medium - third is what she needs here, but she can't afford another off program, because Nagasu is 0.71 behind, Higuchi is 1.62 behind. If Miyahara drops behind Nagasu, Wagner is in. If Miyahara drops behind Nagasu and Higuchi in that order, Wagner is in. (projected 22 qualifying points)
  • Ashley Wagner (20 pts/GP complete): Medium-low - Wagner's chances went up just a bit after the NHK short programs. If the top two stay that way, she needs someone not named Miyahara or Higuchi to take the bronze, and Nagasu could play that role. (20 qualifying points)
  • Wakaba Higuchi (11 pts): Low - fifth right now, Higuchi needs to grab bronze to get to the Final. Tough to see her finishing ahead of Miyahara, but we also didn't expect Miyahara to fall in the short program (projected 18 qualifying points)
  • Alaine Chartrand/Elizabet Tursynbaeva (7 pts): Very very unlikely, given their SP standings


  • Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (15 pts): Virtually a lock (projected 30 qualifying points)
  • Cheng Peng/Yang Jin (11 pts): Virtually a lock (projected 24 qualifying points)
  • Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau (22 pts/GP complete): Virtually a lock (22 qualifying points)
  • Xuehan Wang/Lei Wang (9 pts): Very low - I can't see them finishing higher than third here, and they need to win to get to the Final (projected 20 qualifying points)

With Cup of China complete, Grand Prix Final qualifying is falling into place. There are a total of 24 spots between the four disciplines up for grabs, and 13 of them have mathematically been secured. And as we head into the final Grand Prix event before the Final, there is one skater/team in each discipline who is on the bubble with realistic paths for qualifying. Here's a look at how - and how likely - they can get to Marseille.

Note: I'll be talking a lot about tiebreakers here, there's a quick and dirty guide to GPF tiebreaking rules at the bottom of this post.

MEN: Adam Rippon (22 pts)

Currently in fourth with 22 qualifying points after two bronze medal finishes on the Grand Prix, Adam Rippon has a solid path to the Final. There are five skaters who have a chance to get there, with Jason Brown and Yuzuru Hanyu (both at 13 points) being most likely to take two of the GPF spots. They can finish anywhere from first to fourth and make it to the Final, as they both hold the first tiebreaker over Rippon if either ends up with 22 qualifying points (fourth place at NHK) as well.

The next three skaters is where it gets interesting. Alexei Bychenko (11 points) realistically needs to finish first or second to overtake Rippon. Tying him with a bronze medal finish would require an extremely high total score (over 273) for him to win the second tiebreaker. To put that into perspective, only four men (Fernandez, Uno, Chan, Jin) have scored over 273 this season. Nathan Chen and Mikhail Kolyada (both at 9 points) will also need first or second to overtake Rippon. They both would hold the first tiebreaker over Rippon.

How does Rippon qualify? If Brown and Hanyu finish 1-2 in either order, Rippon is in. If Bychenko, Chen, and/or Kolyada finishes in the top two, and Brown and Hanyu finish in the top four, Rippon is out. Given the skaters' performances so far this season, Brown and Hanyu going 1-2 in either order is very likely. The most likely potential spoiler could be Chen grabbing a top two finish (an example would be Hanyu-Chen-Brown).

Skaters in Rippon's path: Brown, Hanyu, Bychenko, Chen, Kolyada
Likelihood of qualifying: High

LADIES: Ashley Wagner (20 pts)

After winning Skate America, Ashley Wagner was on her way to the Final barring a disaster at Cup of China. And the disaster did happen, with six of her seven triples being called underrotated in her free skate, pushing her down to a career low sixth-place finish in a very competitive field. She finished 0.37 behind Rika Hongo, and those extra two qualifying points would have been incredibly helpful, especially considering that she holds the first tiebreaker over basically everyone at NHK next week.

Let's start with Anna Pogorilaya (15 points) and Maria Sotskova (13 points), who are the two most likely to qualify. Pogorilaya needs top five or a sixth place finish with enough points to take the second tiebreaker over Wagner to advance. Sotskova needs to be in the top four. But where it gets interesting is Satoko Miyahara (11 points), who was third at Skate Canada. On paper, she is most likely to be on the podium, which is her path to the Final. So if those three are your NHK podium, then Wagner gets bumped off. Same scenario goes for Wakaba Higuchi (11 points), but she is less likely to be on the podium given the field here.

So this is where the spoilers of that Pogorilaya-Sotskova-Miyahara will come into play. Alaine Chartrand and Elizabet Tursynbaeva (both 7 points) have to win to overtake Wagner and have a chance at the Final. But if either of them finishes on the podium and, say, knocks Miyahara off, then Wagner qualifies. The dark horse who has no chance to qualify for the Final but is a podium contender is Mirai Nagasu. A podium finish from her will make things very interesting.

How does Wagner qualify? A lot of things will have to go right for Wagner to qualify. Assuming Pogorilaya finishes top six with the first tiebreaker and Sotskova finishes top four, Higuchi and Miyahara would both have to finish fourth or lower for Wagner to qualify. And this is where Chartrand, Tursynbaeva, and Nagasu come into play. Something like a Pogorilaya-Sotskova-Nagasu-Miyahara-Higuchi would get Wagner in. If Miyahara is on the podium, which is a likely scenario, then Sotskova would have to finish fifth or lower for Wagner to qualify (an example would be Pogorilaya-Miyahara-Chartrand-Higuchi-Sotskova).

Skaters in Wagner's path: Pogorilaya, Sotskova, Higuchi, Miyahara, Chartrand, Tursynbaeva
Likelihood of qualifying: Low

PAIRS: Seguin/Bilodeau (22 points)

This one is the easiest one of the four to call. Like Wagner, Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau won at Skate America and subsequently had a terrible second Grand Prix, where they were fifth at Rostelecom Cup. But looking at NHK Trophy this week, there are three pairs who still have a chance to qualify. We have Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford (15 points) needing top four or fifth with the second tiebreaker to qualify. Pigs will fly before that scenario not happening. Cheng Peng/Yang Jin need a podium finish, and Xuehan Wang/Lei Wang have to win to get to the Final.

How do Seguin/Bilodeau qualify? With only seven pairs in the field at NHK and three of them with the possibility of overtaking Seguin/Bilodeau, it's a pretty clear path for Seguin/Bilodeau to Marseille. Barring a majorly supremely monumental upset where Wang/Wang win the competition over Duhamel/Radford, Seguin/Bilodeau are in. Don't forget, too, that Savchenko/Massot are in the Final but their status is uncertain after Savchenko's ankle injury at Trophee de France. If they end up withdrawing, then Seguin/Bilodeau are mathematically in.

Skaters in Seguin/Bilodeau's path: Duhamel/Radford, Peng/Jin, Wang/Wang
Likelihood of qualifying: Almost certain

DANCE: Weaver/Poje (24 points)

Finally, we come to ice dance, where the bubble team and two-time defending GPF champions, Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje, have 24 points after silver and bronze finishes. Their third place at Rostelecom Cup was what hurt them the most. At NHK, we have two of the best teams in the world competing. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron and Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (15 points each) both need podium finishes to guarantee qualification. They can finish fourth (where they both have the first tiebreaker over Weaver/Poje) and would have to win the second tiebreaker to Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte or Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov, both of whom have to win the competition.

How do Weaver/Poje qualify? Well, for one thing, having Papadakis/Cizeron or Virtue/Moir off the podium would be an unheard-of upset. They would have to fall multiple times in both programs for that to happen, and that just doesn't happen in ice dance. Barring withdrawal, a scenario in which Weaver/Poje qualifies is say, Papadakis/Cizeron-Cappellini/Lanotte-Sinitsina/Katsalapov-Hawayek/Baker-Virtue/Moir. I will eat my left boot if that happens.

Skaters in Weaver/Poje's path: Papadakis/Cizeron, Virtue/Moir, Cappellini/Lanotte, Sinitsina/Katsalapov
Likelihood of qualifying: Almost impossible

Guide to Grand Prix Final tiebreakers

  • First: Highest placement at either event
  • Second: Highest combined total scores in both events
  • Third: Number of Grand Prix events the skater competed in
  • Fourth: Highest combined free skate scores in both events
  • Fifth: Highest free skate score at either event
  • Sixth: Highest combined short program scores in both events
  • Seventh: Number of competitors at both events