It's the third Grand Prix event of the season, and four of the Big Six in men's skating have already competed at the last two GP competitions. This week, it's Javier Fernandez and Boyang Jin who will be making their first stops on the GP at 2017 Cup of China in Beijing. But by no means should they take this podium for granted, with strong competition from Russia and the U.S. in the field.
Cup of China predictions
#GPFigure (no official hashtag / unofficial: #CoC17)
GOLD Javier Fernandez ESP - Somehow, out of everyone in the Big Six, Fernandez is the one who has had the most solid season so far. He beat Yuzuru Hanyu at Autumn Classic and then beat Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno at Japan Open. What he doesn't have is the highest technical difficulty, but what he does have is consistently improved skating that has made him one of the best all-around skaters in the world. Fernandez hasn't lost a non-Final Grand Prix event since Skate Canada in 2014. I'm betting on him continuing that streak here.
SILVER Boyang Jin CHN - In a lot of ways the surprise two-time World bronze medalist, Jin has been the poster child for sneaking in when others make mistakes. But his artistry is blossoming this season - we see that especially in his short program. You wonder how far he can take his all-around skating this season and really be a solid threat instead of an outsider for the Olympic podium. Twice the silver medalist here - can he figure out a way to win his first Grand Prix?
BRONZE Vincent Zhou USA - A lot of eyes will be on the Grand Prix debut of the U.S. silver medalist. He had a solid start to his season with a silver at Finlandia Trophy, finishing just behind Jin. He will absolutely need to rely on his difficulty to get on the podium, and he will also need to have more success at full rotation of his quads. But it's easy to see Zhou grabbing a medal in his first Grand Prix appearance.
4. Max Aaron USA - We haven't seen Aaron skate the way that he did at US Classic in September in quite a long time. It is exactly the kind of momentum that he needs as navigates this Olympic season. Three years ago, he missed the Olympics by one spot at Nationals, and you better believe he will be trying his darnedest to get on that team. In a season when his main rivals are either doing way too many quads or not landing them at all, Aaron is somewhere in the middle - and he will need every bit of his technical prowess to get there. But first, a podium finish in Beijing is within reach, and that would really be a springboard for his chances.
5. Mikhail Kolyada RUS - You can say that Mikhail Kolyada is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get. (No copyright infringement intended.) Two weeks ago, he finished third at Rostelecom Cup, but on the heels of falling three times in his free skate. He's including the quad lutz and quad salchow this season, and neither jump is particularly high percentage for him.
6. Han Yan CHN - You can say the same thing about Yan (see above re: copyright infringement). It was a strong start for Yan at Cup of Nice a few weeks ago, where he won with two strong programs. Another competition like that, and it's easy to see him vying for the podium.
7. Grant Hochstein USA - An 11th at Rostelecom Cup to start the Grand Prix was not the way Hochstein had imagined his Olympic season playing out. But we've seen brilliance from him on the Grand Prix before. It'll be key for him to rotate his quad toe and to have the rest of his triples be as solid as we are used to seeing from him.
8. Alexander Majorov SWE - He took home one of the coveted remaining Olympic spots with a bronze at Nebelhorn Trophy, so you'd think it'll be smooth sailing from here on out for Majorov. He was 12th here last season, but his jumps have come back to him over the past few months - expect him to skate solidly here.
9. Keiji Tanaka JPN - Just when we thought we were getting a more consistent Keiji Tanaka, he falls off the bandwagon. It is more important than ever for the Japanese silver medalist to find his rhythm as he tries to grab that third Olympic spot in Japan. He will need to do a lot better than he did at Nepela Trophy, where he was sub-200 and 8th.
10. He Zhang CHN - Zhang is coming off a strong performance at Cup of Nice, where he was sixth and notched his best scores ever. This will be his first appearance on the senior Grand Prix.
11. Alexander Petrov RUS - As reliable as his triples have historically been, Petrov has struggled with them this season so far. And after his 7th and 9th at the Challengers to start the season, you forget that he was the Russian bronze medalist just a couple of seasons ago.
12. Kevin Reynolds CAN - He has such a hot and cold relationship with consistency. One minute he finds his groove and is top 10 in the world, the next he underrotates or pops everything in his program. And he started off the season with the latter, resulting in an 11th at Finlandia Trophy. This is a crucial competition for Reynolds to gain some momentum heading into Canadians in a couple of months.