We are getting used to it now - the Grand Prix series has been unbelievably unpredictable this season. Grand Prix Final qualifying isn't even complete yet, but we already know that it will be the first time there will be a Final without Yuzuru Hanyu (injured), Patrick Chan (withdrew from NHK Trophy to focus on training), and Javier Fernandez (in France this week but was sixth at Cup of China). Will it be yet another crazy Grand Prix this week at Internationaux de France? I'd say predictability is out of the window.
Internationaux de France predictions
Official hashtag: #IFP2017
GOLD Shoma Uno JPN - Still the only skater to break 300 this season so far, Uno is on a pretty hot streak as he looks for his second Grand Prix win after gold at Skate Canada. His main competition will be Fernandez, who does not have the same technical content that he does. But for Uno, it's about trying to continue to ride the momentum that started with his incredibly strong start at Lombardia earlier in the season.
SILVER Javier Fernandez ESP - A sixth at Cup of China was completely out of character for a guy who hasn't missed the podium at a non-Final Grand Prix event since 2013. Much of that is likely attributable to a stomach illness that he had in Beijing that week. But it's only been a two weeks since Cup of China, so you wonder how well he has recovered from that illness. And though he has virtually no shot at the Grand Prix Final now (unless a bunch of withdrawals happen), a solid finish here will be important for his trajectory as he heads toward Europeans and the Olympics.
BRONZE Max Aaron USA - With a bronze at Cup of China under his belt, Aaron is looking to get away from the second-Grand-Prix slump that somehow sneaks its head in almost every season for him. Between US Classic and Cup of China, he has put up some of the best scores in his career and skated some of his most consistent and well-rounded skating. After his disastrous Nationals last season, it is absolutely crucial for him to have another strong competition here as he heads toward the U.S. Championships. And frankly, a Grand Prix Final berth would do his chances for the Olympic team a lot of good.
4. Vincent Zhou USA - With a fourth-place finish at Cup of China two weeks ago, Zhou is looking to be cleaner and more consistent on his jumps here. He has the most difficult content planned at this competition, and he knows that he will need every part of it to give him the points he needs to contend for a medal. Cleanness is key for Zhou's chances this week.
5. Misha Ge UZB - One of the skaters known for brilliant programs but not known for their quads, Ge will be following up on his fourth-place finish at Rostelecom Cup. But he comes into this event facing a slew of skaters who have more difficult technical content than he does, and so while top half is a likely scenario for him, it will be tough for him to get onto the podium this week.
6. Alexander Samarin RUS - With quad lutz in his arsenal, Samarin is very much a threat on the technical side. He definitely is eyeing another podium finish after a bronze at his Grand Prix debut earlier this season at Skate Canada. And another strong finish will give him a lot of momentum as he goes into the Russian Championships in December to vie for one of those two Olympic berths.
7. Alexei Bychenko ISR - Fresh off the bronze at NHK Trophy, Bychenko has turned his so-far lackluster season around and is gaining momentum. He is still not a completely reliable skater when it comes to the jumps, but if he does deliver again, he will have a shot at his second podium finish in as many weeks.
8. Moris Kvitelashvili GEO - With a very strong fifth to start his season, Kvitelashvili has continued his newly-found consistency from last season. He will likely not be top five again here with the depth of this field, but if folks make mistakes, he can very well sneak in there.
9. Denis Ten KAZ - The reigning Olympic bronze medalist has never been known as an early-season skater, and his ankle injury over the summer didn't help matters. He was ninth at Rostelecom Cup to start the Grand Prix, and he was absolutely attempting jumps there that he really had no business attempting with the percentages he was getting there in practice. Still, if he somehow gets it together, he's always a threat for the podium.
10. Kevin Aymoz FRA - There are three skaters fighting for the one French men's spot at PyeongChang. Aymoz is one of them and Ponsart (below) is another. Aymoz's inconsistency makes him a bit of a wildcard here, but he is coming off of a strong performance at the Denkova-Staviski Cup a few weeks back, which bolsters his chances for the Olympic spot. A win over Ponsart this week will do a lot to make that happen.
11. Romain Ponsart FRA - Since he started training with Rafael Arutyunyan last season, Ponsart's jumps have gotten more reliable and his skating has improved. He just had one of his best competitions ever with a fourth place at Coupe de Nice, and could very well supplant Aymoz as the top French man here in Grenoble. If he does, it changes the storyline quite a bit going into the French Championships in a few weeks.