As we round the corner and eye our final Grand Prix event before the Final, we start to see the Olympics on the horizon, just a tad over two months away now. And at Skate America this week, many will be looking at Nathan Chen and how he positions himself with a spot in the Grand Prix Final and the potential of the Olympic podium in sight. Could this competition be his springboard to give him the momentum he needs for PyeongChang?
Skate America predictions
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GOLD Nathan Chen USA - There's little doubt that Chen comes in as the favorite in Lake Placid this week - believe it or not, he's looking to become the only skater on the men's side to win two Grand Prix events this season. As far as the challengers, only Jin can compare in the technical department and only Rippon has the components to compete. With Chen as the most all-around skater of the bunch, it's really about what kind of performances he is able to put down. We haven't seen him anywhere near his very best yet this season, but this will be a good data point to gauge his progress as he looks to be at peak performance come February. (Oh, and don't hold your breath for his Olympic costumes this week.)
SILVER Boyang Jin CHN - Jin has undergone a very strong transformation in his musical interpretation since last season. And while we knew that he can pull off crowd pleasers like Spiderman, this season's short program has been a revelation in his abilities to deliver more sophisticated choreography. His jumps have not yet been fully together but two clean programs will help him come close to Chen for the title.
BRONZE Adam Rippon USA - What a tremendous NHK Trophy for Rippon, particularly in his free skate, as he continues to recover from his broken foot at the beginning of the year. And with silver at NHK, Rippon once again stands a chance to return to the Grand Prix Final - doing so would boost his chances at the Olympic team, especially since he missed the second half of last season. More than anything, Rippon has the opportunity to prove that he is the second most reliable American male skater this season.
4. Sergei Voronov RUS - Voronov was the surprise winner at NHK Trophy, and he, like Rippon, has been a national champion but is still looking to make his first Olympic team this season. This season has been all about consistency for him, and that could be key to his success as the rest of his Russian teammates are adding difficulty to their programs and trying to outdo each other on quads. And like Rippon, a Grand Prix Final ticket will go a long way for his chances for a ticket to PyeongChang.
5. Han Yan CHN - A late entry to the competition after Jun Hwan Cha withdrew, Yan had a very solid fifth-place finish at Cup of China. Though he doesn't have the technical prowess to keep up with Jin, he has quality elements that can get him onto the podium this week. Cutting down on the silly errors, as always, will be important to Yan's success.
6. Jorik Hendrickx BEL - After his career Grand Prix best fifth place at Skate Canada, Hendrickx is still riding his high from qualifying the Olympics spot at Nebelhorn earlier in the season. He will be a long shot for the podium here but we should see a couple of steady, strong performances from him this week. UPDATE: As of 11/22, Hendrickx is out of Skate America due to medical reasons and will be replaced by Liam Firus.
7. Maxim Kovtun RUS - We have not seen the three-time Russian champion yet this season, and this will be an extremely important competition for him, and perhaps more importantly, for his confidence. We all know Kovtun can jump, but what we don't know is what kind of mind games he will be dealing with, especially with the Olympics on the horizon. Lest we forget, Russia picked Evgeni Plushenko over Kovtun for Sochi, even after he finished ahead of Plushenko at the Russian Championships this season.
8. Ross Miner USA - It's been up and down again this season for Miner. He had some success over the summer in domestic events, which helped him grab this spot at Skate America, his only Grand Prix appearance this season. But his internationals have been a bit middling. The quad salchow is always the question mark for him, and he's had more success with it this season than he has with it in recent memory.
9. Takahito Mura JPN - A 12th place finish at Skate America certainly did not help his chances at the Olympic team. He's looking to regain some of the brilliance that he had to build the momentum going into the all-or-nothing Japan Nationals next month.
10. Daniel Samohin ISR - Not surprisingly, Samohin has been inconsistent this season. You either see something special with him, or you see a disaster like he had at Rostelecom Cup with his 12th-place finish. Which Samohin will show up this week?
11. Kevin Reynolds CAN - His eighth-place at Cup of China was thanks to a free skate that redeemed his subpar short program. He will need two strong skates this week to get up in the standings, and give himself more of a shot to go back to the Olympics.
12. Roman Sadovsky CAN - Replacement for Alexander Petrov, Sadovsky will be making his first Grand Prix appearance this week. He was 10th at Finlandia Trophy earlier this season.