If there’s anything that this very first Grand Prix is sure to bring, it’s unpredictability. It’s the post-Olympic season - for some, a season of rebuild; for others, a season to take it easier early on; and then for Nathan Chen, a season where he tries to go to college and be a world class skater at the same time.
2018 Skate America
Official hashtag: #SkateAmerica
GOLD Nathan Chen USA - The new World champ is, by no means, any kind of heavy favorite this week in Everett. And that was evidenced by Chen’s so-so performance at Japan Open a couple of weeks ago, his getting-my-feet-wet event of the season. Skate America will be his first real test of the new season, and a lot will be told in his short program. If he had a good short, he’s likely in for a repeat title here. It will be interesting to see what technical elements he will try to pull out at his first Grand Prix of the season.
SILVER Sergei Voronov RUS - Still at it! A lot was made of Voronov has season as the 30-year old who won his first Grand Prix title ever and qualified for the Grand Prix Final. After the disappointment of not making the Olympics for a third time, some expected him to retire. But Voronov is back with new tricks - attempting a quad loop at Nepela Trophy last month, where he took second. If Chen doesn’t hit, Voronov has his sights on gold here.
BRONZE Vincent Zhou USA - How’s Zhou’s back? That’s what a lot of people will be wondering about this week. His back has been bothering him since earlier this year, and it was bothering him in the off season. He didn’t have a great opening to his season at US Classic, but that was no thanks to a really off short program that buried him in the standings. He should fare better here, especially if he is feeling healthier and more confident.
4. Morisi Kvitelashvili GEO - Kvitelashvili was up and down last season, starting off so strong and then fizzling out at the end of the season. He has once again made a strong start to his season - expect his big jumps and powerful skating to get him up near the podium in Everett this week.
5. Matteo Rizzo ITA - The Italian champ had a solid last season and is making his Grand Prix debut here. What he’s got is consistency. What he doesn’t have is a consistent quad. His steadiness and strong basics should get him in the middle of the pack here.
6. Nam Nguyen CAN - Nguyen started the season with a win at US Classic, showing some of the confidence that took him all the way to fifth at Worlds four seasons ago. He has made some great strides in regaining his consistency, and his free skate this season is perhaps his best vehicle yet. A couple of strong skates could mean an outside shot at the podium.
7. Michal Brezina CZE - Silver at US Classic behind Nguyen, Brezina also showed signs of confidence there, with a quad salchow that seems to have returned to consistency in his skating. He’s medaled at the Grand Prix multiple times, including a win here seven (SEVEN!) years ago.
8. Jimmy Ma USA - Ma has been a crowd pleaser at US Nationals for years, and he’s bringing it to senior international competition for the first time this season. He had a solid US Classic last month, taking bronze, and he’s shown that he is stronger than what he showed there. He will certainly be absorbing the energy that the home crowd will be giving him this week.
9. Julian Zhi Jie Yee MAS - Debuting on the Grand Prix this week, Yee has been the first Malaysian skater to do a lot of things in the skating world. He started with a seventh at Autumn Classic last month.
10. Romain Ponsart FRA - With a very solid 16th at his first Worlds last season, Ponsart proved himself to be one of the most improved last season. He’s never skated in a Grand Prix outside his home GP in France, so this will be a first for him. His showing at French Masters a few weeks back, however, didn’t bode too well for his chances here.
11. Alexei Bychenko ISR - Bychenko has had a great past couple of seasons, but this early season has not been kind to him so far, as he’s had to withdraw from two events. At Finlandia Trophy, his most recent competition, he pulled out after the short program with an injury. A complete unknown here - at his best, he is a medalist.
12. Kevin Reynolds CAN - Reynolds has been mulling retirement for a few seasons now, and this may be his last season. He was eighth at Autumn Classic.