This can’t possibly be the field of a Grand Prix event, right? We will be spoiled this week with Yuzuru Hanyu, Boyang Jin, Mikhail Kolyada, and Junhwan Cha - it’s going to be pretty special. We’ve seen some flashes of great skating during the past two weeks, but if we are looking at the sheer collection of firepower, Grand Prix of Helsinki might just be the one that sets the standard as we head toward the Grand Prix Final in early December.
Grand Prix of Helsinki preview
Official hashtag: #GPHelsinki
GOLD Yuzuru Hanyu JPN - What do you do when you’re already a two-time Olympic champion? Well, if you’re Yuzuru Hanyu, you come back and win more things. He started off with gold at Autumn Classic with a solid short and some errors in the free. And the perfectionist that he is, there was no way he was satisfied with those two programs, which just means that he will come into Helsinki with fire and motivation. A fired-up Hanyu is a dangerous Hanyu - I’m seeing a ninth Grand Prix title this week.
SILVER Mikhail Kolyada RUS - Two titles in two competitions this season - Kolyada won gold at Nepela Trophy and Finlandia Trophy to start his season. He comes into this new Olympic quad as a World medalist for the first time, and he’s carried a bit of that confidence into those wins last month. He’s certainly got a shot at the title this week - the gold medal here is nowhere near guaranteed.
BRONZE Boyang Jin CHN - Jin is the only skater in this field we haven’t seen yet in international competition this season. The last time we saw him was at Worlds, where he had an absolutely disastrous free skate that dropped him to 19th overall. Though he has never been a particularly nervy skater, you wonder if that last competition has had any impact on his mindset coming into this season. Given his history, I’d say he will fare just fine here in Helsinki.
4. Junhwan Cha KOR - Coming off a first Grand Prix medal with a bronze at Skate Canada last week, Cha will have another chance at a medal in Helsinki. He has really come into this season on a mission - skating consistently and confidently in his first three competitions of the season, taking a medal at each one. If any of the three falter, Cha will be right there to capitalize with a podium finish.
5. Michal Brezina CZE - The Skate America silver medalist has to be coming in with a good bit of confidence. It will be a much taller task with this field for him to stand on the podium, but another set of strong performances will set him up well for the rest of his season. The big thing for Brezina is to not make simple mistakes on jumps that he can do in his sleep. His technique under Rafael Arutyuyan has improved, and he has been trying to take those lessons and put them in competition.
6. Andrei Lazukin RUS - Helsinki will be Lazukin’s second career appearance on the Grand Prix. He started off his season very solidly with a bronze at Lombardia Trophy, and he is looking at this competition as a way for him to build momentum toward Russian Nationals later this season.
7. Keiji Tanaka JPN - With a bronze at Nepela Trophy, Tanaka has been trying to figure out his consistency. He has grown artistically and, at his best, is certainly among the very top of the Japanese men. But inconsistent skating and mental lapses have been costly - he’s been anywhere from eighth to third on the Grand Prix the past few seasons. If he can get his jumps together in Helsinki, he’s got top five potential.
8. Alex Krasnozhon USA - The 2017 US junior champ is looking to make a splash in his first Grand Prix on his first full senior international season. He is one of the rising stars in US men’s skating and certainly sees an opening on the US men’s field this season. But there are a lot of question marks around him as he enters this season after a severe ankle sprain at Junior Worlds last season.
9. Alexei Bychenko ISR - Still recovering from injury, Bychenko was ninth at Skate America two weeks ago, but he was already in much better shape than he was when we saw him withdraw midway through Finlandia Trophy. He’s got the triples back, but the consistency isn’t there.
10. Phillip Harris GBR - The three-time British champion will be skating in his first Grand Prix here in Helsinki. He withdrew from Finlandia earlier this month.
11. Valtter Virtanen FIN - A Grand Prix debut at home in his 13th (13th!!) season on the senior international circuit, Dr. Virtanen will have a lot of support in Helsinki, as he did last year at Worlds in his home country. He was seventh at Nebelhorn Trophy earlier this season.