We are now in the second half of the Grand Prix Series for the season, and this week’s NHK Trophy will be a chance for skaters to jockey their way into the Grand Prix Final. Shoma Uno and Sergei Voronov have both earned medals earlier in the season on the Grand Prix. Podium finishes for them will certainly help them along the way. We will also see season Grand Prix debuts from Dmitri Aliev and Deniss Vasiljevs, both of whom could be podium spoilers this week - it’s going to be a close fight for the podium.
NHK Trophy predictions
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GOLD Shoma Uno JPN - Undefeated so far this season, Uno comes in as the heavy favorite for gold at home. His win at Skate Canada was not without its mistakes, so he will want to build on that as he looks toward the big showdown at the Grand Prix Final. But first, he will need to get past the obstacle here - a fifth Grand Prix title should be a walk in the park for Uno this week in Hiroshima.
SILVER Sergei Voronov RUS - Coming off another medal on the Grand Prix - bronze at Skate America - Voronov has another chance to make the Grand Prix Final as he did last year. He will have to put down more consistent programs this week to get on the podium again, but last year’s NHK Trophy was the site of his first and only Grand Prix title. He is sure to have fond memories of those performances.
BRONZE Dmitri Aliev RUS - Aliev had a breakout season last year - seventh at both the Olympics and Worlds, he made a splash in his first full senior season and surprised some observers by making the Olympic and World teams. He has immense potential as an all-around skater, but his inconsistency has been an obstacle for him. Two consistent programs and he’s on the podium.
4. Vincent Zhou USA - After a disappointing fifth at Skate America, Zhou and his team has been working to make sure that underrotations are not what make or break his standing at a competition. We’ve seen some incredible skating from him in the past, as evidenced by his sixth-place finish at the Olympics, but we have seen him blossom more in the latter part of the season than in the early stages. This week is about redemption for Zhou.
5. Matteo Rizzo ITA - Fourth at Skate America three weeks ago, Rizzo comes into his second Grand Prix hoping to clean up some of those minor jump issues that he had there. His biggest barrier to getting into the top tier in men’s skating is that quad, and he’s showing some promise with it early this season.
6. Deniss Vasiljevs LAT - Coming off a career-high sixth at Worlds last season, Vasiljevs is looking to build on that success this season. Good news for his fans is that his quad toe is looking better and more confident this season. His basics are phenomenal, so if he can get those jumps right this week, he could have a shot at the podium.
7. Sota Yamamoto JPN - It’s been a long, arduous road back from breaking his ankle two years ago. Yamamoto has been slowly making his way back and has all of his triples back for the season. He was ninth at Finlandia a month ago, and will be looking to improve on those performances in his Grand Prix debut.
8. Alexander Johnson USA - It’s tough to be a world class skater and a working professional and a college student. Johnson spent much of his off-season trying to balance a demanding internship and training, and his conditioning was a hindrance earlier this season at Finlandia Trophy. He’s had another month to dedicate to training now. At his best, he could very well figure into the top half.
9. Kevin Reynolds CAN - Reynolds was 11th at Skate America, having troubles with the consistency and the rotation of his jumps. He was recently dealt a setback with the rights-holders of his free skate music telling him to stop using the music for his free skate. It remains to be seen how much he will be affected by the late switch of free skates.
10. June Hyoung Lee KOR - The three-time Korean champ has had a bit of a rough go the past couple of seasons. He was 11th at Lombardia earlier this season, and he’s at his first Grand Prix event since Skate Canada in 2015.
11. Yaroslav Paniot UKR - Eighth at US Classic in September, Paniot will be making his Grand Prix debut here at NHK Trophy.
12. Hiroaki Sato JPN - Sixth at US Classic to start his season, Sato will be making his second appearance at his home Grand Prix. He was 11th here last year.