As was the story last year, this year’s Grand Prix Final will be missing a huge name. Yuzuru Hanyu made the decision to withdraw after re-injuring the ankle that kept him out of action for part of last season. And so rather than it being a three-way battle for gold, chances are it will be Nathan Chen vs. Shoma Uno in a rematch of last year’s Final. Neither have had a flawless season, but both have the potential to blow the roof off the arena.
Grand Prix Final predictions
Official hashtags: #GPFVancouver #GPFigure
GOLD Nathan Chen USA - Will Chen up his technical content this week in anticipation of the showdown against Uno? In his two events so far this season, he’s taken it easy in an effort to put down clean performances over breaking records. He’s also gotten unclear edge calls on his flip this season, which has contributed to some lower-than-expected scores based on the performances that he’s delivered. So you wonder if he brings back the lutz in favor of the flip, and you wonder if he revisits a four-quad free skate over a three. Either way, he and his team have been playing it one competition at a time while he balances school - it’s a different mindset to his season that he hasn’t had before.
SILVER Shoma Uno JPN - Gold at all three events he’s entered this season (four if you include the free-skate-only Japan Open), Uno hasn’t actually skated all that well for his standards so far. He’s made major errors at each event, but his high base value and his strong components have pulled him through. It’s a bit of a different horizon this week though - with Chen in the mix, Uno will likely not be able to afford the kinds of mistakes that he’s made. If I had to guess, it would be that he takes the advantage in the short and Chen takes the advantage in the free. It could be a very close race.
BRONZE Junhwan Cha KOR - The most future-is-now of the skaters in this field, Cha is the youngest of the bunch here at 17. After injuries somewhat derailed his progress last season, he entered the post-Olympic quad on a mission. He’s now been on the podium in all four of the competitions he’s entered this season, including two bronze medals on the Grand Prix. What’s more promising is the consistency in his performances. He will need to put down a strong short program to put himself in position for the podium here. The new face of South Korean skating will get a whole lot more hype if he is able to grab a medal at his first GP Final.
4. Michal Brezina CZE - Of the six finalists here, Brezina may be the most surprising. After all, it had been four years since he last podiumed on the Grand Prix; seven years since he last made the Grand Prix Final. Over the past few years, he’s had completely uneven results on the international scene, but his work with Rafael Arutyunyan started to pay off late last season, and it’s completely transformed his confidence and consistency this season so far. With two silver medals on the GP, Brezina comes in knowing that he has a shot at getting on the podium in Vancouver.
5. Sergei Voronov RUS - Once again, Voronov is a Grand Prix Finalist - and this year, he’s the lone Russian man to make it, with names like Kolyada, Aliev, and Samarin missing out. It’s been four years since he made it to Europeans or Worlds, and his performances and placement in Vancouver this week could do a lot to bolster his confidence going into Russian Nationals. Technically, he could very well keep up with his competition here, but he has not really gotten that quad loop together so far this season. But he continues to soldier on and put down consistent programs - which could be his ticket to the podium here this week.
6. Keegan Messing CAN - He’s the fifth-highest scoring man this season - and among this field, only Chen and Uno have scored higher than Messing has - so the potential for a medal is there. But when a guaranteed GPF spot was on the line at Rostelecom Cup a few weeks ago, he didn’t look himself and stumbled to fifth. His entry here at the Final was made possible by Hanyu’s withdrawal, and in a lot of ways, his trajectory toward Canadians will be clearer based on his performances (and potential recovery from Rostelecom) this week.