I swore that I would be on top of things for the GPF so I am starting early this week. The only downside to this is that if there’s last minute withdrawals, I’ll have to change things up.
In any case, the GPF is looking to be an exciting competition where skaters will want to line themselves nicely going into Worlds. The stakes are higher this season because their standings at Worlds determine a) how many skaters their country gets to send to the Olympics and b) their reputation and momentum going into the Olympic season. The GPF will determine the course of a few things as we head into the stretch of the season devoted to Nationals, 4CC and Euros.
As much as I’m intrigued about young upstart Nathan Chen, a look at the roster will immediately strike him and Adam Rippon off my list for podium contenders. Rippon doesn’t have the content to compete with the rest of the competitors and while Chen got a respectable silver at NHK but the field was weak and it was clear how far he has to go when he skated after Yuzuru. Hanyu wasn’t perfect there but the intricacy of his programs, along with his jump content is why he is the current World record holder for SP, LP and total score.
I think there was a lot of incredulity when Hanyu announced that he was aiming for 6 quads in both his programs but after seeing Shoma Uno this season, I can see why the current Olympic Champion is feeling the pressure. It was heartbreaking to watch Uno in the Kiss and Cry after his LP at Worlds in Boston but considering the fire he skates with this season, I’m tempted to say that missing bronze at Worlds may have been the best thing to have happened to him. Uno has been skating with attack and pretty good consistency in both competitions. He has the jump content, the dramatic flair and enough youth to work on some of the finer aspects of his skating like transitions and edge control.
For Javier Fernandez, I’m not enchanted with either of his programs (which is probably why I’m having some trouble recalling them) since they’re something of a re-hash of his sexy guy persona (come on, Javi, this is the season to branch out!). Javier has begun his season well, but in terms of the content and choreography, he is taking less risks than Uno and Hanyu. While this puts the gold as something out of his control, he is still a contender for the podium.
As for Hanyu, if he can skate clean, I think his Olympic champion status and his intricate programs can edge out Uno. Hanyu has not skated clean at either of his GP assignments but apparently, he doesn’t have to to score over 300 points. (Though I’ll admit that home ice advantage probably helped in with that score.) The judges are still on his side for now but he will need to shake off Uno completely if he wants a shot at a medal in Pyeongcheng.
If any of the top three contenders waver, Chan will find an opening for the podium but as it stands, the content of his programs also leaves the possibility of a medal out of his hands.
Overall, this is going to be a tough call.
Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu
Silver: Javier Fernandez
Bronze: Shoma Uno
A Russian ladies sweep is possible at the GPF (and frankly, the Olympics – though at the moment, the sweep would still be less BS than Sotnikova’s gold) though the non-Russians have been fairly strong competitors throughout the season as well. First off, I’ll eliminate Maria Sotskova since her fresh out of junior status will hurt her PCS.
Satoko Miyahara will forever be the girl with the great skating skills and solid consistency but she still needs to work on projecting to the audience. Her real score killer, however, are the UR calls to her low but fast jumps. Without home ice, the technical panel is really hard on her, which means a smaller chance at the podium.
The top two ladies to watch of course, are Evgenia Medvedeva and her back-loaded, tano-armed programs and Anna Pogorilaya, who has found some consistency since her
silver bronze at Worlds. Medvedeva’s programs are… interesting to say the least but weirdly enough, she’s able to make them work. Somehow, I found myself amused while watching her LP live at Skate Canada. Then again, her World Champion status, and the way her programs are constructed guarantee a pretty big score if she skates well. The gold medal is all hers to determine.
As for Anna, I feel as if she tries to adopt a similar avant-garde artsy style but the style doesn’t match her as well, which distracts from her skating. So far, this hasn’t hindered her in the GP series but if she wants to challenge Medvedeva for gold next year at the Olympics, she’s going to have to find her style.
While Elena Radionova hasn’t been doing as well as a lot of her teammates, her season’s best total is about half a point off the person directly ahead of her. Not to mention she earned that score while not on home ice. Elena has been fighting for her jumps all season. As much as I adore her star quality, her programs remain absolute messes and her jump technique will need time to adjust now that she’s grown a bit.
Last but not least, we have Katelyn Osmond, who’s been a great surprise this season. After sitting out due to injury, Osmond has come out stronger than ever. She was a breath of fresh air at Skate Canada and it’s really charming to see her skate with such joy and attack. Her SP is definitely the stronger program this season but if she can skate clean in her LP she might be able to prevent a Russian ladies sweep. Again, my confidence in my predictions is still pretty low here.
Gold: Evgenia Medvedeva
Silver: Anna Pogorilaya
Bronze: Katelyn Osmond
The pairs roster is watered down a bit here since Sui & Han and Stolbova & Klimov are out of the GP circuit and Savchenko & Massot have recently withdrawn due to injury. This means that the gold is Duhamel & Radford’s to lose. Being ultra competitive, they would want to win here but seeing that the goal is the Olympics, the pair should use this season to get comfortable with their riskier elements, which they have been doing.
The real battle in Marseille with be for silver. Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov have been doing well this season without the top 2 Russian teams in the circuit. Admittedly, I don’t find them memorable or consistent. They do, however, have the second highest total score in the GP circuit though I wonder if they’ll be able to maintain this standing at the GPF.
The switcheroo that resulted in Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang has been a pleasant surprise. Yu has been a confident and elegant partner to veteran Zhang and so far, they’ve had good momentum in both of their GP assignments. I’ve also really enjoyed watching Cheng Peng & Yang Jin, who feel like an up and coming team. I think the new partnership has brought a lot of life into Peng. She’s still struggling with her SBS jumps but she’s skating as if a giant weight has been lifted off her shoulders.
Gold: Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford
Silver: Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang
Bronze: Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov
Ughhh… this podium is such a conundrum. Yes, Tessa & Scott have beaten the World Champions in their showdown at NHK but Papadakis & Cizeron are on home ice. The PCS for both teams were very close at NHK, which doesn’t bode well for Virtue & Moir. I seriously have no clue what was going on with Papadakis at NHK – in both programs it looked like Cizeron was dragging her when they were in closed hold and when they doing step sequences apart, it looked like Gabriella was lagging behind her partner. The mistakes and lower levels killed their score.
In terms of their programs, I have issues with both their FDs. P&C’s is too uniform throughout, which loses its storytelling appeal and people’s attention pretty quickly. V&M’s program is a little disjointed – the first circular step sequence meanders to much and ends up feeling like a check in a box while the last third (the Sam Smith) is really awkward, especially when the rink acoustics are bad. The vocals end up distracting from the choreography, which is not good. With an improved performance at NHK, I can see the story a bit better and why that song in particular is used at the end but the squawking vocals sound really bad – either live or on livestream. Pity, since the actual song is really pretty.
The Shibutanis and Chock & Bates will be battling here again for the U.S. National title, although it looked like the USFSA ignored what happened at the GPF last year. Personally, I think the Shibsibs have the stronger programs even though Chock & Bates have the higher scores throughout the GP circuit. The memory of C&B’s FD ending the night at Skate Canada still haunts me. Seriously, that FD was just as bad live as it is on your screen. Madison was either being dragged on the ice of dangling off of Evan. I could not wait until the program was over. As for the Shibsibs, I think their “journey” program is my favourite out of the 3 journey programs this season. They also have the best twizzles in the business.
In any case, the Americans will be challenging for bronze, as will Bobrova & Soloviev. Still an unmemorable team. Still not sure why they’re here and Cappellini & Lanotte are not but whatever. I don’t think they have a place on this podium but Mother Russia may care to disagree.
As with all my other podiums, I’m also unconfident about this one. I may be factoring home ice advantage a little too much but the gold is in P&C’s hands – how they skate will determine the outcome.
Gold: Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron
Silver: Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir
Bronze: Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani
What are your predictions? Am I off my rocker for some of these? I think I am. Let me know in the comments!
~The Rinkside Cafe