Predictions: Grand Prix Final 2018

rika kihira 2018

This is truly one of the strangest GPFs – there’s no Evgenia, Yuzu or Papadakis/Cizeron. All in all, it has been an interesting post-Olympic season. Hopefully all goes well to Evgenia, who’s trying to re-learn all that she’s ever known, Yuzu for a speedy recovery, and well, I think Papadakis/Cizeron need no encouragement or help considering their performance at the Internationaux de France was quite dominant (though the marks needed a little more growing room for the rest of the season). Either way, the predictions will be quite tough this time around since this GPF will help determine how the dust will settle over the course of this new Olympic cycle.

Men

Without Hanyu on the scene (though my sources say that fans are still lining up to take photos with his banner at the event), the gold should come down to a showdown between Shoma Uno and Nathan Chen. Neither of them have put together two perfect programs and the competition will likely be close. Personally, I find that Chen’s programs are more compelling this season, while Uno’s style hasn’t really changed or evolved in the past cycle, making his programs a little forgettable. This doesn’t count much for points but overall, I think Chen has the better packaging and has performed with less costly mistakes this season, which is why he’ll be my gold medal pick.

As for bronze. Holy jeez, I dunno. Their season’s highest scores are pretty close to each other, and while I enjoy watching Jun-Hwan Cha‘s growth this season – he’s developed some nice skating skills and flow – I’m not sure if he can get the scores to get on the podium… even though I will admit that I’m kind of hoping for a dark horse situation.

Speaking of dark horses, Michal Brezina is having one heck of a season, sneaking up on all my predictions and ruining them in a way that makes me happy. I’ve seen Michal at several competitions since 2009 and whether he skates well or poorly, he’s always done a small gesture to give thanks to the ice or something of the sort after he performs. It’s a sweet gesture, and I think it helps put life into perspective. Hopefully we all have something we love like that, something we can be thankful for, whether it turns out good or bad. Either way, I’m still unsure whether his medals mean anything bigger for him this season but I’m looking forward to see if he pulls off a podium win here.

For my bronze pick, I may have to go with Sergei Voronov. Do I recall any of his programs? No. Frankly, I may have trouble picking him out in a lineup as I fear he does not do much to distinguish himself as a skater/artist/whatever but his results indicate that he seems consistent enough to snag a medal at the GPF this season. (Feel free to run a hole in my predictions, Michal.)

As well, not to be underestimated, though it seemed like nerves finally got to him, Keegan Messing is on home ice, though his last showing at the CoR may have shown that he is prone to nerves as a GPF spot was on the line at his last competition.

Predictions:
Gold: Nathan Chen
Silver: Shoma Uno
Bronze: Sergei Voronov

Ladies

The ladies competition for both the juniors and seniors will be wild. The field here is so packed with talent that it will be hard to determine what the competition will be like. For the podium, I think that the race for gold will be a three-way showdown between Alina Zagitova, Rika Kihira, and Satoko Miyahara.

If this season has shown me anything, it’s that Zagitova is not infallible despite her wins at all her events. She has been making mistakes in her programs so far, which was rare in the previous season. Camp Eteri has yet to produce a skater with longevity and I fear that we are seeing this again with the current Olympic Champion.

Rika Kihira, however, has been a pleasant surprise this season. The Japanese ladies tend to start with a base of strong skating skills (I swear, someone needs to find out their secret), and Kihira marries that and lovely jumps – including her 3As (!), which makes her a serious contender for gold. Whether she can win will depend on her landing her jumps. I do believe that two perfect skates can bring her scores over Zagitova at her current state.

While I did have doubts with the +5/-5 scoring system (my cynical side is waiting for the Russian judges to completely ruin this reform very soon but doling out +5s like candy), I was very pleased to see the Jason Brown 1st after the SP result at the Internationaux de France. What does that have to do with the ladies for the GPF, do you ask? Well, I think for once, Satoko Miyahara may be getting the scores she deserves for her quality skating as a result of these rule changes. Personally, I am hoping that this will be duly rewarded again at this competition with a medal for Satoko. As well, Miyahara has done well to fix her UR calls, which has been duly reflected in her scores this season.

Another contender that can put herself on the podium, should the others falter, would be Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is making a comeback this season. While Tuktamysheva has solid jump technique, including a 3A, I would like to see more transitions in her skating and better flow in and out of her jumps. This is not to say that she won’t be stiff competition for the three ladies above but I do think that her fate is dependent on the performance of the others.

Predictions:
Gold: Rika Kihira
Silver: Alina Zagitova
Bronze: Satoko Miyahara

Pairs

The pairs field is a little bare at the moment without Savchenko & Massot and Sui & Han but I do think that we will see Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres solidify their standing as one of the top teams in the world during this Olympic season (and their first GPF!). This pair has skated confidently all season and I can see them taking the title here if they can ward off the mistakes that seem to happen during major events. Challenging them for gold will be Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, who have better programs this season. Should both these teams skate clean, I still think that James & Cipres have the advantage as their programs will likely resonate better with the audience. Furthermore, the French have done well to improve their transitions, unison and general polish since the last season.

For bronze, I will slot in Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, who are skating with a style and precision similar to Stolbova & Klimov circa 2014. They stand slightly above the rest of the field though not high enough to touch the teams above.

Predictions:
Gold: Vanessa James & Morgan Cipres
Silver: Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov
Bronze: Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert

Ice Dance

This will be another exciting competition to watch, as it will decide who Papadakis & Cizeron’s main competition will be in the second half of the season. Personally, I think it’s a pity that Weaver & Poje didn’t participate in the GP circuit since their material might be enough to challenge for a World medal this season but oh well. We will make do with a few exciting dance teams.

The battle for gold will definitely be between Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue and Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin. The young Russian team are on the right course for a World medal this season, and I have really enjoyed watching them grow since I noticed them a few seasons ago with their shoot the duck twizzles. The competition can really go either way here though for now, I may give the edge to Hubbell & Donohue who are veterans at this point in the field. Still, the pair do tend to lose focus and make mistakes at crucial moments, so it honestly can go either way.

For bronze, we have a situation similar to the pairs event. Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov have shown that they are slightly above the rest of the field here but aren’t at the level of the top two competitors at the GPF. I still can’t detect much chemistry between this pair but their overall skating has improved a bit since last season.

Predictions:
Gold: Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue (I will admit that as I’m typing this, I’m very tempted to switch my gold and silver picks)
Silver: Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin
Bronze: Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov

So many intense competitions at the GPF this season! Which one are you looking forward to the most? (My answer would be the ladies!) Let me know in the comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe

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