The Grand Prix Final kicks off this week in Goyang City, Korea. For the first time, this will be a combined event with both the Junior and Senior divisions competing.
You can see a complete list of Juniors competing by clicking here...the U.S. is very well represented, however, Gilles and Donohue of the U.S. have withdrawn.
A solid field amongst the Senior competitiors will make the event extremely competitive.
The six ladies that have qualified for the final are: Yu-Na Kim (KOR), Joannie Rochette (CAN), Mao Asada (JPN), Carolina Kostner (ITA), Yukari Nakano (JPN), and Miki Ando (JPN). Or...the top five from last seasons worlds plus Miki Ando who withdrew because of an injury. To put it even shorter, no shockers! The clear favorite would have to be Yu-Na Kim, however Joannie Rochette has been solid as well and Mao Asada proved last week at NHK that she's a contender for the top spot. Miki Ando has been jumping well this season but will need to put some more choreography into her 'Giselle' program to turn heads. On the flip side of that is Yukari Nakano's 'Giselle' program which has beautiful artistry, she may need to up the difficulty in the jumping department (but she's been known to land Triple Axels as well) to make a splash. Carolina Kostner, if she lands her jumps will be in the mix, the judges apparently love (or at least score it well) her skating.
The Ice Dance competition will likely be the closest of them all. The six teams qualifying are: Delobel and Schoenfelder (FRA), Domnina and Shabalin (RUS), Faiella and Scali (ITA), Khoklova and Novitski (RUS), Davis and White (USA), and Belbin and Agosto (USA). What makes this field so interesting is that some of these teams have not competed against the other and they've all been so close this season. However, the clear front runners are the reigning World Champs Delobel and Schoenfelder. They were the only team to win both their events. Then it will be a scramble as none of the other 5 teams have been truely dominant, however, any of them are capable of topping the french. Khoklova and Novitski have been on the move, upsetting their countrymen Domnina and Shabalin (who won last season's final) at home in Russia. The Italians, Faiella and Scali, looked to be on a roll, keeping up with Delobel and Schoenfelder in Paris, but then the #2 French team (Pechalat and Bourzat) almost caught them at NHK. Davis and White won in Canada, then could only muster a bronze in Russia. Belbin and Agosto have twice only managed a silver but they, like the Italians, almost caught Delobel and Schoenfelder at Skate America. What does all this really mean...I think it will be close!
The Pairs event at the Grand Prix Final may provide some fireworks...it may not. The qualifiers are: Savchenko and Szolkowy (GER), Zhang and Zhang (CHN), Kawaguchi and Smirnov (RUS), Pang and Tong (CHN), Volosozhar and Morozov (UKR), and Mukhortova and Trankov (RUS). Top qualifiers were the Germans who won both their events, but Zhang and Zhang, who also won both their events, have looked fairly polished as well and, on paper, look to be the biggest challenge to the Germans. It's anyones guess as to how this will play out as none of these teams have really looked super-sharp this season. Kawaguchi and Smirnov have a throw quad salchow in their back pocket (which they landed successfully at Skate Canada) and if they can hit that with solid skating they might threaten for the top spot. But who knows, maybe one of the other teams will surprise us...
The men's field is very good. The qualifiers are: Patrick Chan (CAN), Takahiko Kozuka (JPN), Johnny Weir (USA), Brian Joubert (FRA), Jeremy Abbott (USA), and Tomas Verner (CZE). Patrick Chan and Takahiko Kozuka have both been stellar this season. Not necessarily because they're doing the hardest jumps, because they're not, but they are garnering huge component scores from the judges. The pair effectively put the field away in Paris and may do the same in Korea. Johnny Weir has a large fan following in Korea and has been very consistent this season. Two solid skates from him and instantly he's in the mix. Jeremy Abbott is the other fellow this season who has benefited from solid component scores. He showed in China that his amazing artistry combined with a solid technical skate equals big points. The big jumpers in the field are Joubert and Verner, but both have struggled on the component side this season. We may have a battle of beauty vs braun...it will be interesting to see which will win.
My Medal Call (I can't believe I'm going to attemp this!)
GOLD - YU-NA KIM
SILVER - MAO ASADA
BRONZE - CAROLINA KOSTNER
GOLD - DELOBEL AND SCHOENFELDER
SILVER - DOMNINA AND SHABALIN
BRONZE - KHOKLOVA AND NOVISTKI (If I'm right about this Belbin and Agosto are in trouble!)
GOLD - ZHANG AND ZHANG
SILVER - SAVCHENKO AND SZOLKOWY
BRONZE - KAWAGUCHI AND SMIRNOV
GOLD - PATRICK CHAN (This is really a stunning development...all I have to say is Vancouver!)
SILVER - BRIAN JOUBERT
BRONZE - JOHNNY WEIR (Here's hoping that the U.S. isn't shut out. I figured he managed to save us last season at World's...he can save us again!).