There are several competitors that are choosing to make the leap from the Junior Grand Prix to the Senior Grand Prix in this post Olympic year. As we approach the new skating season I thought I'd preview some of the faces I think we should keep an eye on starting today with the men.
Nan Song (China) - Last season he was the runner up at both the Junior Grand Prix Final and the Junior World Championships. Nan is a dream in the air but has many of the classic faults that many Chinese single skaters have such as rounded shoulders, poor stretch, and lack of connection with the audience. However, as evidenced from the video below, he has worked much harder at some of those things than many Chinese skaters. There's a freedom that exists in his skating that I like...at times somehow reminds me of Patrick Chan. I think he probably could have done with another year in the Junior ranks but he's opted to move forward. The best thing he can do to improve is to find a way to bring the audience in. If he does that, he's halfway there.
Grant Hochstein (USA) - Not nearly as strong as Song in the air but Grant does a great job of paying attention to all those things like choreography, position, and audience connection. Grant actually skated as a Senior at Nationals last season placing an impressive 7th. He also made trips to the Junior Grand Prix Final and Junior World Championships. Grant has to work on his technical ability and consistency. If he can make his jumping skills as solid as his skating skills, he'll be one tough competitor.
Ross Miner (USA) - I look at Ross and I think "Yep...that's a complete package." He is solid technically and still has some artistic flair. He took the Bronze at the Grand Prix Final and like Hochstein was planning on competing as a Senior at Nationals but a nagging foot injury kept him off the ice. That same foot kept him from competing at the Junior World Championships. All Ross needs is time to develop what he already has. I do feel he needs to contain his excitement and reign it in a little so that he doesn't loose focus but that will certainly come with time (think Evan Lysacek). He's a champion in the making and the future is very bright.
Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan) - He was the only Junior man last season to go undefeated winning both his Junior Grand Prix events, the Junior Grand Prix Final, Japanese Nationals (Junior) and the Junior World Championship. If Ross Miner is the complete package, Yuzuru is the complete package plus some. At this point it's just tweaking little things here and there. His greatest strength is that he has no weakness. Of all the guys making the move to Senior I feel he is the most prepared and I'll go further and say he'll be one of the top contenders on the Grand Prix this season.