Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Grand Prix Final Men's Preview

This group of men range in age from 17 to 26.  Three have made multiple trips to the Final, while three have qualified for the first time.  They won 6 gold medals, 2 silvers and 3 bronze on the circuit this season.

Patrick Chan showed that despite errors, he is still the top skater in the world, winning the gold medal in both of his events despite several falls.  He is the only skater to enter this event undefeated.  His skating skills, transitions, edge quality, plus huge technical content like a quad toe + triple toe combination in his free skate give him an edge.  He commits completely to his program but this can also lead to silly errors like falling during his step sequences.  These errors can be costly, however, if others skate clean.  He has the 3rd best short program, best free skate and 2nd best total score of the season.  This is his 4th trip to the Final.  He won gold in 2010.

Daisuke Takahashi started off his season with a third place finish but showed his impeccable skills with his gold medal performance at NHK Trophy.  He doesn't have a consistent quad in his arsenal, but has been trying the quad flip.  If he lands it, he'll make history as the first man to complete the jump.  Takahashi also has huge program components, but if Patrick skates clean with his quads, it will be tough for a quad-less Takahashi to catch him.  He has the best short program, 2nd best free skate and best total score of the season.  This is his 6th consecutive trip to the Final.  He won silver in 2007 and 2008 and bronze in 2006.

Jeremy Abbott showed the power of consistency when he won the gold medal at Cup of China despite placing third in both segments of competition.  His programs show a lot of diversity this season from his fun swing themed short to his classic lyrical free skate.  He is trying to put the quads back in his program and to get his jumps consistent.  If he hits everything, he can be magical to watch, but if he makes a mistake it sometimes unravels the whole program.  He has the 4th best short program, 8th best free skate and 6th best short program score of the season.  This is his 3rd trip to the Final.  He became the first American man to win gold in 2008.

Michal Brezina kicked off the season with a gold at Skate America.  He has been counting on clean programs to make it to the medal stand but has recently started adding his quads back in without much success.  Despite an increase in his season's best score in all three of his events this season, he fell in placement from 1st to 3rd to 4th and it may be difficult for him to keep pace with the rest of this field.  He has the 8th best short program, 9th best free skate and total scores of the season.  He is making his first trip to the Final.

Javier Fernandez burst onto the scene with two silver medals this season after his coaching change to Brian Orser.  He claimed the first Grand Prix medal for a Spanish skater.  He has a very nice style on the ice and has a consistent quad in both of his programs.  His problem comes in his free skate when he makes silly mistakes at the end of his program.  Several popped jumps cost him the gold medal at Rostelecom Cup by a heartbreaking .07 points.  If he skates clean, he can put up huge scores and even beat Patrick Chan and Daisuke Takahashi in the short program at Skate Canada, so he can definitely contend with the best.  He has the 2nd best short program, 3rd best free skate and 2nd best total scores of the season.  He is making his first trip to the Final.

Yuzuru Hanyu is making his first trip to the Final after claiming his first Grand Prix medal, a gold, at Rostelecom Cup.  He has consistent jumps, including quads but is still a young skater and is nowhere near the top skaters in terms of artistry, transitions, and performance.  If he hits his elements and others make mistakes, he can definitely capitalize on the technical side, but if they hit their planned elements he doesn't have the program components to match them.  He has the 5th best short program, 4th best free skate and total scores of the season.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Patrick Chan
Silver: Daisuke Takahashi
Bronze: Javier Fernandez

1 comment: