Denis Ten was the surprise silver medalist at last year's World Championships. He has often shown moments of greatness but hasn't been able to put all of the pieces together to ascend the podium. He very nearly stole the gold medal away from Patrick Chan and many thought that his free skate was enough to put him on top. He set new personal best in all segments of the competition and finished between 60 and 90 points higher than his previous events that season. He'll also have to deal with the pressure of being a front runner instead of an underdog .
Daisuke Takahashi started off the season well winning two silver medals to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold. He did struggle in the last half of the season though only placing 7th at Four Continents and 6th at Worlds. His Worlds score was 30 points lower than the Grand Prix Final. He had two quads planned in his free skate last year but his score fluctuations were largely due to jump issues. He also seemed to be lacking his signature style and personality in his programs last year, especially his free skate and never seemed to really find his groove.
Takahiko Kozuka qualified for the Grand Prix Final after winning a gold and silver on the circuit but didn't make the Four Continents or Worlds teams. He is a former World Silver Medalist but hasn't been able to replicate his 2010-2011 season. Tatsuki Machida also went to the Grand Prix Final last year on the strength of an impressive performance at Cup of China but was left off the Worlds and Four Continents rosters.
Max Aaron is making his Grand Prix debut after a breakout season that saw him win the US title and finished 7th at Worlds right behind Daisuke Takahashi. He has three quads planned in his free skate along with two triple axels and triple + triple combinations. He also backloads his free skate and has some of the most difficult content planned. He has been working with Pasquale Camerlengo to improve his program components and he's admitted that he wasn't happy with his artistic performance at the U.S. Figure Skating Classic.
Jason Brown is also making his Grand Prix debut after winning the silver medal at Junior Worlds last season. He has long been known for his program components but his one weakness has been the triple axel. He had some success with it last season but it is still a work in progress and he'll need it to hang with the top competitors here who will be executing multiple triple axels and quads. He won the silver medal at his senior debut at Nebelhorn Trophy with new personal best scores.
My podium predictions:
Gold: Daisuke Takahashi
Silver: Takahiko Kozuka
Bronze: Max Aaron
Bios of the competitors:
Takahiko Kozuka, JPN: He won gold at Skate America and silver at Rostelecom Cup last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he placed 5th. He is the 2011 World Silver Medalist, 2009 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2006 World Junior Champion. His personal best is 258.41. He is 24 years old.
Tatsuki Machida, JPN: He won bronze at Skate America and gold at Cup of China last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he finished 6th. He is the 2010 Four Continents Silver Medalist. His personal best is 236.92. He is 23 years old.
Daisuke Takahashi, JPN: He finished 6th at Worlds and 7th at Four Continents. He won silver at Cup of China and NHK Trophy last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold. He is the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2010 World Champion, 2007 and 2012 World Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2011 Four Continents Champion, 2012 Four Continents Silver Medalist, 2005 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2002 World Junior Champion. His personal best is 276.72. He is 27 years old.
Denis Ten, KAZ: He is the reigning World Silver Medalist and placed 12th at Four Continents. He placed 6th at Skate America and 9th at Rostelecom Cup last season. His personal best is 266.48. He is 20 years old.
Artur Gachinski, RUS: He placed 9th at Skate Canada and 7th at Rostelecom Cup last season. He is the 2011 World Bronze Medalist, 2012 European Silver Medalist and 2010 World Junior Bronze Medalist. His personal best is 246.27. He is 20 years old.
Alexander Majorov, SWE: He finished 18th at Worlds and 6th at Europeans. He placed 10th at Skate America last season. He is the 2011 World Junior Bronze Medalist. His personal best is 211.88. He is 22 years old.
Max Aaron, USA: He placed 7th at Worlds and 4th at Four Continents. This is his Grand Prix debut. His personal best is 238.36. He is 21 years old.
Jason Brown, USA: He is the reigning World Junior Silver Medalist. This is his Grand Prix debut. He won silver at JGP France and gold at JGP Turkey last season to qualify for the JGP Final where he finished 4th. He is the 2012 World Junior Bronze Medalist. His personal best is 228.43. He is 19 years old.
Adam Rippon, USA: He placed 4th at Cup of China and 8th at NHK Trophy last season. He is the 2010 Four Continents Champion and 2008 and 2009 World Junior Champion. His personal best is 233.04. He is 23 years old.