After one of the most topsy-turvy and unpredictable Grand Prix Series ever, it is now time for the big event - the Grand Prix Final. Held this year in Barcelona, Spain, from December 11-13, it features the top six (or seven) qualifiers in each discipline on the Senior level, and the top eight qualifiers on the Junior level.
Qualification for the Grand Prix Final this year was not as straightforward as it should have been, with the tragic events in Paris having a bearing on the results of Trophee Eric Bompard, which was not completed but had points awarded for short program placements instead. With this in mind, the ISU's decision was that the seventh-ranked skater or team after the Series was complete would also qualify if that skater or team was at TEB.
Of course, this was a rather ineffectual decision and in the end only affected one discipline - pairs. It also means that there are some quite notable names missing from the Final, including the reigning World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (who was second at Skate Canada but was fifth after the TEB short program) and Skate America winner Max Aaron, who was seventh after the short at TEB.
Nevertheless, the fields at the Grand Prix Final are incredibly strong, but with some of the variable results we have seen this season, closing your eyes and randomly jabbing a finger at the entry list might be the best way to choose a winner...
Once again it will be a clash of the titans, with Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) fresh off his stunning world record at the NHK Trophy on home soil two weeks ago coming face to face with old rival Patrick Chan (CAN), as well as reigning World Champion and hometown hero Javier Fernandez (ESP). But though these high-scoring titans can soar, they are also capable of severe underperformance, and the other three qualifiers are ready to take advantage of any weakness they present. Shoma Uno (JPN) has been performing well recently and putting up some big numbers, while Boyang Jin (CHN) has been setting the world alight with his ambitious jumps. Japanese veteran Daisuke Murakami will also be in the mix after a strong outing at Skate Canada.
Prediction: Hanyu, Jin, Chan
Junior Men Prediction: Samohin (ISR), Chen (USA), Aliev (RUS)
With Tuktamysheva out some less-knowledgable fans might be predicting a walkover for Mao Asada (JPN) here, but even though Asada will have the only triple Axel at the event she is no guarantee, faltering at the NHK Trophy while her compatriot Satoko Miyahara soared. The American ladies will be waging an internal battle as well as the battle for overall result. Gracie Gold is in reasonably solid form which she will hope to continue, while Ashley Wagner will be chomping at the bit to prove her stumble at NHK was a fluke. And though the World Champion is out, the Russian ladies are no weaker for her absence, with up-and-coming powerhouse Evgenia Medvedeva and reigning National Champion Elena Radionova ready to show the world their ability.
Prediction: Asada, Medvedeva, Gold
Junior Ladies Prediction: Honda (JPN), Sotskova (RUS), Tsurskaya (RUS)
The pairs event will also showcase a battle of epic proportions, with World Champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford (CAN) out to reassert their authority over their rivals. But American pair Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim are also in fine form leading into this event, while Russian pairs Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov and Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are also looking in good shape for the Final, and will be strong contenders. The Chinese pairs, Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang, and Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin, have had a quiet preparation, but should not be considered any less of a threat for that - one or both could cause a real upset here.
Prediction: Duhamel/Radford, Scimeca/Knierim, Yu/Jin
Junior Pairs Prediction: Gubanova/Sintsov (RUS), Poluianova/Korotkov (RUS), Atakhanova/Spiridonov (RUS)
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN) would almost certainly have been considered favourites for this event, with strong performances in the first half of the Series, right up until two weeks ago, when the American sibling duo Maia and Alex Shibutani laid down some big numbers at NHK. The Shibs (as they tag themselves) will be riding a confidence high that may carry them above their higher-ranked compatriots Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Third American couple Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue will be keen to convert a quiet start to the season into a big upset, while Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte will also be hoping to score big. Russian couple Ekatrina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, however, will almost certainly have a big say in the final outcome.
Prediction: Shibutanis (USA), Weaver/Poje (CAN), Bobrova/Soloviev (RUS)
Junior Dance Prediction: Skoptcova/Aleshin (RUS), McNamara/Carpenter (USA), Loboda/Drozd (RUS)
All times AEDT.
Short Program - Friday December 11 - 3:40am - 4:25am
Long Program - Saturday December 12 - 3:05am - 4:00am
Short Program - Friday December 11 - 1:20am - 2:10am
Long Program - Saturday December 12 - 11:30pm - 12:21am (Sunday)
Short Program - Friday December 11 - 2:25am - 3:20am
Long Program - Sunday December 13 - 12:45am - 1:50am
Short Dance - Friday December 11 - 12:05am - 1:00am
Free Dance - Saturday December 12 - 1:45am - 2:45am
Short Program - Friday December 11 - 7:55am - 8:45am
Long Program - Sunday December 13 - 7:00am - 8:00am
Short Program - Saturday December 12 - 7:55am - 8:45am
Long Program - Sunday December 13 - 5:45am - 6:40am
Short Program - Friday December 11 - 6:30am - 7:30am
Long Program - Saturday December 12 - 6:20am - 7:35am
Senior Ice Dance
Short Dance - Saturday December 12 - 5:05am - 6:00am
Free Dance - Sunday December 13 - 3:25am - 4:25am