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Grand Prix Final Preview and Predictions

Senior competition in the Grand Prix Final starts today in Quebec City, Canada. Lots of top names here to vie for titles against some new faces.

Pairs

Competitive Outlook

The big question here is who will win out between Germany's reigning world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy and newer Russian powerhouse Volosozhar and Trankov. Or will everyone err and Russia's Kavaguti and Smirnov will sneak to the top of the podium? Kavaguti and Smirnov have less power and will score lower unless the other two teams make mistakes.

I won't totally count out China's Zhang and Zhang but I think they lack the pizzazz of the other top teams. And Japan's Takahashi and Tran and Canada's Duhamel and Radford will only medal if everyone else has numerous errors.

Programs I can't wait to see again

Kavaguti and Smirnov's Clair de Lune has grown on me. And so has Duhamel and Radford's Coldplay program. Neither would normally excite me that much but the other pairs are not doing anything that I really love anyway.

Predictions:

1) Savchenko and Szolkowy (Germany)

2) Volosozhar and Trankov (Russia)

3) Zhang and Zhang (China)

Ice Dancing

Competitive Outlook

Well, this is it. This is an important matchup. It's reigning world champions from the USA Meryl Davis and Charlie White versus training mates and reigning Olympic champions from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Virtue and Moir have never won a Grand Prix Final and obviously, going off of 2009-2010, it doesn't mean too much who wins as far as what will happen the rest of the season. But any time these heavyweights match up is a big deal. I can't wait to see how the judges hold their programs up to each other. You all know I think Davis and White's programs are superior this year, but we'll see...

In the rest of the field, I am looking for USA's Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani to battle it out for bronze. Last year, it would have been a given that France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat would be the ones to watch for bronze, but I feel like the playing field has been evened out a bit. Canada's Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje have looked good. Russia's Bobrova and Soloviev have surprised me in the past so maybe they will here as well.

Programs I can't wait to see again: I love watching both Davis and White's and Virtue and Moir's free dances. Die Fledermaus versus Funny Face - it is so on.

Prediction:

1) Davis and White (USA)

2) Virtue and Moir (Canada)

3) Shibutani and Shibutani (USA)

Men

Competitive Outlook

Now, it would be easy for me to just give this to Canada's Patrick Chan. He has been untouchable for so long now and his quads have been enough to carry the day no matter the other mistakes he has made. That combined with the overall sloppiness among the other men in this competition should be enough. BUT - Japan's Daisuke Takahashi holds the season's best point total, of 259.75 to Chan's 253.74. So I don't know if we should completely write him out of that gold medal spot. But you have to figure Takahashi will not land a quad (and will likely fall on an attempt). He will have to be very clean on the rest of his jumps in order to make up for the quads that Chan will inevitably land. And he will have to put on a great show if he wants to keep his components up with Chan's, which is never impossible for Takahashi.

As for the rest of the crowd? Javier Fernandez of Spain is the first from his country to compete at the Grand Prix Final. And he has the next highest point total with a 250.33. But I don't see him beating Chan and Takahashi unless they have disasters (not out of the question). Czech Republic's Michal Brezina is always dangerous. And then there's Jeremy Abbott, who hasn't put up the biggest numbers so far this season but can rack up grade of execution points when he's clean. Yuzuru Hanyu has put down some great programs this season and has a season best about ten points higher than Abbott's and Brezina's, but Hanyu hasn't been clean and he is still a tad young. But if he lands the jumps that others do not, he is a great podium threat.

Prediction

1) Patrick Chan (Canada)

2) Daisuke Takahashi (Japan)

3) Jeremy Abbott (USA)

Programs I can't wait to see again

I can't wait to see Takahashi's short program again. Maybe he peaked with it at NHK but I don't believe that. I would love to see him do justice to his free skate as well. If Jeremy Abbott can pull off Exogenesis relatively cleanly, I am convinced he will score very well. It is such a beautiful program. It's probably my favorite free skate of the year.

I would also love to see Javier Fernandez turn in another delightful short program.

Ladies

Competitive Outlook

I really expect Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamisheva to be as amazing and rock solid as she has been thus far. She really seems completely unfazed by the pressure. I believe she will have the jumping edge. But as we saw in the short program at Trophee Eric Bompard, she won't radically pull away from these ladies even if she is clean and they are not because they will get the high components.

Italy's Carolina Kostner, USA's Alissa Czisny, and Japan's Akiko Suzuki can all be jumping wild cards, but they are so solid on components and they have some rather beautiful programs this season. Russia's Alena Leonova is right in the mix when she's got the jumps although she doesn't skate as beautifully as the others.

Programs I can't wait to see again

Alissa Czisny's La Vie en Rose short program is delightful and her free skate to Valse triste is absolutely perfect. Also skating to a great music choice is Akiko Suzuki, whose Die Fledermaus highlights all of the strengths of her skating and personality. Carolina Kostner's free skate to Mozart's Concerto No. 23 is also lovely. I have really run out of ways to describe these programs. They aren't necessarily challenging music choices, but they fit the skaters so well and they are enjoyable to watch. This is quite a lineup of programs.

Prediction

1) Elizaveta Tuktamisheva (Russia)

2) Alissa Czisny (USA)

3) Carolina Kostner (Italy)

I first had Czisny winning but it seems silly to bet against Tuktamisheva at this point.