2017 Rostelecom Cup Men’s Preview

The first event of the Grand Prix season is starting off with a bang with the matchup of Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu.  Chen had his breakout season last year, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final in his first senior season and then going on to beat Hanyu at Four Continents.  He is the first man to land four quads in a program and the first to land five.  He also was the first to land a quad lutz and a quad flip in the same program.  He has the most versatile arsenal of jumps and has been working on his components with famed dance coach Marina Zoueva.  But Hanyu is the reigning Olympic Champion and has an arsenal of quads in his back pocket as well.  When he is on, his program components are through the roof and can’t be matched by anyone.  He was the first to break the 300 point mark and still holds the record for highest scores.  But both are coming to this event with some setbacks.  Chen did not have all of his quads in his program at the US International Figure Skating Classic and he struggled at Worlds last season as his boots were breaking down too fast from all the quads in his programs.  Hanyu is battling back from an injury, and his signature quad loop wasn’t in his programs at the Autumn Classic International.

Nathan Chen is entering his sophomore season on the senior circuit after winning a silver medal last year to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, where he also won the silver medal.  He started his season with a gold medal at the US International Figure Skating Classic.  At that event he landed a quad flip + double toe and a triple lutz in the bonus, both jumps which are likely to be upgraded.  He had strong program components, with several judges giving him 9 and 9.25 marks, but he averaged in the high 8s.  His free skate included a quad loop and a quad lutz but he doubled a toe in the second half and ended up with a repeated double toe in combination.  While this is unlikely to be his jump content for the season, as he’ll likely have four and even five quads in his free skate, he did earn all positive GOEs worth 13 points.  His program components were slightly better with his composition mark reaching 9.05.  He has the 4th best short program, 2nd best free skate, and 3rd best total scores.

Yuzuru Hanyu is entering his 8th Grand Prix season and has won 10 medals on the circuit.  He has qualified for the Final for 6 years in a row, and has won gold for the last four years.  He started off his season with a silver medal at the Autumn Classic International.  He had watered down programs at that event due to an injury and could not complete his signature quad loop.  How he does at this event will largely depend on how well that injury has healed and which jumps he is successfully able to add back to his arsenal.  His short program at the ACI included a quad salchow and a quad toe + triple toe in the bonus.  He earned Level 4 for his spins and steps and all positive GOEs netting 15 points.  He received nine 10.00 marks and his program components all averaged in the mid to high 9s.  While he was able to put together a solid short program, his free skate was largely held up by his program components.  He landed a quad salchow + triple toe in the bonus that earned him 19.08 points but his quad toe was downgraded and he fell on a triple axel.  He also singled his opening lutz and doubled two toes.  The errors cost him some points in the program components as he had marks as low as 8.95 for transitions.  He has the best short program and 4th best total scores.

Mikhail Kolyada is going into his third season on the Grand Prix, and while he has never won a medal, he has never placed lower than 5th.  He competed in two Challenger Series events this fall, winning gold at Ondrej Nepela Trophy, before finishing 4th at Finlandia Trophy.  His biggest issue at the start of the season has been putting two clean programs together.  He was not even in the picture after the short program at Nepela Trophy but his free skate was strong enough to win him the gold medal.  His free skate included a quad lutz, quad salchow (fall), and a quad toe (fall) in the bonus.  He earned an impressive Level 4 on all of his spins and his step sequence with program components in the mid to high 8s.  At Finlandia Trophy, his short program included a quad toe + triple toe and he earned all positive GOEs.  His program components ranged from 7.92 to 8.17.  He has the 5th best short program, 3rd best free skate, and 10th best total scores.

Misha Ge is appearing on the Grand Prix for the 5th season.  He also has never won a medal.  He started his season with a 4th place finish at the Autumn Classic International.  His short program at that event did not include a quad, and his triple lutz + triple toe combination was not in the bonus.  He could put his two most difficult jumping passes in the bonus to try and maximize his points without the quad, but that doesn’t seem to be his strategy at this point.  He earned program components in the high 7s to low 8s.  His free skate also did not include a quad and while he has five jumping passes in the bonus, two are his lower value double axels.  He earned all positive GOEs except for on his solo triple axel and had slightly higher program components in the low to mid 8s.  He has the 9th best free skate score.

Nam Nguyen will compete on the Grand Prix for the fourth year and he has one previous medal, a bronze from his first event back in 2014.  He placed 5th at the Autumn Classic International earlier this season. His short program included a quad salchow + triple toe and a quad toe.  He earned all positive GOEs, but he finished well behind his training mates in that segment of competition as his GOEs were not very high and his program components were comparatively low, ranging from 7.15 to 7.70.  His free skate included a quad salchow + triple toe, quad toe in the bonus, and quad salchow (fall) in the bonus.  He doubled two other jumps in the program.  Again, his program components were on the low side in the low to mid 7s.  He has the 6th best short program score.

Denis Ten is a veteran at this event, starting his 9th season on the Grand Prix.  He has only medaled twice and has never won gold.  He competed for the first time last week at Cup of Nice, a senior B event and did not have the best outing.  He’s also been working his way back from injury so he might not quite be back into competitive shape yet.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Nathan Chen

Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu

Bronze: Mikhail Kolyada

 

Bios of the competitors:

Nam Nguyen, CAN: He placed 8th at Four Continents.  He finished 6th at Skate America and 8th at NHK Trophy last season.  He is the 2014 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 245.21.  He is 19 years old.

Daniel Samohin, ISR: He finished 33rd at Worlds and 6th at Junior Worlds.  He placed 5th at Skate Canada and 8th at Cup of China last season.  He is the 2016 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 236.65.  He is 19 years old.

Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN: He is the reigning World Champion and Four Continents Silver Medalist.  He won silver at Skate Canada and gold at NHK Trophy last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold.  He is the 2014 Olympic Champion; 2014 World Champion; 2015 and 2016 World Silver Medalist; 2012 World Bronze Medalist; 2011 and 2013 Four Continents Silver Medalist; and 2010 World Junior champion.  His personal best is 330.43.  He is 22 years old.

Keiji Tanaka, JPN: He placed 19th at Worlds and 13th at Four Continents.  He finished 7th at Rostelecom cup and won bronze at NHK Trophy last season.  He is the 2011 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 248.44.  He is 22 years old.

Denis Ten, KAZ: He finished 16th at Worlds.  He won silver at Trophee de France last season.  He is the 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2013 World Silver Medalist, 2015 World Bronze Medalist, and 2015 Four Continents Champion.  His personal best is 289.46.  He is 24 years old.

Deniss Vasiljevs, LAT: He placed 14th at Worlds and 7th at Europeans.  He finished 11th at Rostelecom Cup and 6th at NHK Trophy last season.  His personal best is 239.00.  He is 18 years old.

Dmitri Aliev, RUS: He is the reigning World Junior Silver Medalist.  He won gold at JGP Czech Republic and placed 4th at JGP Slovenia last season to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where he won gold.  This is his Grand Prix debut.  His personal best is 247.31.  He is 18 years old.

Mikhail Kolyada, RUS: He placed 8th at Worlds and is the reigning European Bronze Medalist.  He finished 4th at Rostelecom Cup and 5th at NHK Trophy last season.  His personal best is 279.41.  He is 22 years old.

Andrei Lazukin, RUS: This is his Grand Prix debut.  His personal best is 210.66.  He is 19 years old.

Nathan Chen, USA: He finished 6th at Worlds and is the reigning Four Continents Champion.  He placed 4th at Trophee de France and won silver at NHK Trophy last season to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won silver.  He is the 2014 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 307.46.  He is 18 years old.

Grant Hochstein, USA: He placed 9th at Four Continents.  He finished 11th at Skate Canada and 11th at NHK Trophy.  His personal best is 237.25.  He is 27 years old.

Misha Ge, UZB: He placed 12th at Worlds and 7th at Four Continents.  He placed 6th at Skate Canada and 7th at Trophee de France last season.  His personal best is 246.19.  He is 26 years old.