Grand Prix Final–Mens Preview

This is a solid group of competitors and several of them could take the title.  The field features veterans such as Takahashi, who is going to the Final for the 5th time, and newcomers, such as Amodio, making his first trip.

Kozuka has posted the highest scores this season and has plenty of momentum behind him, having improved his score by nearly 15 points in between his events.  He skated two relatively clean programs and already has high program component marks, but I don’t feel that he really connects and performs his programs.  If he can do that, his second score could go even higher.  Takahashi has the highest personal best scores out of the group, but he hasn’t hit that mark since 2008.  He has struggled with consistency in his jumps this season  and lost nearly 8 points between events.  His performance quality is unparalleled and even with jump mistakes, he can perform well enough to take the title.  If he skates clean, the title could easily be his.

Chan has been plagued by jump inconsistencies all season, but strong program component scores have kept him in the medal hunt, and he won silver at Cup of Russia despite having 4 falls at the competition.  He has added a quad to his programs this season and has one of the best long programs I’ve seen.  With inconsistent programs he can land on the podium, but if he skated clean he could easily take home gold.  I think the quads in his program have been throwing off his focus and he has struggled with the triple axel in the past and is continuing to do so this season.  Verner is having a great come-back this season, and has removed his usually trustworthy quad from his programs to focus on consistency which seems to be working for him.  He has some of the lower scores of this field even when skating clean, so the podium may be a reach from him, but he is considering adding the quad back into his programs which could push his technical score up.

Oda has also had problems with consistency this season, skating fantastic short programs but losing his focus in the long.  When he misses elements, he also tends to improvise and tacking on too many combinations cost him the gold medal at Skate America.  Oda will likely be fighting with Takahashi for the final podium spot.  Amodio has tons of momentum behind him, having obliterated his previous personal bests at both his events this season and gaining a whopping 16 points between events.  He is a great performer, but his program components are the lowest of the bunch (personally I think there are some choreographic problems with the program which keep this mark lower).  His combined scores are well below the pack, and while I expect him to put up another personal best here, it likely won’t be enough in this field to win a medal.

My predictions for order of finish are:
Gold: Kozuka
Silver: Chan
Bronze: Takahashi
4th: Oda
5th: Verner
6th: Amodio

My USFSA Fantasy Team is:
A) Patrick Chan
B) Takahiko Kozuka

Information on the competitors in order of qualification is below:

Takahiko Kozuka, JPN: Kozuka placed 8th at the Olympics and 10th at the World Championships.  He is the 2006 World Junior Champion and the 2009 Four Continents bronze medalist.  He won Cup of China and Trophee Eric Bompard with a personal best free skate and total score.  This is his 2nd trip to the Final. 

Daisuke Takahashi, JPN: He won bronze at the Olympics with a personal best short program score.  He is the reigning world champion.  He has previously won gold and bronze at the Four Continents Championships and silver at the World Championships.  He won the NHK Trophy and Skate America.  He placed 5th at the GPF last season.  This is his 5th trip to the Final.

Patrick Chan, CAN: Chan finished 5th at the Olympics and won silver at worlds.  He is the 2009 Four Continents Champion and World Silver Medalist.  He is the 2007 World Junior Silver Medalist.  He won gold at Skate Canada with a personal best free skate and silver at Rostelecom Cup.  This is his 3rd trip to the Final.

Tomas Verner, CZE: Verner placed 10th at Europeans and finished 19th at the Olympics.  He was the silver medalist at Europeans in 2007 and won the title in 2008.  Verner won bronze at Cup of China and gold at Rostelecom Cup with a personal best free skate.  He placed 6th in the GPF last season.  This is his third trip to the Final.

Nobunari Oda, JPN: He finished 7th at the Olympics and 28th at the World Championships after problems with jumps in his short program kept him from qualifying for the free skate.  He is the 2006 Four Continents Champion and the 2005 World Junior Champion.  He won silver at Skate Canada and silver at Skate America.  He won silver at the GPF last season.  This is his 4th trip to the Final. 

Florent Amodio, FRA: Amodio finished 12th at the Olympics with a personal best short program and 15th at Worlds.  He won bronze earlier this season at NHK Trophy with personal best free skate and total scores and silver at Trophee Eric Bompard with personal best scores across the board.