Let’s look at the ladies first.
From the list of entries, the favourites would have to be defending world champion Mao Asada of Japan, Canada’s champion Joannie Rochette and two-time world bronze medallist Yu-Na Kim of Korea.
Aside from the home ice advantage, Kim really seems to have come into her own this season. She combines technical superiority with an ability to express music that is second to none. Conversely, Asada has appeared to be a bit tentative in her outings this season. Rochette’s newfound inner strength and confidence will hold her in good stead at this competition.
Defending world pairs champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany will have to skate a really strong short program if they have any hope of staying ahead of Chinese teams Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang and Qing Pang and Jian Tong. Their other real threat comes from the Russian team of Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov. From my vantage point though, the Russians' free program choreography this season appears like an afterthought compared to their short, which really weakens their position overall.
The men’s event is split between the old guard and the new.
Former world champion Brian Joubert’s performances have been inconsistent so far making room for Canada’s Patrick Chan and Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka to jump into the mix in a big way. The advantage that both Chan and Kozuka have is their supreme choreography. The steps connecting the elements in both their programs help to take them to the next level.
Complicating matters in ice dance is the fact that there is no compulsory dance segment at the final. This means that none of the teams will have a ‘points cushion’ going into the original dance. It is probable that the defending world champions, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder of France, will take the title here, but not without a fight.
My other favourite has to be the Italian team of Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, who already edged out the French couple once this season in the original dance. Also in the mix are Russian teams of Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin and Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski.
Live coverage of the ISU Grand Prix Final begins Dec. 13 on CBCSports.ca. Check the website for schedule details.
Ladies: Yu-Na Kim (KOR)
Men: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Pairs: Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER)
Dance: Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder (FRA)
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