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When China advised the International Skating Union (ISU) it was returning all its skating allotments for this season, including Cup of China, the ISU found a willing host in Skating Finland for the third Grand Prix of the Series. Known for its warm hospitality, a united cheer lit up the world when it was announced this nation would host the event Nov. 2-4.
The seven-hour time difference between Helsinki and the east coast of North America will provide thousands of skating fans the opportunity to watch this competition live online, which would not have been the case if it were held in China.
This is the only event of the Series that will showcase two of the reigning Olympic champions — Yuzuru Hanyu and Alina Zagitova.
Hanyu’s main challenges will come from a trio of skaters — China’s Boyang Jin, Mikhail Kolyada of Russia and Hanyu’s training mate, Jun-Hwan Cha of Korea who placed third at Skate Canada last weekend. If Michal Březina skates on par or better than he did at Skate America — where he placed second — he will also be in the mix for a podium finish.
Zagitova opened her season with a win at Finlandia Trophy in early October. She will be looking to repeat her triple crown from last year: two Grand Prix victories and a win at the Grand Prix Final. Her main challenge in Helsinki will come from Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto who captured silver at Skate America. In a reduced field of 11 skaters, bronze is up for grabs.
New champions will be crowned in the pairs event. Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert and Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy, who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at the 2018 World Championships are the two highest-ranked teams. Russia’s Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin, the reigning World junior pairs champions, could be the surprise in this discipline.
In ice dance, Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are the top team in the field, so look for them to take the top step of the podium. The U.S. will field three teams. Canada has no representatives in this discipline.
A trio of teams will likely battle it out for silver and bronze: Italy’s Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri (second at Skate America); Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin of Spain; and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter of the U.S. who placed fourth at Skate America, missing the third step of the podium by just 0.81 of a point.
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