As always, the road to the Grand Prix Final was paved with highs and lows, elation and disappointment. New and returning champions were crowned while some former skating stars were unable to find their competitive legs during the Series.
The 2018 senior Grand Prix Final will have a very different look than the past few seasons with just nine skaters/teams from the 2017 campaign competing in Vancouver.
Patrick Chan is the Athlete Ambassador for the 2018 Final. “To be named Athlete Ambassador…is truly a special honour,” said Chan. “This event brings back many wonderful memories for me, and it is a privilege to represent all athletes competing in Vancouver this week.”
On Nov. 29, the Japanese federation announced that Yuzuru Hanyu had withdrawn from the Final due to the injury he suffered at Rostelecom Cup. That opened the door for Canada′s Keegan Messing, the first alternate, who will be the lone competitor for his nation at the senior Final.
Jun-Hwan Cha, 17, of South Korea is the only new face in the men′s discipline. He earned a place courtesy of his training mate Jason Brown who defeated Russia′s Alexander Samarin at the French Grand Prix, which gave Cha the sixth spot. (Samarin needed a second-place finish to qualify but ended up third).
Cha will make history when he takes to the ice in Vancouver. He is the first man from South Korea to ever earn a berth at a Grand Prix Final. Russia′s Alexander Samarin is now the first alternate.
The ladies competition will be a Russia-Japan showdown with three athletes from each nation qualifying. Japan′s Rika Kihira and Russia′s Sofia Samodurova qualified in their first year in the senior ranks. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan will also make her debut.
Russia′s Alina Zagitova, the reigning Grand Prix Final champion, and Kihira, fourth at the 2017 Junior Grand Prix Final, were the only two ladies to win both their Grand Prix assignments. Mai Mihara of Japan is the first alternate.
In pairs, three teams qualified for the Final for the first time. Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès of France took the top spot on the leaderboard with victories in Canada and France. Video interview with Vanessa and Morgan at the French Grand Prix.
Also making their debut are Italy′s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise and reigning World junior pairs champions and Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin of Russia. Their teammates, Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin, are the first alternates.
Five ice dance teams will make their Final debuts in Vancouver with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue the only returning duo. This will mark the team′s fourth appearance in as many years. Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin of Spain are the first alternates.
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