There will not be an empty seat in the house, so expect to see a lot of Pooh Bears raining down from the stands as Yuzuru Hanyu takes his bows. The 24-year-old is without challenge at this competition and, given the level he is skating at this season, the final result in the men′s event could be a repeat of the runaway victory he achieved at Skate Canada International in late October.
The highlight of the men′s competition will be the battle for silver and bronze — and the last berths available at the Grand Prix Final. That showdown could be between the American Jason Brown, second at Skate America (13 points), Kévin Aymoz of France, third at Skate Canada (11 points), and Russia′s Makar Ignatov, third at Rostelecom Cup (11 points). If Brown wins that contest, he will punch his ticket to the Final.
The battle for gold in the ladies competition is likely to be the hottest ticket in town with Russia’s Alena Kostornaia and Alina Zagitova going head-to-head with Japan’s Rika Kihira. The two Russian ladies went one-two in France, while Kihira finished second at Skate Canada International. If this trio captures the three steps of the podium they will all earn a place at the Grand Prix Final.
China′s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han headline the pairs field and are on a level above the rest of the field. Who will capture silver and bronze will be the highlight of this event. Two teams are in the running: Canada′s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (second at Skate Canada) and Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov of Russia (first at Internationaux de France).
In ice dance, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France will have no challengers in Sapporo. Russia′s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, second at Skate America, are best bets to take the silver and join the French team at the Final. Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy could take the bronze.
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2019 GRAND PRIX FINAL