Grand Prix Final results muddy Winter Olympics predictions
'Turns out my Olympic crystal ball is all fogged up'
I would have thought at the beginning of the Grand Prix Series over two months ago that I would have a much clearer idea of what the Olympic podium would look like. It turns out that my Olympic crystal ball is officially all fogged up thanks to the performances and results from this weekend’s Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, Japan.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu ran away with the men’s title in front of the hometown crowd. Hanyu began the event by breaking the short program world record score set by Patrick Chan only three weeks ago in Paris. He finished by winning the free program and beating second place Chan by a 13-point margin.
Chan, by the way, had been my pick for gold in Japan. He has also been my pick for Olympic gold given his three consecutive World titles and two Grand Prix wins this season.
In ice dance, American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fifth consecutive Grand Prix title, ahead of defending Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from Canada. Interestingly, this is the only title that has eluded the Canadians; in five appearances they have earned four silver medals and one bronze.
I chose Virtue and Moir ahead of the Americans. My rationale was this: both teams are outstanding and both free dances are very strong. What sets the Canadians apart in my mind is an extraordinary short dance, which they skated to perfection in Fukuoka. With only about one point separating these two teams in Fukuoka, it points to as tight a fight for Olympic supremacy as could be.
I have been saying all season long that the Russian pair team of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov is untouchable. In my mind, their head-to-head face off with four-time World and European champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy from Germany would just be a preview of the Olympics. Shows how much I know.
Asada shows tenacity
Here is what I know now: Volosozhar and Trankov are mere mortals after all and can make mistakes like any other skaters. Volosozhar’s jump errors in the free program precipitated their drop from first after the short program to second overall. Before Fukuoka, I would have thought that Volosozhar and Trankov would have a little room for error. They don’t. If they want that top step in Sochi, it will have to be with two error-free programs.
I have always thought that the Germans are genius at turning out programs that capitalize on the most points opportunities. I like them best when they present more sedate and sophisticated programs and this year’s free program to The Nutcracker is a winner and definitely Olympic-worthy.
Of all of my predictions, I am most delighted to be correct about Mao Asada taking her fourth Grand Prix Final title. Asada’s tenacity has to be admired. She undertook to improve her jump technique by going right back to the beginning a couple of seasons ago, which caused inconsistencies in performance while she got it right.
In my mind, Asada is more than right, with the joie de vivre back in her skating and her technical elements getting more and more solid with each outing.
At the beginning of this season, the 2010 Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim was my pick to repeat in Sochi. I am no longer so sure. As with my other Olympic predictions, the Grand Prix Final results are giving me lots to think about before Sochi in February.