The biggest competition thus far of the 2016-17 figure skating season, the ISU Grand Prix Final, is upon us in Marseille, France.
And Canada is super well-represented as the only country to qualify skaters in all four disciplines.
With their victories at Skate Canada and NHK Trophy, two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were the top qualifiers in the pairs event, where they will be joined for the second straight season by Julianne Seguin and Charlie Bilodeau, who won the season-opener at Skate America before placing fifth at Rostelecom Cup. Duhamel and Radford finished second at the Final a year ago after winning the title in 2014. The team many considered to be their greatest challengers for gold, world bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, were forced to withdraw due to injury.
Pairs Competing: Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford CAN, Xiaoyu Yu/Hao Zhang CHN, Cheng Peng/Yang Jin CHN, Evgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov RUS, Julianne Seguin/Charlie Bilodeau CAN
For all of their accolades, the one major title missing from the resume of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir is that of Grand Prix Final Champions. They’ve won 11 individual Grand Prix events but have yet to stand on top of the podium at the Final, finishing second four times in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. In this comeback season, they won gold at Skate Canada and NHK Trophy, notably defeating two-time reigning world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron at the latter while showing vast improvement in the performance of their free dance.
Ice Dancers Competing: Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir CAN, Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani USA, Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron FRA, Ekaterina Bobrova/Dmitri Soloviev RUS, Madison Chock/Evan Bates USA, Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue USA
Patrick Chan was also victorious at both of his Grand Prix events, Skate Canada and Cup of China. His free skate at the latter was vintage Chan, landing two quad toes and two triple Axels with the only miss coming on the quad Salchow which is new to his program this season. He’s a four-time medallist at the Grand Prix Final, including back-to-back victories in 2010 and 2011, but is facing tough competition in Marseille from two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who has won the Final the last three years.
Men Competing: Javier Fernandez ESP, Patrick Chan CAN, Yuzuru Hanyu JPN, Shoma Uno JPN, Nathan Chen USA, Adam Rippon USA
Kaetlyn Osmond is the first Canadian lady to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since Joannie Rochette in 2009. Having either been injured or recovering from injury since making a splash in her world championship debut in 2013, Osmond has her confidence and her jumps back, leading to a pair of silver medals at Skate Canada and Cup of China. At both events she placed behind a Russian, Evgenia Medvedeva and Elena Radionova. They are two of four Russians in the ladies’ field at the Final.
Ladies Competing: Evgenia Medvedeva RUS, Anna Pogorilaya RUS, Elena Radionova RUS, Kaetlyn Osmond CAN, Maria Sotskova RUS, Satoko Miyahara JPN
The Grand Prix Final features six entries in each discipline, qualified based on the results and overall standings from the six Grand Prix events.
Competition begins on Thursday with the pairs’ and men’s short programs. Friday brings with it the ice dance and ladies’ short programs as well as the pairs’ free skate. The free programs for ice dance, ladies and men brings the event to a close on Saturday.
CBC will live stream the entire competition. You can find the broadcast schedule here.