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Grand Prix Final preview

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This is it. After six stops on the ISU Grand Prix circuit, it all comes down to the Grand Prix Final that starts tomorrow in Fukuoka, Japan. The U.S. will be represented by Ashley Wagner, who won the silver at Skate America and the gold at Trophee Eric Bompard, and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Men

Patrick Chan is the overall favorite for this event and favored for Olympic gold in Sochi. Some wonder if he has peaked too early this season, while others are convinced that this three-time world champion is unbeatable.

The Japanese men make up the majority of the men's discipline, as three out of the six men are from Japan. Daisuke Takahashi won his ticket to the Grand Prix Final, but due to injury withdrew with Nobunari Oda now replacing him. This leaves Tatsuki Machida, Yuzuru Hanyu and Oda to battle it out with the rest of the men.

China’s, Yan Han, and Russian Maxim Kovtun, will be rounding out the field this season and trying to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Ladies

Mao Asada is the front runner for the ladies as she won gold at Skate America and NHK Trophy. Asada could really use this win as momentum going into the Olympics, but the real factor for her is consistency. Since Yuna Kim has been absent from the Grand Prix this season, due to injury, this is Mao’s chance to land a clean triple axel and prepare her triple-triple in preparation for her head-to-head with Yuna at the Olympic Games.

Ashley Wagner is also a factor, yet she has not been able to overcome Mao Asada this season. Wagner needs to not only land a clean triple-triple, she also needs to polish up her spins and program components to get the optimal points to be competitive in this event.

The Russian ladies are dominating the other four spots in this event as Julia Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya, Elena Radionova and Adelina Sotnikova have all done exceptionally well during this Grand Prix season. Any of these ladies could easily rise to the top and find themselves with a gold medal wrapped around their neck.

Pairs

Canadians, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford have had a bumpy Grand Prix season, but no doubt will want to prove themselves at this event.

Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will finally get their chance to go up against Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Though the Germans have been working hard, Volosozhar and Trankov are a shoe-in and seem to be uncatchable, which may just be a wake up call for Savchenko and Szolkowy.

Veterans Qing Pang and Jian Tong, Chinese pair Cheng Peng and Hao Zhang along with Canadians, Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch, round out the pairs event.

Ice Dance

This is the event we have all been waiting for--the face off between Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir against U.S. team Meryl Davis and Charlie White. So far this season, Davis and White have outscored Virute and Moir, and who emerges victorious at this event will be a fairly solid indicator of what we can expect at the Olympic Games in 2014.

Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will work to nudge out their competitors and earn a spot on the podium, but they are up against a tough field with the Russians, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev right on their heels.

The last two spots are made up from Italy’s Anna Cappellino and Luca Lanotte, who have done well during this Grand Prix, along with French skaters Natalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat who have also excelled this season winning gold at Cup of China.

NBC will again be airing some of the event along with Universal Sports. So in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holidays, clear your schedule for the Grand Prix Final, one of the last, significant figure skating events before the Olympics.

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