As the figure skating season has progressed it has become increasingly clear who the gold medal favorites are the for the Olympic Games. In the mens it looked like Patrick Chan was the shoo win, for the ladies Yuna Kim, in ice dancing most seem to think that Meryl Davis and Charlie White will take it and for the pairs Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have been undefeated this season, making them the most likely candidates to take home the gold.
The ISU Grand Prix Final concluded this weekend and shook things up and are now making everyone, including the fans and skaters, re-think what’s possible going into the Olympic Games.
Here’s three things we learned from the Grand Prix Final:
1. Perfection can be problematic. Patrick Chan along with Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov have had world record breaking scores this Grand Prix season, making them stand out from their peers. It may seem like a good thing to leave your competitors over thirty points behind you, yet repeating that kind of perfection seems to be extremely challenging. This brings about some additional complications like peaking too early in the season or even getting into the skaters heads where they feel that they cannot do any better than they have in the past. These kinds of issues can bring the best of champions down, especially when it comes to the Olympics.
Patrick Chan started his short program with a beautiful quad toe-triple toe combo, but then faltered on his triple axel and then proceeded to double his triple lutz. It was far from his best performance. He came back strong in his free skate, earning him the silver, but it was not enough for the gold, which proves once again that you can’t win an event with the short program, but you can certainly loose it and that’s exactly what happened for Patrick.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov were in first after their short program by three points, but Tatiana struggled with the side-by-side jumps in the free skate, falling on one of them and putting her hand down on another. These mistakes were enough to take them from an undefeated season to opening up the door of doubt for gold in Sochi. They had to settle for silver at this event.
2. Don’t throw in the towel. For those who are not obvious favorites, these skaters have to have a fire in them that pushes them to overtake those skaters who seem untouchable.
Yuzuru Hanyu has had a strong season, yet it was not until the Grand Prix Final that we really got to see him shine. Though he fell on one of the quad's in the free skate, the rest of the program had a passion and excitement in it that came out quite brilliantly. He definitely sent out a loud message that said, “Don’t count me out,” which was great to see as he captured the gold.
German pair Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were not even considered real contenders until this event. They came out this season with a very different style then they usually display and have been working on a throw triple axel, which seemed like more of a last ditch effort to catch the Russians rather than focusing on simply skating well. Though there were no new exciting tricks to add to their skating during the Grand Prix Final, what they produced was appealing and captivating and enough to overcome the Russians and win the gold. Even when the odds appeared against them it was great to see them come back with such a fight.
3. There’s some fierce competition. 2010 Olympic Champion, Yuna Kim, is expected to win gold in Sochi, yet due to injury she did not compete at this season’s Grand Prix, which gave Mao Asada a chance to come out and remind everyone what she was made of. Mao Asada easily won gold at the final and also revealed that she will not surrender easily this season. And we can’t forget about the young eager Russians ladies ready to land on the podium in Sochi, they certainly will not give up without a fight. Hopefully Ashley Wagner’s bronze medal finish will put a fresh fire in her to continue her pursuit of greatness as well.
In ice dance, it was not a surprise, yet it was still close. Meryl Davis and Charlie White took home the gold, but it was only by a little over one point. They have been undefeated all season, but as Patrick Chan and Volosozhar and Trankov reminded us, perfection can cause problems, so hopefully Davis and White will recognize that though they won gold, there’s still more work to be done to ensure a gold medal in Sochi.
All and all it was an exciting Grand Prix Final. It was a great reminder for fans and skaters alike that anything is possible and any of these skaters could emerge at any moment and make history.