NHK Trophy is the last of the grand prix events of the season. This competition will decide the last skaters who will qualify for the final in Sochi.
In the men’s event three spots are still available and will probably go to Japanese Daisuke Takahashi and Yuzuru Hanyu who got a silver medal in the previous grand prixs and Javier Fernandez, the winner of Skate Canada.
Yuzuru Hanyu debuted at Finlandia Trophy and then skated at Skate America. Yuzuru usually has some problems with finding the physical form at the beginning of the season and struggles a little bit more in the first competitions than at Nationals or Worlds. Though he skated very well early in the season so far, even without finding consistency yet. He won Finlandia Trophy against team mate Javier Fernandez with an outstanding free skate featuring two quads (a toe and a salchow) and two triple axels.
At Skate America he had a fabulous short program scoring a world record of 95. . The world record came from the new rule that gives extra points on jumps executed in the second half of the short program (he does the triple axel and the triple lutz-triple toe in the second half). Anyway, Yuzuru owns the best score of the season for this segment and proved he can challenge the leaders of the sport both technically and components wise. At Skate America the Japanese kind of collapsed in the free skate, losing his ten points of lead to the second giving up the gold medal to Takahiko Kozuka, so at the moment it is just a question of consistency for him but there’s no doubt that the young man is incredibly talented.
Daisuke Takahashi disappointed a little bit at Cup of China where he was the absolute favorite for the gold but as Yuzuru he lost the gold against another Japanese, Tatsuki Machida who also qualified for the final. Everyone thought that Daisuke could have been the one able to beat Patrick Chan, as he did at World Team Trophy and at Japan Open in October. He is one skater that always pushes himself on an improvement year after year but this season he had a struggle in his Cup of China free skate. Maybe that was just a bad competition for him and will have a redemption in front of the home crowd.
Javier Fernandez was the most pleasing surprise of the 2011 fall season where he got medal after medal. I had high expectations on him heading to the European Championships but he struggled there and at Worlds not showing all of his potential. He came back strong this season with ambitious programs and won against a not so brilliant Patrick Chan at Skate Canada. He still struggles a little bit on his lutz but did put a quad toe in his short program and attempts three quads in the free (was able to do two of them at Skate Canada), one in the second half of the program and looked pretty consistent on them.
Considering the level of this guys, I don’t think any other skater could get to the podium here, actually all the three can be equally finish on any spot of the podium, depending on how they will perform this week.
It is so hard to predict, but here my picks
Gold: Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
Silver: Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Bronze: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)