Almost everyone is expecting Ashley Wagner to be the gold medalist at 2012 Grand Prix Final. Ashley has dramatically improved from last year as I have said in other posts before and she looks very promising not only for this competition, but for th entire season too. She has been very consistent in the fall and collected three golds in a row (Japan Open, Skate America, Trophee Eric Bompard) qualifying first for the final. She is very consistent in jumping and she is the most expressive female skater at the moment. If she skates as she has done before in the season, she is likely going to win and that could be a strong boost of confidence for fighting for a gold medal at the upcoming World Championships.
However she might try some riskier elements in this more challenging competition and that amazing consistency couldn't be a key point for her any more. Indeed at Worlds 2012 she was one of the favourites for a medal finish, but because of an attempted triple-triple combo (which she failed) she didn't completely deliver her short program and had to give up a medal.
The figure skating world is still waiting for a Mao Asada's comeback since 2010/2011 season where she was a shadow of herself. She seemed to have achieved that in the following season, but from that moment on she started to produce rollercoaster competitions. During this fall the same happened: she had a quite good Cup of China, performed brilliantly in the NHK short program but collapsed in the free skate landing three of seven attempted triples. She surprisingly won the competition despite that poor outcome and an outstanding performance by Akiko Suzuki who was skating there too. For someone it was the nth proof that the current judging system is not working properly, actually it was a sign of the extreme importance of the grade of execution in the scoring. Mao was able to get that score because she was given very high goes even on single jumps so that she didn't lose much on the technical content. Anyway her basic skills alone won't be enough for this competition, so she will need to improve her consistency in her jumping, especially if she wants to get her triple axel back later in the season.
On the other hand, Akiko Suzuki proved to be very solid with her free skate, but hasn't delivered her short program yet, and that brought her away from two possible grand prix wins. She is a delightful skater with one of the best free skate choreographies of the season and if she fixes her "Kill Bill" short program she could repeat her last year's result in the final.
The other three competitors in Sochi will more hardly get on the podium but for them qualifying for the final has been a success itself. All three qualified for the first time in their career.
Christina Gao took advantage from Lipnitskaya's injury (who for that had to withdraw) and could really challenge herself for a future qualification at Worlds 2013 during Nationals.
Elizaveta Tuktamisheva is the only Russian female skater who will attend the final but maybe this will be a disadvantage for her when she will compete at Nationals (just two weeks later) trying to get one of the three spots available for Worlds.
Kiira Korpi was a delightful surprise of this fall, since despite her age she continues to improve year after year. If she's not making the competition at this event, this season she could expect from herself something bigger at European Championships.
Gold: Ashley Wagner (USA)
Silver: Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
Bronze: Mao Asada (JPN)