With 2018 Rostelecom Cup the last opportunity for those competing at their second Grand Prix event to book a ticket to the Final next month, expect the competition in Moscow to be fierce.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is a shoo-in to capture the men’s title and book his ticket to Vancouver. His runaway victory in Helsinki showed the world he is not resting on his Olympic laurels and is setting new technical goals that few of his competitors can match.

Who will capture silver and bronze is an open question. Canada’s Keegan Messing has put himself in solid medal contention after finishing second at Skate Canada. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada did not fare well in Helsinki, landing in fourth place overall, but he is a fighter. Expect a different skater to turn up in Moscow. Japan’s Kazuki Tomono was soundly trounced by Daisuke Takahashi at the Western Japan Sectionals in early November, so he will be looking for redemption and a podium finish. Russia’s Artur Dmitriev, Jr. had a solid showing at his Challenger Series event and could be considered a podium threat if he skates at the same level on home soil.

The ladies competition (now down to 10 entries following the late withdrawals of America’s Karen Chen and Germany’s Nicole Schott) could be one of the most exciting of the Series. Russia’s Alina Zagitova, the gold medalist in Helsinki two weeks ago, should have no trouble claiming her second Grand Prix title of the season. Silver and bronze could go to any one of a number of skaters. Contenders include Mako Yamashita, second at Skate Canada, Yuna Shiraiwa, Elizabet Tursynbaeva and Eunsoo Lim.

Gracie Gold is scheduled to make her comeback at this event. Has she been able to maintain, regain or find her competitive edge after being out of the international loop for two years? We will see. Gold is now coached by former French skater Vincent Restencourt in Aston, Pennsylvania.

Reigning World pairs silver medalists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia mined gold at Skate America in October and are solid favorites to claim a second title in Moscow. Four teams are in the running for silver and bronze, all of whom claimed medals at their first Grand Prix assignments: Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (silver in Helsinki), Russia′s Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin (silver at Skate America), Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin (bronze in Helsinki), and Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc of the U.S. (bronze at Skate America).

Four ice dance teams will make their senior Grand Prix debuts in Moscow, which realistically narrows the battle for podium finishes down to five teams. Madison Chock and Evan Bates withdrew in early November and no replacement team was assigned given the logistical issues of obtaining a Russian visa, etc.

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin mined gold in Helsinki and are the odds-on favorites to repeat that result in Moscow. Two up-and-coming teams will be challenging for silver and bronze: Spain’s Sara Hurtado and Kirill Khaliavin (fourth in Helsinki) and Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko of the U.S. (fifth in Helsinki). The battle for the second and third steps of the podium will be the highlight of this competition.

Annabelle Morozov, the daughter of coach and choreographer Nikolai Morozov, will make her international debut in her hometown.




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