The NHK Trophy is the last of the grand prix events of the 2014-2015 season before the final in Barcelona. Here are my podium predictions.
1. Yuzuru Hanyu: no matter what you throw at him he will always pull it off. Yuzuru Hanyu might not be at his best, considering the serious injury he has been exposed to in his last grand prix appereance. In fact, after the collision with Han Yan at Cup of China, he spent several days out of practice in order to fully recover. He claimed that he is determined to compete at his home competition, and, as brian Orser claimed, he has been training for 9 days landing all jumps, inclding quads. His strategy should be to water down a little bit his extremely demanding programs to get the qualification for the final.
2. Takahito Mura: he surprisingly won at Skate Canada defeating Javier Fernandez. he probably doesn't have the same sofistication of Hanyu and Machida, however he was able to get a monstrous 173 in his free skate which featured two quads and two triple axels.
3.Alexei Voronov: he is not his federation's favourite as well, but at Rostelecom Cup he pulled off two incredible performances, especially in the short program. His technical prowess will very likely puti him ahead of the other talented but inconsistent skaters of this event.
1. Weaver/Poje: prediction is made very easy here. The leading Canadian dance team is in a very good place to win their second grand prix event in Japan. Their main goal will rather be scoring enough to send a message to the other dance teams who have won the other grand prixs. In fact, both Chock/Bates and Papadakis/Cizeron have scored incredibly high in the last few weeks, and performing well during this weekend is absolutely key for the rest of Weaver/Poje's season.
2. Coomes/Buckland: they have also dramatically improved in this fall season. They got their first grand prix medal (a bronze) in Russia two weeks ago. Their free skate was spot on, but they bombed the short program technique wise, so they have still room for improvement.
3. Sinitsina/Katsalapov: one of the weirdest thing of this grand prix season is that Ilinykh/Zhiganshin's grand prix final qualification will occur just if Sinitsina/Katsalapov get into the second place here in Japan. This couple debuted at Cup of Russia for the first time, where they performed pretty decently.
1. Gracie Gold: the ladies event at NHK Trophy is a very peculiar one for the fact that none of the ladies has ranked more than third in a previous grand prix. Gracie Gold, Satoko Miyahara and Kanako Murakami are the ones who got a podium position so far in the series. Even though a lot of promising and talented skaters are listed in the NHK entries, no one really stood out in this fall season and anything could happen. I am predicting Gracie Gold to be the winner because she is the most consistent out of the "more experienced" competitors and because she has been reported to have improved her condition after Skate America.
2. Kanako Murakami: she was very lucky to get on the podium at Cup of China, because her free skate performance was under any expectation. She was completely out of control during the first half of her program as she popped several jumps. That has to be said that the quality of her skating is incredible and she has all the potential to perform better in front of her home crowd.
3. Satoko Miyahara: Satoko has had a great season last year winning her first National Championships medal, which is quite something in Japan. She has a very good musicality and she schedules an interesting set of jumps. She tends to under rotate every now and then, but I believe that she has an edge over the others in this competition. The only one who could likely get on the podium is Polina Edmunds. However, the US silver medalist has two lutzes and two flips that are often considered a wrong edge. the result is that her technical score is negatively affected by this call.
1.Kavaguti/Smirnov vs Duhamel/Radford: honestly, both Kavaguti/Smirnov and Duhamel/Radford could win this competition, as the scores they previously got are very similar, and technical content is almost the same for the two couples. As far as free skate is concerned, they both dare a throw quad salchow that they both nailed in their last grand prix. Duhamel/Radford have a slightly higher technical content as they schedule their famous triple lutz side by side; on the other hand Kavaguti/Smirnov have an edge on the second segment of the score due to their maturity, flow and overall skating quality.
3.Yu/Jin: the reigning world junior champions debuted in the senior circuit at Cup of China, where they made history for it being the first time a single nation got all three podium spots. They came in second there, but they didn't express all of their potential as they lost many points on an aborted lift. Assuming that they won't rank any higher than third at NHK Trophy, their goal is to score enough to get a ticket for the final in Barcelona. In order to achieve that, they will need o score more that Tarasova/Morozov did at Cup of Russia (around 173 points overall).