Following the World Championships in Helsinki earlier this year and a few weeks of speculation, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating assignments were announced on Friday afternoon. The scene for the opening act of the 2017/2018 Olympic season has now been set.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the news that Yuzuru Hanyu would be opening his quest for a fifth consecutive Grand Prix Final title at Rostelecom Cup. The 2014 Olympic champion last competed at the Russian Grand Prix in 2011. He will face up-and-coming star Nathan Chen in Moscow. At the NHK Trophy three weeks later, Hanyu will go up against Patrick Chan. The two have been paired together at Skate Canada in each of the two previous seasons and Chan has emerged victorious on both occasions. This time it will be Hanyu who will have home advantage.
Shoma Uno will be the Japanese skater who will take on Chan at Skate Canada next season and the World silver medallist will be aiming to get his campaign off to a good start. He will follow his trip to Regina, Saskatchewan with the Internationaux de France in Grenoble and a match-up against two-time World champion Javier Fernandez.
The Audi Cup of China will see Boyang Jin go head-to-head with Fernandez in Beijing. The two-time World bronze medallist will close out his Grand Prix assignments at Skate America in Lake Placid, New York where he will battle it out with U.S. champion Chen.
The big question in the ladies category is whether Evgenia Medvedeva can continue her domination. The Russian has lost just one competition since making her senior debut in 2015. The loss came at Rostelecom Cup to teammate Elena Radionova and the compatriots will be competing against each other again this October in Moscow. They will be joined there by veteran Carolina Kostner and two rising Japanese talents in Wakaba Higuchi and Kaori Sakamoto. Medvedeva and Kostner will also both be at the NHK Trophy along with Satoko Miyahara, who had to sit out Worlds due to injury.
Even with being seeded at her home event, Kaetlyn Osmond will have to contend with some stiff opposition at Skate Canada in the shape of former World medallists Anna Pogorilaya and Ashley Wagner and 2016 World Junior champion Marin Honda. In Grenoble, the Canadian will be up against consistent Mai Mihara, former World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, current World Junior champion Alina Zagitova and the mercurial Gracie Gold.
Gabrielle Daleman will need to be at her very best in a deep field at Cup of China that includes Higuchi, Honda, Mihara, Radionova, Tuktamysheva, Radionova, Zagitova and Gold. At Skate America, she will not have it much easier with Miyahara, Sakamoto, Pogorilaya and Wagner all assigned.
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han have drawn back to back events at Cup of China and NHK Trophy. Their path to the Grand Prix Final, a title they have yet to win, looks fairly straightforward.
Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot will duke it out over two rounds with Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford at Skate Canada and Skate America.
European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov may find themselves tested at Rostelecom Cup against Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov and at Internationaux de France against Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will be having a sense of deja vu as they have been selected for Skate Canada and NHK Trophy, the same Grand Prixs they were assigned last season. In Regina, they will come up against Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. The Canadians will then go to Osaka where Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte will be their main challengers.
In 2014, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron made a big splash by winning Cup of China and they will make a return the event for the first time since their famous victory. Former World medallists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev will join them in Beijing. The French will also headline their home Grand Prix in Grenoble with Chock and Bates once more and also Weaver and Poje.
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani will be at Rostelecom Cup and Skate America, the opening and closing Grand Prix competitions. In Moscow, they will take on Bobrova and Soloviev on home soil. The U.S. champions will be odds-on favourites to overcome Cappellini and Lanotte in Lake Placid.
You can find full details on all the 2017/2018 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating assignments here.