Helsinki is Third Stop for 2018 Grand Prix, Replaces Cup of China
by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Before the ISU Congress in late May and early June, the third Grand Prix of this season was planned in Beijing and named the Cup of China. But during the Congress, the Chinese federation informed the ISU that the country was unwilling to hold any ISU competitions during this season, not even in speed skating and Short track. The first reason announced (the need to focus on preparing for the Winter Games in Beijing in 2022) were diplomatic ones and not the real ones. The real reason, however, appears to be that the Chinese Minister of Sport was upset that two Chinese judges at the Olympic Games were banned for one and for two years for nationally influenced judging; and that two Short track skaters were disqualified during the Games for unfair behavior towards other athletes.
In order to keep the Grand Prix in Asia, the ISU asked South Korea to hold the Grand Prix either in Seoul or in the Olympic figure skating rink in Gangneung. But South Korea did not want to organize the competition within four months. The ISU then asked other countries, and Finland said yes right away because the Finnish federation had asked several times before to get a Grand Prix. Everything looks good now and as well organized as the other Grand Prix.
Therefore the third Grand Prix takes place in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. The modern Hartwall Arena, where the World Championships 2017 had been held, was not available on this first weekend of November because of ice hockey matches and a music event. But the older Jäähalli (the Finnish word for Ice rink) of Helsinki where the World Championships 1983 (in which Rosalynn Sumners and Scott Hamilton won for the USA) and the European Championships 1993 had taken place was available. It has 8.000 seats, enough even if several thousand Japanese fans came to see their stars.
The biggest star at this Grand Prix is the Japanese Olympic Champions Yuzuru Hanyu who if the crowd favorite as well as the favorite in the men’s competition. Other men who might win a medal are world bronze medalist Mikhail Kolyada from Russia, Keiji Tanaka, also from Japan, Boyang Jin from China, Junhwan Cha from South Korea and Michael Brezina from the Czech Republic.
In the ladies competition, another Olympic Gold Medalist is competing and the favorite, it is Alina Zagitova from Russia. Other medal candidates are Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, Loena Hendrickx from Belgium, Stanislava Konstantinova from Russia, Viveca Lindfors from Finland and Yuna Shiraiwa from Japan.
In pairs, Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert from Russia are the favorites, but Nicole della Monica & Matteo Guarise from Italy, the North Koreans Tae Ok Ryom & Ju Sik Kim as well Miriam Ziegler & Severin Kiefer hope as well for a medal.
The two top couples in ice dancing are the Russians Alexandra Stepanova & Ivan Bukin as well as the Italians Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri. The third place seems wide open: The Spanish couple Sara Hurtado & Kirill Khaliavin hopes to win it as well as the two US teams of Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter as well as Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko or the second Russian team of Betina Popova & Sergey Mozgov.