Previewing the Not-So-Predictive Grand Prix Final

by Jacquelyn Thayer

This week’s Grand Prix Final features a fair range of U.S. and Canadian teams. In pairs, Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau will make repeat appearances; in dance, last year’s three U.S. entries — Maia and Alex Shibutani, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue — return, joined by returning Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who will be in search of a so-far elusive GPF title.

At least one of these teams will, thanks to both practical math and the odds in two tough fields, miss the Final podium. But how predictive is a Grand Prix Final outcome for the season’s biggest show — the World Championships?

We took a look at Grand Prix Final medal winners in pairs and dance since 2004-05 — the first such event of the IJS era — to see just how many times a couple can expect to maintain, or improve on, their positioning at either Worlds or the Olympics after that mid-season competition.



With caveats for the cases labeled as 0 here — where a team did not compete at Worlds, due to injury or another external factor — as well as cases in which a strong team missed the Grand Prix or GPF and returned later in the season to medal at Worlds1, it’s apparent that the odds are not strong for any single Grand Prix Final podium to repeat in full at the big championships a few months later. 2009-10’s pairs podium was, in fact, the only one of either discipline to perfectly replicate itself at the subsequent Vancouver Olympics. Despite its reputation as the riskier discipline — alongside ice dance’s traditional reputation as a more static discipline in terms of results — pairs have traditionally fared better in repeating GPF success; 8 of the last 12 champion teams have done so, compared with only 5 repeat victories in dance:


On the flip side, across both disciplines, the team with the most tenuous grasp on repeat results is the December bronze medalist — although in four cases that couple has actually moved up the podium by Worlds2:


Worse still, over the 12 years covered here, the odds have been very good that at least one team will find itself off the podium:


The most significant drop over the disciplines, as demonstrated above, was Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier’s move in 2010-11 from GPF bronze to Worlds 10th; in pairs, that honor goes to Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov, from GPF silver to Worlds 7th in 2012-13.

Of course, for a fortunate few GPF medalists, anything less than gold can mean a 12.5% chance for improvement at Worlds: five of 36 ice dance medalists have moved up the podium, along with four of 36 at pairs. Twice in dance, that improving team was Virtue and Moir, who in 2009-10 and 2011-12 followed GPF silver with Olympic and/or World gold. But here, too, there’s no predicting from a Final outcome: 2011-12, their Worlds-winning score actually declined from a GPF silver mark:

*For the 2008 and 2010 Worlds and Olympic scores, the compulsory mark has been removed to harmonize with totals from the GPF, where no compulsory was competed

And given the scoring pace of the season so far, it’s anyone’s guess what GPF outcomes here might mean in the months to come — or, for that matter, how much technical innovation might make or break the top pairs, or how World medalist Savchenko and Bruno Massot’s injury absence from the Final may factor into a Worlds shake-up.

The senior competition gets underway on Thursday, December 8, with pairs taking the ice that day; senior dance begins Friday. Start orders and results can be found here.

  1. Including Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto in 2005-06 and 2008-09, Virtue and Moir in 2008-09 and 2010-11, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov in 2010-11, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in 2012-13, and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron in 2015-16.
  2. Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder in 2007-08, Savchenko and Szolkowy in 2008-09, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han in 2014-15, and Papadakis and Cizeron in 2014-15.