There are six total Grand Prixs which are contested in six successive weeks in the fall prior to the final. Each skater or pair/dance team is assigned a maximum of two Grand Prixs, and those who have two Grand Prixs are the only ones with feasible chances to qualify to the Grand Prix Final. The top three finishers from last year's worlds do not compete at the same events, and the same is true for the 4th-6th place finishers. Other factors that determine whether a skater receives two Grand Prix assignments include ISU world ranking, season's best total from last year, and placement at last season's Worlds, Grand Prix Final, and Junior Grand Prix Final. Inevitably, the strength of the competition is greater at some events, particularly when skaters become injured and have to withdraw from a competition. Nonetheless, all events are weighted equally. There is a points system alotted to determine who will compete at the Grand Prix Final, set to take place in Tokyo this December. A first place finish receives 15 points, 2nd place 13 points, 3rd place 11 points, 4th place nine, 5th place seven, 6th place five, 7th place four, and 8th place three. The top six skaters or pair/dance teams in each discipline qualify to the final and all competitors enter the competition with a clean sleight.
The 2009 Trophée Bompard will be contested next week in Paris, France, and will serve as the first major competition of the season, with five world champions scheduled to compete. Although the skaters don't wish to be at their optimum at this time, they still want to be in good enough form to place at this competition, and preferably medal, so as to augment their chances of qualifying to the Grand Prix Final. While it is not the end of the earth if a skater doesn't qualify to the Final, it is of his own benefit to do so to allow for greater confidence and political backing at the skater's national championship and onward to the Olympic Games.
In the pairs event, current two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany are coming off of a victory at the Nebelhorn Trophy just two weeks ago. However, their shaky long program at that competition means there is much room for improvement at this competition, although looking at the competition it is unlikely the German pair will be defeated regardless of how they skate.
The 2007 world champion Brian Joubert will be competing at his home Grand Prix event for the 2nd straight year, and Joubert is hardly immune to nerves associated with a home crowd, finishing 4th at this event last year and suffering a defeat to relative unknown Florent Amodio at the French Masters competition just recently. Joubert will not be competing against Amodio at this competition, but should face tight competition from 2009 World Junior Champion Adam Rippon, 2008 European Champion Tomas Verner and compatriots Yannick Ponsero (2009 French Champion) and Alban Preaubert (2006 Grand Prix Finalist).
Canada's premier ice dance team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, will be competing for the first time since last year's World Championships, where they edged training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White by a mere .04. The Canadians were not present at the Grand Prix last season because Virtue underwent surgery on her legs after it was discovered that she has an unusual condition where her legs were unable to expand and contract normally. Virtue and Moir should have an easy victory at this event, although the French will be well represented by Nathalie Pechalat and Fabien Bourzat, who snuck into the top five at last year's World Championships.
The ladies event is often jokingly referred to as the "ladiezzzz event" by fans, but the competition will be anything other than a snooze fest in Paris, where the deepest ladies Grand Prix field among the six events will take the ice. Defending world champion Yu-Na Kim will face off her top rival, Japan's Mao Asada, while in the process debuting her new programs. Asada recently performed her long program at the Japan Open, but will debut her short program in Paris. Italy's Carolina Kostner is making her first competitive appearence since her nightmare free skate in Los Angeles, where she dropped from 5th place in the short program to 12th overall with a disastrous skate. Three-time Japanese world team member Yukari Nakano and current U.S. bronze medalist Caroline Zhang will also look to stir up the standings. The 2006 Olympic silver medalist, Sasha Cohen, was slated to have Trophée Eric Bompard be her return to competition, but she recently withdrew due to tendonitis in her right calf.
In my next post, I will breakdown of the competitiors who will be competing in each discipline, and my predictions as to where each skater will finish in Paris.
That is all.