Preview: 2023 Grand Prix Final

by Matteo Morelli

China is going to host the 2023/2024 Grand Prix Final, to take place at the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing. The six junior and six senior ice dance teams that ranked top after all the Grand Prix events are going to battle to earn one of the important medals awarded at this event. Let’s have a look at who is going to compete in Beijing, and how they enter the event after the Grand Prix Series.

Qualified teams – Senior

This year’s Final has some interesting stats in the senior’s field:

  • Five of the six teams that qualified and competed at the Grand Prix Final last year are going to compete again at this year’s Final (new to this event are Lajoie & Lagha);
  • All reigning world medallists (Chock & Bates, Guignard & Fabbri, Gilles & Poirier) and Grand Prix Final medallists are qualified again at this year’s Final: they are incredibly experienced teams, with each having skated together for at least thirteen years;
  • Chock/Bates have the highest number of attendances to a Grand Prix Final, with this being their seventh; they also have the highest number of Grand Prix Final medals, with four silvers collected so far;
  • Eight of the twelve athletes at this event are at least thirty years of age: those in their twenties are Fear & Gibson and Lajoie & Lagha;
  • Four teams train at the Ice Academy of Montreal;
  • Canada has very high chances of winning a medal, with half of the teams at this event representing the maple leaf flag (it is worth reminding that this season’s World Championships will be held in Montreal, Canada).

Let’s have a look at each team individually.

Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, Canada – 30 points

Gilles & Poirier won gold at both Skate Canada and Cup of China, and they recorded the highest scores of the Grand Prix Series this season. The winner of last year’s Grand Prix Final will try to replicate the same result and lead this year’s Final. Their free dance to music from “Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights” takes them to a different style compared to what they are used to show.

Madison Chock & Evan Bates, USA – 30 points

Chock & Bates won Skate America and Grand Prix of Espoo, thus also entering this event with 30 points as Gilles & Poirier. Unlike the shaky debut they suffered last season, they started this season with strong and convincing programmes. Their free dance looks at the theme of time, skated on music by Pink Floyd. After a silver medal won at last year’s Final, the reigning World Champions will aim to improve their result this year and win that Grand Prix Final gold medal they are still missing.

Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, Italy – 28 points

Guignard & Fabbri won gold at Grand Prix de France and silver at NHK Trophy. They will try to earn another Grand Prix Final medal, after winning a bronze at last year’s Final in their home country. This year, they started the season in top form, with strong programmes including their free dance on music from “The theory of everything”, which they shared is more aligned to their personal style.

Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, Great Britain – 28 points

After winning a silver medal at Skate Canada, Fear & Gibson won their first Grand Prix gold medal at NHK Trophy, making history for their country as the first Grand Prix winners for Great Britain. They enter the second Grand Prix Final of their career, hoping to improve from their fourth-place finish from last year. Their free dance is based on music by the iconic movie “Rocky”, that they perform on the ice with full characterization.

Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen, Canada – 26 points

Fournier Beaudry & Sørensen won silver medals at Grand Prix de France and Grand Prix of Espoo. This is going to be their second Grand Prix Final, where they will try to shine with their “Top gun” rhythm dance and “Notre Dame de Paris” free dance, programmes that keep growing throughout the season.

Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, Canada – 26 points

Lajoie & Lagha won silver at Skate America and Cup of China. They are entering the first Grand Prix Final of their career, where they will skate to their Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” rhythm dance and their free dance that is infused with lightness and emotional intensity.

Qualified Teams – Junior

Following a total of seven Junior Grand Prix events, these are the top six teams that qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final:

  • Leah Neset & Artem Markelov, USA – 30 points: they won the events in Thailand and Japan, allowing them to qualify for their first Junior Grand Prix Final;
  • Darya Grimm & Michail Savitskiy, Germany – 30 points: with wins at the events in Poland and Austria, they enter their second Final after having competed at last year’s one in Turin, Italy, where they ended in fifth place;
  • Elizabeth Tkachenko & Alexei Kiliakov, Israel – 28 points: they won the event in Armenia, and earned silver and the one in Japan, qualifying for their first Final;
  • Mariia Pinchuk & Mykyta Pogorielov, Ukraine – 28 points: with a win in Turkey and a silver medal from Poland, they also qualified for their first Final;
  • Yahli Pedersen & Jeffrey Chen, USA – 26 points: at their first year together as a team, they earned silver medals from the events in Turkey and Hungary;
  • Celina Fradji & Jean-Hans Fourneaux, France – 24 points: with a silver from Thailand and bronze from Japan, they access their second Final, after having competed at the one in Turin last year.

Event info: Teams have official practices from Wednesday, December 6. The rhythm dance kicks off on Friday, December 8, with the junior starting from 3:30pm (CST) and the senior from 9:00pm (CST); the free dance occurs on Saturday, December 9, starting with the junior competition from 1:00pm (CST) and the senior competition at 5:50pm (CST).