In the men competition, two are the skaters who aims for the final: Tatsuki Machida and Maxim Kovtun. Tatsuki Machida of Japan surprised anyone by winning the title at Skate America where not only did he make the final a very achievable goal, but also showed himself as a tough contender to get a spot in the Japanese Olympic team. Winning a Grand prix event he gained 15 points in the standings and he needs to rank no lower than fourth in order to qualify for the final.
The qualification will be slightly more difficult for Maxim Kovtun, who got the silver medal at Cup of China and therefore needs at least another silver medal. Kovtun is still a very young skater (he debuted in the senior circuit some months ago at Europeans) and may not have the experience to nail a crucial competition in front of the home crowd yet as he will have the attentions on himself as Plushenko has recently withdrawn. Come what may, it is pretty reasonable to consider him a medal favorite given the difficulty of his programs that feature five quads and three triple axels in total.
Surprisingly not in the battle for the final, Javier Fernandez will want here to redeem himself after a not so brilliant competition at NHK Trophy where he ranked fifth. He won’t qualify for the final even if he wins the competition, but as a reigning world medalist it would be important for him to compete according to his standards and giving himself a boost of confidence as the Olympic season progresses. He claimed that after NHK Trophy some judges advised him to go back to the Chaplin free program of last year, and it will be interesting to see whether he took or not that advice.