The 2021 figure skating season comes to an end with the team event taking place in Osaka, Japan. The competition is taking place under very strict COVID-19 protocols under the guidance of the Government of Japan, the Japan Sports Agency, Osaka Prefecture, and the city of Osaka. There will be some spectators, and the arena will be filled to 50% percent capacity, with each seat vacant in the front, back, left and right adjacent to each other. There will be six countries represented, with two single skaters in men’s & ladies (Italy only has one men’s skater) and one team in pairs and ice dance. Russia collected 9847 points towards qualifying, followed by the United States (8001 points), Japan (6441 points), Canada (5580) and Italy (4021). China qualified with 4537 points but elected not to send a team, allowing France (3905 points) to compete instead.
Men: The battle between the two top skaters in the world continues, as American Nathan Chen and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu square off. Chen captured the men’s World title this season with a come-from-behind victory over Hanyu in Stockholm, Sweden three weeks ago. But with the competition taking place in Osaka, Japan; Hanyu may have the home ice advantage over Chen this weekend. Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada looks to bounce back after a 5th place finish at worlds, while France’s Kevin Aymoz also looks to rebound after placing ninth at Worlds.
Skaters to Watch: Shoma Uno will be the skater for Japan to rely on extra points in the team event. He missed the podium at worlds coming in 4th where Japanese skaters dominated. American Jason Brown will also look for points his team. He finished 7th at worlds. Canadian men will have Nam Nguyen and Roman Sadovsky skating in the team event, it’s their first international event of the season. Other skaters looking to help their teams are Adam Siao Him Fa of France, Daniel Grassl of Italy and Evgeni Semenenko of Russia.
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
2. Nathan Chen (USA)
3. Shoma Uno (JPN)
Ladies: This weekend looks more competitive, as there won’t be a Russian sweep of the podium. But the top two skaters are from that country. Anna Shcherbakova looks to continue her dominance after winning her first ladies World title last month. Teammate Liza Tuktamesheva continues her comeback after placing 2nd on the podium at worlds. American Karen Chen also had a comeback of her own, missing the podium, but securing a third Ladies position at next year’s Olympics and Worlds Championships. Bradie Tennell’s 9th place finish also helped the United States in that category.
Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Rika Kihira and Kaori Sakamoto are poised to help their team with high marks this weekend. Kihira finished a disappointing 7th at worlds last month, while Sakamoto finished one place higher in 6th. Canadian ladies will have Gabby Daleman returning to international competition this weekend. She helped the country secure a gold medal in the team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Teammate Alison Schumacher makes only her third appearance in senior international competition. Other skaters include Maia Mazzara & Lea Serna of France and Lara Naki Gutmann & Ginervra Lavina Negrello of Italy.
1. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS)
2. Rika Kihira (JPN)
3. Liza Tuktamesheva (RUS)
Pairs: Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Alexandr Galliamov pulled off the upset at last month’s world championships, knocking fellow teammates and established Chinese pairs teams, giving the country their first world pairs championship in nine years. They’re also the youngest pairs champions since legendary Russians Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov, who won four titles from 1986-90. They get another chance to prove their victory wasn’t a fluke, but with most of the top pairs teams not participating, they’ll have to wait to make that challenge. Two teams stand out in the field. One is from Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise of Italy. They last made the podium in 2018, when they placed 2nd twice (Rostelecom Cup and Helsinki). The other is from Americans, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. The reigning US National champs shocked the skating world with a top 10 finish at Worlds in only their third competition as a team.
Teams to Watch: Keep your eyes on Canadians Lori-Ann Matte and Thierry Ferland. They placed 5th at Canadian Nationals in 2020 and look to gain valuable international experience. Other teams participating are Cleo Hamon & Denys Strekalin of France and Riku Miura & Ryuichi Kihara of Japan, who are coached by former pairs and Olympic silver medalist, Meagan Duhamel.
1. Anastasia Mishina and Alexandr Galliamov (RUS)
2. Nicole Della Monica & Matteo Guarise (ITA)
3. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier (USA)
Ice Dance: Russia’s Victoria Sinisina & Nikita Katsalapov won the country’s first world Ice Dance title since 2009. They’re the favorites to win the event this weekend, but there a few teams that will challenge them. One is Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (shown right) of the United States. They won in Japan at the NHK Trophy as well as the Four Continents Championships, both in 2018. They finished 9th in Stockholm last month. Another team is Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy. They finished 10th at last month’s championships and also had a 3rd place finish at Europeans in 2019.
Teams to Watch: Japan’s Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto won their first Grand Prix title, albeit a regional version of the NHK Trophy last November. They look to improve on their international standing this weekend. Other teams looking to score points are Adelina Galyavieva & Louis Thauron of France and Carolane Soucisse & Shane Firus of Canada.
1. Victoria Sinisina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)
2. Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
3. Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA)
Final Standing Predictions