From the Great Wall of China, we travel across the China Sea to the land of the rising sun, where the NHK Trophy will take place in Tokyo, Japan this weekend. 50 skaters will compete for points in the ISU standings that will count towards the Grand Prix Final later this season.
Analysis: Spain’s Javier Fernandez makes his Grand Prix debut this weekend. He’ll have his work cut out for him, as there will be a full slate of quality skaters, including Japan’s Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi, and Nobunari Oda, who is coming off his bronze medal performance at Skate America last month. Takahashi needs to improve on his fourth place-finish at Skate America last month and needs a win this weekend in order to improve his chances for the Grand Prix Final.
Skaters to Watch: In addition to Japan’s three skaters, the USA also have three skaters in Tokyo this weekend, including Adam Rippon, Max Aaron, and Jeremy Abbott. A good performance by Japan’s Takahito Mura could put three Japanese on the podium.
1. Nobunari Oda (JPN)
2. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN)
3. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
Analysis: The Ladies event is also shaping up to be very competitive, as well. Coming off her Gold medal performance at Skate America, Japan’s Mao Asada has a good chance to qualify for the GP Final if she can capture NHK. But she’ll have to be her teammate, Skate Canada silver medalist Akiko Suzuki. Russia’s Elena Radionova took home bronze at Skate America last month, as did American Gracie Gold at Skate Canada bronze medalist Gracie Gold and will challenge for the podium again.
Skaters to Watch: American Mirai Nagasu caught a bad break at last year’s Nationals with a 7th place finish. A good showing here this weekend would be a boost of confidence for what could be her last season in amateur figure skating. Russia’s Alena Leonova will skate her first Grand Prix this season.
1. Mao Asada (JPN)
2. Akiko Suzuki (JPN)
3. Gracie Gold (USA)
Analysis: Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov easily took Gold at Skate America last month and will be looking for their second Grand Prix victory this season. Their main competition will be from China’s Wenjing Sui & Cong Han, who took silver at Skate Canada silver medalists and Cup of China bronze medalists, Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang. Both are also eying a Grand Prix Final birth, as well. Americans Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir had a disappointing 6th place finish at Skate America and will look to gain some more valuable experience.
Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara will be skating together for the first time in Grand Prix action. Also World Junior Champions Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier of the USA will look to improve on the Senior circuit.
1. Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS)
2. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han (CHN)
3. Cheng Peng & Hao Zhang (CHN)
Analysis: Americans Meryl Davis & Charlie White were in a class by themselves, as they cruised to an easy victory at Skate America last month. They should be able to win this weekend. The fight for second and third shapes up to be an interesting battle between Americans Maia & Alex Shibutani and Italians Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. Both went 2-3 last month at Skate America.
Skaters to Watch: Two teams make their debut this weekend that could make waves. 2013 European silver medalists Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov and 2012 World Junior Champions Victoria Sinitsina/Ruslan Zhiganshin, both of Russia.
1. Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA)
2. Maia & Alex Shibutani (USA)
3. Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte (ITA)