The 6th and final leg of the Grand Prix season stops in Osaka, Japan with the NHK Trophy. Here are the skaters and teams who have qualified in Barcelona next month.
|Maxim Kovtun (RUS)||Elena Radionova (RUS)||Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov (RUS)||Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)|
|Javier Fernandez (ESP)||Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS)||Peng Cheng & Zhang Hao (CHN)||Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron (FRA)|
|Tatsuki Machida (JPN)||Anna Pogorilaya (RUS)||Sui Wenjing & Han Cong (CHN)||Maia & Alex Shibutani (USA)|
|Julia Lipnitskaya (RUS)||Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (CAN)|
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Here’s our picks and who we think will make the final in two weeks! Grand Prix Final selections in BOLD.
Analysis: Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu returns from injury to compete in his home competition. Despite a collision with China’s Han Yun three weeks ago, he finished silver and can move on to the Grand Prix final with a win this weekend. His main competition will be from his teammate Takahito Mura, who took the gold medal at Skate Canada last month. Russia’s Sergei Voronov took home silver at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow two weeks ago. All three can move on to Barcelona later this month. Also contending will be American Jeremy Abbott, Canadian Jeremy Ten, Ivan Righini of Italy and, Jin Seo Kim of Korea.
Skaters to Watch: Belgian skater Jorik Hendrickx suffered a severe knee injury and was a last minute withdrawal. So all eyes will be on a couple of impressive new skaters. Ross Miner of the United States had some impressive performances in pre-GP competitions (1st at the Skate Canada Autumn Classic and two 2nd place finishes at US International FS Classic and Gardena Spring Trophy). Another American Joshua Farris makes his Grand Prix season debut this weekend.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
- Takahito Mura (JPN)
- Sergei Voronov (RUS)
Analysis: Four spaces have been grabbed by Russian skaters. They have an outside chance of grabbing a fifth spot with 2012 World silver medalist Alena Leonova, who needs to outright win this weekend. It will be a hard task with three top skaters. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara and Kanako Murakami have been hugely successful this Grand Prix season, with Miyahara winning bronze at Skate Canada last month and Murakami winning bronze at Cup of China three weeks ago. American Gracie Gold was supposed to cruise to the Grand Prix final, but inconsistencies with her performance has hampered her ability, finishing bronze at Skate America last month.
Skaters to Watch: It could be a wide open competition for the third spot, with challenges from Canada’s Gabby Daleman, American Polina Edmunds and Elene Gedevanishvili of Georgia. Of the three, Edmunds could pose the biggest threat, after finishing 4th at Cup of China. Daleman finished 5th at Cup of China and has skated very well considering the talent she’s competing against.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Gracie Gold (USA)
- Satoko Miyahara (JPN)
- Alena Leonova (RUS)
Analysis: The favorite in this competition will be from Canadians Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford. The world bronze medalists won easily at Skate Canada last month and will look to punch their ticket to Barcelona this weekend. Their main competition will be from Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov of Russia, who won at Skate America last month. World Junior Champions Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin of China come into NHK Trophy with a silver medal from Cup of China. Germany’s Mari Vartmann & Aaron van Cleave are the fourth contenders, despite a poor 8th place finish at Skate Canada. They took 3rd at the non-GP Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria earlier this month.
Skaters to Watch: The Russians had three teams competing this weekend. However, Arina Cherniavskaia & Antonino Souza-Korderu were a late scratch due to injury. Vera Bazarova & Andrei Deputat made their Grand Prix debut at Cup of China finishing 4th. Japan’s hope for the podium will be from Narumi Takahashi & Ryuichi Kihara. However, their chances are slim, as they finished 7th at the Rostelecom Cup. Americans Dee Dee Leng & Simon Shnapir made their senior debut in Moscow two weeks ago and finished a respectable 6th.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford (CAN)
- Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS)
- Xiaoyu Yu & Yang Jin (CHN)
Analysis: Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje are looking sew up their trip to Barcelona. They’re the clear favorite in this competition this weekend after winning Skate Canada last month. However their slot isn’t guaranteed, as they have two teams to watch out for. Great Britain’s Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland finished with a bronze at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow two weeks ago. The other is Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov of Russia. With only their 2nd competition together, they finished in 4th place and will look to improve for Russian Nationals. Another Russian team who looks to medal is Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin, who finished 4th at Skate Canada.
Skaters to Watch: Japan’s Cathy and Chris Reed have struggled in years past due to injuries and inconsistencies in their program. This weekend will be their first competition of the season and will be interesting to see what they’ve been able to accomplish this weekend. Two other teams that may surprise are Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi, who finished 5th at Skate Canada and Americans Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, who gain more experience in their second competition at a senior team, finishing 6th at Rostelecom Cup.
Smooth’s Pick –
- Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje (CAN)
- Penny Coomes & Nicholas Buckland (GBR)
- Victoria Sinitsina & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)