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2018 NHK Trophy, the fourth event of the Grand Prix Series, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Hiroshima. The last time this historic city hosted a Grand Prix event was in 1991. Back then, a battle of the titans played out between Midori Ito, Surya Bonaly and Chen Lu. Ito reigned supreme.
This year, Satoko Miyahara is the leading lady. The 20-year-old Kyoto native opened her season with a victory at Skate America, but in Hiroshima she will face a tough challenger in the form of Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva who claimed the Skate Canada crown two weeks ago. Other podium contenders include Mariah Bell of the U.S. and Eunsoo Lim of Korea. The 15-year-old from Gyeonggi-Do opened her first season in the senior ranks with a win at the Asian Open Trophy and a second-place finish at the U.S. International Classic in September.
Shoma Uno, the 2018 Skate Canada champion, headlines a field that includes four men making their senior Grand Prix debuts: Matteo Rizzo of Italy, South Korea’s June Hyoung Lee, Yaroslav Paniot of Ukraine and Alexander Johnson of the U.S. Uno’s main challenge will likely come from Russia’s Sergei Voronov, who claimed the title in 2017. His teammate Dmitri Aliev and Sōta Yamamoto of Japan could be the dark horses in this competition.
Canada’s Kevin Reynolds announced on Oct. 31 that he had to get a new long program following an ongoing dispute with the rights holders of the music he had been using. He had just one week prior to this competition to come up with a new routine or revert to a previous one. The ISU Music Selection list for this competition indicates he has returned to his ″Chrono Trigger/Chrono Cross″ (music by Yasunori Nitsuda) long program from the 2011-2012 season.
In pairs, Russia’s Natalia Zabiiako and Alexander Enbert, victorious in Finland last weekend, China’s Cheng Peng and Yang Jin (second at Skate Canada) and Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (third at Skate Canada), will be in the hunt for hardware in Hiroshima and a berth at the Grand Prix Final.
French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron were scheduled to open their Grand Prix season in Hiroshima. However, Cizeron suffered a back injury in training and the team withdrew on Nov. 6. Their withdrawal opened the door for two teams.
Russia’s Tiffani Zahorski and Jonathan Guerreiro, third at Skate America, could claim their first Grand Prix title. A victory in Japan would guarantee them a trip to the Grand Prix Final.
Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons of the U.S. have shown marked improvement this season. The siblings mined silver at their two Challenger Series events in September and are also strong contenders to capture the title.
Who will claim the bronze medal? Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson (fifth at Skate America) are at the top of the list. Hometown favorites Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto (third at the U.S. International Classic) will make their Grand Prix debut on home soil — they could be the spoilers.
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