NHK Trophy boasts one the strongest fields of the Series, with the reigning World champions in all four disciplines slated to compete in Osaka. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara returns to competition after sitting out the second half of last season to recover from a left hip stress fracture.
The top contenders in the ladies event are Evgenia Medvedeva, fresh off a victory at Rostelecom Cup three weeks ago; Italy’s Carolina Kostner, and Mirai Nagasu of the U.S., who will be looking for a higher finish than she achieved in Russia. If Nagasu stays on her feet and lands the all-important jumps, she will be in the mix. Yuna Shiraiwa of Japan and Russia’s Polina Tsurskaya are scheduled to make their senior Grand Prix debuts at this event.
UPDATE: Yuzuru Hanyu claimed the last two Japanese Grand Prix titles and though the expectation was that he would make it three in a row in Osaka without any serious challenge, he was forced to withdraw on Friday morning due to an ankle injury suffered in a practice session on Thursday while attempting a quad Lutz.
Canada’s Patrick Chan withdrew from this event a week earlier following a disastrous showing on home turf at Skate Canada and was replaced by Keegan Messing. Japan’s Daisuke Murakami was also forced to withdraw – he is suffering from acute pneumonia. His replacement is Kazuki Tomono, the reigning junior Japanese champion.
Adam Rippon and Jason Brown of the U.S. are the top two podium contenders behind Hanyu. Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs will also be in the hunt for a podium finish.
Reigning World champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China are the front-runners to capture the pairs title after their runaway victory at Cup of China last weekend. Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, who placed third at Finlandia Trophy and second at Rostelecom Cup, are at the top of the list for a podium finish. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the U.S. and Canada’s Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau will also battle it out for a place on the podium.
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, victorious at Skate Canada, headline the ice dance event. Any one of a number of teams in this field could land on the second and third steps of the podium. Whoever brings their A-game will have the edge. Contenders include Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte; Skate Canada bronze medalists, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the U.S., and Israel’s Isabella Tobias Lites and Ilya Tkachenko. The Danish team of Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, who danced into third place at Finlandia Trophy in early October, will also be challenging for a podium finish.
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