Meryl Davis, Charlie White

NHK Trophy preview, broadcast times

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Four weeks into the Grand Prix season, fans will see the strongest field yet at the NHK Trophy in Tokyo on Friday and Saturday.

The lineups are impressive from American and international perspectives with reigning ice dance World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White making their second Grand Prix appearance after winning Skate America and the season debut of Javier Fernandez, the reigning World bronze medalist.

Here’s the broadcast schedule:

Universal Sports online broadcast schedule
Friday — 12:50 a.m. (pairs/men’s/women’s short programs)
Friday — 10:05 p.m. (short dance/pairs free)
Saturday — 10 p.m. (free dance)

NBC broadcast schedule
Sunday — 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Here are event-by-event preview:

Men
While Fernandez will be one to watch, so will almost the entire men’s field, which includes 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi.

Takahashi stumbled in his Grand Prix opener last month, finishing fourth at Skate America. Americans Adam Rippon and Max Aaron beat Takahashi in Detroit, Rippon registering a personal best on his way to silver while Aaron was third.

It will be an excellent weekend for the Americans — Rippon and Aaron are joined by three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott – to measure themselves against Fernandez and Takahashi, as well as Japan’s Takahito Mura and Nobunari Oda, the latter who won bronze at Skate Canada two weeks ago.

Abbott, specifically, will look for a strong showing after finishing a disappointing sixth at Skate Canada. He was ninth at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Women
Japan has a strong contingent among the ladies as well, most notably Mao Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion. Asada will look to build on her Skate America win with her triple Axel and strong spins. Countrywoman Akiko Suzuki, 28, was second a week later at Skate Canada.

Gracie Gold, 18, who won silver at the U.S. Championships in January, took bronze at Skate Canada and will have two more weeks under her belt with veteran coach Frank Carroll, whom she began working with in September. Gold is joined by Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion who was fourth at the Vancouver Games.

Russia’s Alena Leonova is making her Grand Prix season debut, though the 2012 World silver medalist was a disappointing 13th at the same competition this year. More eyes might be on Yelena Radyonova, 14, who was third at Skate America but is ineligible for the Olympics because of age restrictions.

Ice Dance
Davis and White look not only to win gold in Tokyo, but also to capture their 14th straight Grand Prix title, a streak dating to 2009 and includes Skate America in October.

It’s that event that gives the World champions confidence. They scored 188.23 in Detroit, seven points higher than Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at Skate Canada the following week.

Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte, second at Skate America, will push Davis and White at NHK.

American siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani were third at Skate America, where they debuted their Michael Jackson medley free dance, Alex falling on a transitional passage. Russians Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov are another couple to watch, having placed fifth at the 2012 World Championships.

Pairs
Russia’s best bet for an Olympic gold medal in figure skating is in pairs, where Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov are the reigning World champions. Volosozhar and Trankov broke their own world records at Skate America and shouldn’t run into too much trouble to win again in Tokyo.

U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir hope to improve from sixth in Detroit.

Yuna Kim sets return from foot injury

Lara Gut wins Lake Louise super-G, closes gap on Mikaela Shiffrin

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 22: Lara Gut of Switzerland takes 1st place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Giant Slalom on October 22, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Michel Cottin/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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The early portion of the Alpine skiing season indicates the battle for the women’s World Cup overall title could be very close between Lara Gut and Mikaela Shiffrin.

Gut stated her case again Sunday, winning a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, picking up 100 points and drawing to within 28 of the leader Shiffrin in the standings. They are through seven of a scheduled 37 races.

Shiffrin, so strong this fall, took a step back with a 34th-place finish under falling snow Sunday, the race delayed by 75 minutes due to the weather.

LAKE LOUISE: Full results | Race replay

Shiffrin had placed 18th and 13th in her first World Cup downhills the previous two days. She was 15th in the Lake Louise super-G one year ago, her World Cup debut in that discipline.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion and a World Cup giant slalom winner, is turning into an overall title threat for two reasons.

One, her addition of speed disciplines to pick up extra points (she added 33 points this weekend). Two, the absence of past overall champions Lindsey Vonn and Anna Veith due to injuries and Tina Maze due to a retirement (after a home finale).

Shiffrin’s best World Cup overall standings finish before this season was fourth two seasons ago.

Gut, though, is a proven winner in downhill, super-G and giant slalom and arguably hitting her prime at age 25. Shiffrin is 21 and not entirely comfortable in speed races.

Shiffrin can look forward to the upcoming World Cup schedule. Nine of the next 12 races are technical events — her specialties — giving her a great chance to hold the World Cup overall standings lead into mid-January.

The women’s World Cup moves to Sestriere, Italy, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin has won her last 10 World Cup slaloms, two shy of the record streak for any women’s event.

MORE: Ted Ligety seconds behind in continued return from torn ACL

Ted Ligety seconds behind as he continues return from ACL tear

VAL D'ISERE, FRANCE - DECEMBER 04: Ted Ligety of USA competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on December 4, 2016 in Val d'Isere, France (Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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If Ted Ligety is to become the world’s best giant slalom skier again, it’s going to take some time.

On Sunday, the Olympic and world champion placed 11th in his second GS since tearing his right ACL in January.

The 32-year-old Ligety was 2.63 seconds behind first-time French winner Mathieu Faivre after two runs in Val d’Isère, France.

“I didn’t feel that comfortable to push that hard and it showed in the time,” Ligety told media in Val d’Isère, according to the U.S. Ski Team.

Ligety was ninth following the first run, 1.37 seconds back of Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who fell to second, .49 behind Faivre, after the last run.

Ligety failed to build on his season-opening fifth place in Soelden, Austria, from Oct. 23, his first race in nine months. He said after Saturday’s finish that he feels like he’s skiing better than he was in October.

“I just need to be able to put it together and have the confidence to push hard,” Ligety said.

He has gone five straight World Cup giant slaloms without a podium, his longest drought since the 2006-07 season.

The U.S. put five men in the top 30 overall, with Ligety joined by Tommy Ford (14th), Tim Jitloff (18th), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (22nd) and David Chodounsky (27th).

VAL D’ISERE: Full results | Run 2 replay

NBCSN will air coverage of the Val d’Isère giant slalom on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, also streaming here, with six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller as an analyst.

The men’s World Cup stays in Val d’Isère for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend.

VIDEO: High-speed crash in Lake Louise women’s downhill