Mao Asada will skate in a Grand Prix event for the first time since December 2013, and Javier Fernandez will do so for the first time since he became World champion, at the Cup of China in Beijing this weekend.
Asada, 25, looks to add to her 14 career Grand Prix titles, most among active skaters. She’s already a winner this year, topping the free skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 3 against a field that included World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and top Americans Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold.
Asada, known for her triple Axel, won her last Grand Prix competition, the 2013 Grand Prix Final. Then she finished a disappointing sixth in Sochi in February 2014, won her third World title one month later and took the 2014-15 season off from competition.
At Cup of China, Asada’s biggest competition could be Yelena Radionova, the World bronze medalist, European silver medalist and Russian national champion. Radionova missed a scheduled appearance at the smaller Finlandia Trophy in October, withdrawing due to health reasons.
Americans in the China field include Karen Chen, the U.S. bronze medalist who was too young for last season’s senior World Championships. Chen, 16, finished fifth at Skate America two weeks ago.
On the men’s side, the World champion Fernandez is coming off a second-place showing at the Japan Open, topped by 17-year-old Shoma Uno.
Uno went on to finish second to American Max Aaron at Skate America. However, Fernandez beat three-time World champion Patrick Chan by 17.1 points at the Japan Open. And Chan last week won Skate Canada by 11.6 over Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who didn’t skate at the Japan Open.
Fernandez faces little accomplished competition this week. Nobody else in the men’s field has earned an Olympic or Worlds medal. China’s Yan Han is the only other skater to win a Grand Prix event, and that was two years ago.
Icenetwork.com will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance short programs and free skates. NBC will have coverage Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET.
Women’s short program — Friday, 4 a.m. ET (Asada at 4:54 a.m.)
Men’s short program — Friday, 6 a.m. ET (Fernandez at 7:26 a.m.)
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 3:35 a.m. ET
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 5:45 a.m. ET
MORE FIGURE SKATING: Full season broadcast schedule
Top Grand Prix season scores
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 206.01 (Skate America)
2. Gracie Gold (USA) — 202.80 (Skate America)
3. Ashley Wagner (USA) — 202.52 (Skate Canada)
4. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
5. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
3. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
5. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)
6. Adam Rippon (USA) — 239.69 (Skate Canada)
7. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 238.82 (Skate Canada)
8. Jason Brown (USA) — 238.47 (Skate America)