Past U.S. champions Gracie Gold and Max Aaron can this weekend clinch berths in the season’s most exclusive figure skating competition, the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona in December.
Gold, the 2014 U.S. champion and fourth-place finisher at the 2014 Olympics and 2015 World Championships, will clinch her second berth in the six-skater Grand Prix Final if she wins Trophée Bompard in Bordeaux, France.
The short programs are Friday, and the free skates are Saturday.
Gold is in a strong position to make the Grand Prix Final if she finishes anywhere on the podium in Bordeaux, thanks to her runner-up at Skate America three weeks ago. She also qualified for last season’s Grand Prix Final but withdrew before the event with a foot injury.
Skaters qualify for the Grand Prix Final based on their results during the six-event Grand Prix series that began with Skate America and concludes in two weeks.
Gold’s competition in Bordeaux will include the top skater from last season, Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. The World champion Tuktamysheva is not the dominant force of 2014-15, however, as she struggled in her Skate Canada short program two weeks ago and finished second to Ashley Wagner overall.
Other podium threats include Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya, the darling of the Sochi Olympic team event, and Japanese veteran Kanako Murakami.
On the men’s side, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron will make the Grand Prix Final if he finishes first or second in Bordeaux. Aaron would become the first American man to make the Grand Prix Final since Jeremy Abbott in 2011.
Like Gold, Aaron will be in a strong position to make the Grand Prix Final if he’s as low as third in Bordeaux, perhaps even fourth. That’s because he won Skate America three weeks ago.
Aaron may need that cushion. The men’s field in Bordeaux includes three-time World champion Patrick Chan, who won Skate Canada with the highest score this Grand Prix season. Plus, Japanese teen Shoma Uno, who rebounded from a poor Skate America short program to finish second to Aaron, 1.52 points behind.
There’s also Russian Maksim Kovtun and Japan’s Daisuke Murakami, who both won Grand Prix events last season.
The pairs competition will be the most anticipated of the Grand Prix season with the return of Sochi Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov. The married pair will compete at the top international level for the first time since the Winter Games.
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 12-2 p.m. ET.
Women’s short program — Friday, 9:30 a.m. ET (Gold at 10:50)
Men’s short program — Friday, 12:50 p.m. ET (Chan at 1:23)
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 12:30 p.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. Mao Asada (JPN) — 197.48 (Cup of China)
5. Rika Hongo (JPN) — 195.76 (Cup of China)
6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 188.99 (Skate Canada)
7. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 188.07 (Skate America)
1. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 271.14 (Skate Canada)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 270.55 (Cup of China)
3. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.23 (Cup of China)
4. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 259.54 (Skate Canada)
5. Max Aaron (USA) — 258.95 (Skate America)
6. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 257.43 (Skate America)
7. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 252.25 (Skate Canada)