The U.S. went from potentially having three singles skaters in the Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2009 to possibly having none after the Cup of China short program Friday.
World silver medalist Ashley Wagner is in fifth place after performing a triple-double jump combination rather than a triple-triple. Wagner scored 64.36 points, which is 7.84 points behind leader Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada.
If the standings hold and Wagner finishes fifth after the free skate, she will have to wait for the results of next week’s NHK Trophy to see if she qualifies for her fifth straight Grand Prix Final.
December’s Grand Prix Final is the most exclusive event in figure skating, taking the top six skaters from the six-event Grand Prix series by totaling each skater’s two results.
Wagner won Skate America in October, putting her in the driver’s seat for a berth before her short program Friday in her second event.
Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva is already qualified for the Grand Prix Final. If the Cup of China standings hold, Osmond and Russian Yelena Radionova will join her. Two more Russians, Anna Pogorilaya and Maria Sotskova, are in the driver’s seat to qualify at NHK Trophy next week.
Three Japanese skaters — Mai Mihara, Satoko Miyahara and Wakaba Higuchi — are also in the picture.
On the men’s side, China’s Jin Boyang complicated the Grand Prix Final qualifying picture by doing the opposite of Wagner on Friday.
Jin, the world bronze medalist who was fifth at Skate America, topped the Cup of China short program with 96.17 points after landing two quadruple jumps.
He leads a surprise in second place, Israel’s Daniel Samohin, by a whopping 12.7 points. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada is third.
If Jin holds on to win Cup of China, he will pass American Adam Rippon in the Grand Prix Final qualifying standings.
This is key, as Shoma Uno and Javier Fernandez have already qualified for the Grand Prix Final, and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is likely to join them if he performs well at NHK Trophy next week.
Likewise, Chan, who won Skate Canada in October, will qualify for the Grand Prix Final if the standings hold after the free skate Saturday.
That would essentially leave one open men’s Grand Prix Final spot, with Rippon in the clubhouse lead going into NHK Trophy.
Two other Americans are also in the running. Jason Brown can pass Rippon if he finishes fourth or better at NHK. Nathan Chen can pass Rippon if he finishes second or better at NHK.
But Israel’s Oleksii Bychenko could spoil it for all of the Americans if he finishes second or better at NHK, and ahead of Brown and Chen.
The U.S. has already qualified two ice dance couples for the Grand Prix Final — Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue — and should get a third with Maia and Alex Shibutani in second place after the Cup of China short dance.
The U.S. has always qualified at least one singles skater for the Grand Prix Final, which debuted in 1995.
MORE: Figure skating season broadcast scheduleFollow @nzaccardi