Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu
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Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu make Grand Prix Helsinki rarity; schedule

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Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu are in this week’s Grand Prix of Helsinki field, marking the first top-level event with both reigning Olympic singles figure skating champions in 26 years.

The last was the 1992 World Championships with Kristi Yamaguchi and Viktor Petrenko.

The last time multiple Olympic singles champions (reigning or not) competed in the same event was when Brian BoitanoKatarina Witt and Petrenko came out of professional skating for the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games (unless counting Yevgeny Plushenko and Yuna Kim at Sochi 2014, where Plushenko only did the team event).

Most gold medalists fade from competition after the Games, but both Zagitova and Hanyu have a full slate this season.

Each won lower-level events to start things off last month, but it begins in earnest at the first Grand Prix event ever held in Finland. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of every session starting Friday.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 9 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
10:45 a.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
12:45 p.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Saturday 6:30 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
11:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
1:30 p.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Sunday 7 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
1 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

Neither PyeongChang gold medalist is untouchable this fall.

Zagitova proved mortal at the world championships in March, falling thrice in her free skate and finishing fifth, her only loss in a little more than a year of senior international competition. The 16-year-old won Nebelhorn Trophy a month ago with the world’s highest score this season by a whopping 17 points.

Only one other skater from this season’s top 10 is in the Helsinki field — Japanese Kaori Sakamoto, coming off her second straight Skate America silver medal.

Zagitova’s season ramps up in December, with likely showdowns with Olympic silver medalist and former training partner Yevgenia Medvedeva at the Grand Prix Final and Russian nationals.

Hanyu faces more of a test in Helsinki.

Though the Japanese megastar won his September opener in Canada, he ranks fifth in the world by scores on the young season. Among those he trails is Russian Mikhail Kolyada, the world bronze medalist who is in this week’s field.

As is Jin Boyang, the Olympic fourth-place finisher who competes for the first time since falling five times in the world championships free skate.

Hanyu may be targeting 280.57 points, the world-leading score posted by Nathan Chen at Skate America two weeks ago while attempting half his top-end number of quadruple jumps. He would do well to simply win his Grand Prix opener for the first time in his ninth season.

The Helsinki pairs’ and dance fields lack the singles star power with none of the top-five finishers from PyeongChang.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: Medvedeva thanks Brian Orser for late-night Skate Canada talk

Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight action at European Championships

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez competes for what is expected to be the final time this weekend at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is also looking to defend her title in the ladies’ field.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program starting on Wednesday, and NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage.

MORE: Schedule/ How to watch

Men

Fernandez, the 2018 PyeongChang bronze medalist, owns six European titles. No man since Austrian Karl Schaefer – who won eight consecutive European titles beginning in 1929 – has won as many straight titles as Fernandez. Fernandez traded world titles during the last Olympic quadrennial with his training partner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. They both train in Toronto under Brian Orser.

Also in the field are Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, who most recently finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final at age 28, and three Russian men: Mikhail Kolyada, Maxim Kovtun, and Alexander Samarin.

Ladies

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Zagitova could lead a Russian podium sweep at the 2019 European Championships with teammates Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova.

The competition-within-the-competition at Europeans is also notable: Russia will not choose their World team until after the event. For example, two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is not competing at Europeans, and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was already told to train for Worlds despite not competing at Europeans.

Pairs

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres will try and buck a trend at Europeans, where teams representing Russia or the Soviet Union have won 47 of the last 54 titles. Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are looking for a three-peat, though have been inconsistent so far this season and recently returned to last season’s short program.

James and Cipres missed out on bronze by 0.01 points at the 2018 Europeans, and could become the first French pair to win the event since 1932. The last non-Russian team to win Europeans was Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in 2011.

Ice dance

Three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France should coast to the gold medal in Minsk for a fifth consecutive title. Other dance teams have won more European titles, but no team has ever won five in a row.

The rest of the podium is more unclear. The Italians, Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, will likely split the difference between the two Russian teams – who have their own domestic battle to contend with: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.

As a reminder, you can watch the European Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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How to watch the European Figure Skating Championships

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Javier Fernandez returns to competition for probably a final time with his eyes on a seventh title at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus Jan. 23-27.

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova looks for a second European title in the ladies’ field, while two couples from France look to top the podiums in the dance and pairs’ fields.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program from Minsk starting Wednesday with the ladies’ short program.

NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage throughout the weekend.

Preview: Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight Europeans

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European Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Wednesday

Ladies’ short program: 3 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ short program: 10:45 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Thursday

Men’s short program: 4 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ free skate: 11 a.m. (GOLD), begins at 11 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Friday

Rhythm dance: 3:30 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 2 p.m. on NBCSN

Ladies’ free skate: 10 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 6 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Saturday

Men’s free skate: 3:15 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 11 a.m. on NBCSN

Free dance: 8:25 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Sunday

Ladies’ and men’s free skate: 1:30 p.m. on NBC