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

Alina Zagitova, Yuzuru Hanyu
Getty Images
1 Comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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