If the year after the Olympics is about new talent emerging, this week’s NHK Trophy presents ripe opportunities.
Japanese 16-year-old Rika Kihira makes her senior Grand Prix debut, a much-anticipated one after she landed two triple Axels in one program in September. Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, the next generation of U.S. ice dance, can make their moves after the world champions withdrew.
The headliners are more accomplished skaters, like Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno, 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and two-time world medalist Satoko Miyahara, all bidding to clinch Grand Prix Final berths at the fourth of six Grand Prix series stops.
NBC Sports Gold live streams every session starting Friday.
|Friday||12:15 a.m.||Pairs’ Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|2 a.m.||Women’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|5 a.m.||Men’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|10:45 p.m.||Rhythm Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Saturday||12:30 a.m.||Pairs’ Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|2:30 a.m.||Women’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|5:30 a.m.||Men’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|9:30 pm.||Free Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Sunday||12 p.m.||Highlights||NBC | STREAM LINK|
The women boast the strongest field with four of the top seven skaters this season (Miyahara, Kihira, Mai Mihara and Tuktamysheva). Russia and Japan should make up the podium for the fourth straight Grand Prix.
Kihira is the wild card. Eighth at last season’s junior worlds, she won her senior international debut in September with those two triple Axels. Tuktamysheva is the only other active senior woman with that jump, which she landed cleanly two weeks ago for the first time in nearly three years.
Uno is the clear class of the men’s field. The Olympic and world silver medalist doesn’t have to worry about Yuzuru Hanyu or Nathan Chen until December’s Grand Prix Final. This week it’s American Vincent Zhou and Russian Dmitri Aliev, who were sixth and seventh in PyeongChang. Zhou looks to improve on his fifth place at Skate America, where he was dinged for seven under-rotation calls.
The NHK dance field opened wide with the withdrawal of Olympic silver medalists and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron on Tuesday. Nobody left finished in the top 12 in PyeongChang nor ranks in the highest, top-six tier of the world this season.
Enter Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean Luc-Baker and siblings Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons — average age: 23, all past world junior champions. They finished fourth and fifth at last season’s nationals behind the block of senior world medalists — Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
The Shibutanis are on an indefinite competition break. Chock is recovering from ankle surgery. The Grand Prix could be a showcase for new talent in the U.S.’ deepest discipline.
Hawayek and Baker make their season debut after Baker, whose mom was a 1988 British Olympic ice dancer, suffered a second concussion in three years in August. The Parsons siblings rank eighth in the world this season — a jump from No. 22 last year — and second among the couples at NHK.
The NHK pairs’ field includes U.S. Olympians Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim and 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea up against three of the world’s top five teams from Canada, China and Russia.
NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.
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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