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Opportunity knocks at NHK Trophy: preview, TV/stream schedule

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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.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
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 DonohueMaia 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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MORE: Mariah Bell focused on big picture ahead of NHK Trophy

It has been 7 years since Simone Biles last lost an all-around

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Simone Biles had braces but no driver’s license and “Harlem Shake” topped the Billboard Hot 100 the last time she was beaten in all-around competition, seven years ago this week.

Biles, then having just turned 16, took second to 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross at a tri-meet among the U.S., Germany and Romania in Chemnitz, Germany, on March 30, 2013.

It was just the third senior meet of Biles’ career in her first year as a senior gymnast. Since that runner-up, Biles has won 21 straight all-arounds through the October 2019 World Championships, rarely even challenged (though she has been defeated in unofficial national team camp competition).

Chemnitz marked one of the least consequential meets of Biles’ sterling career. She devoted one sentence to it in her autobiography, “Courage to Soar,” and noted she was distracted from the stress of competition on the overseas trip by daydreaming about a birthday present.

“Secretly, I hoped that when I got back home, a shiny new turquoise-blue Ford Focus would be waiting for me in our driveway,” she wrote.

Ross, speaking by phone last week, faintly recalled when asked the last time Biles was defeated.

“I think it was … were we in Germany?” she said. “Oh gosh, I don’t even know if I can remember it that well.”

Ross did remember training before the meet at a German national team gym.

“When we got to the arena we were all kind of shocked,” she said. “In elite, we’re all used to competing on podium or in these big arenas. It was more of just almost like a college meet. Like it was a basketball floor. Nothing was on podium.

“I don’t even remember how the scores were shown or anything. Those meets in the spring in elite we’re just trying to get our routines figured out and get more consistent.”

Ross was the all-around star of the U.S. program at the time, given fellow 2012 Olympians Gabby DouglasJordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman were taking breaks. She won both Chemnitz and the U.S. Classic (where Biles was pulled mid-competition by coach Aimee Boorman after early struggles).

Later that summer, Biles edged Ross by two tenths of a point combining scores from two days at nationals, and they again went one-two at the world championships.

“I felt like it was kind of the two of us,” Ross said. “This was her time to upgrade and make a name for herself. I definitely feel like I helped her and guided her a little bit. I feel like Martha [Karolyi] wanted me to teach her the ropes a little bit just because she always so fun and outgoing but definitely needed to try to learn and focus and understand what it was like to compete internationally and compete for Team USA.”

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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MORE: Kocian, Ross reflect on likely end to gymnastics careers

 

Boglarka Kapas, world champion swimmer, tests positive for coronavirus

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Boglarka Kapas, the Hungarian swimmer and world 200m butterfly champion, said she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I don’t have any symptoms yet, and that’s why it’s important for you to know that even if you feel healthy you can spread the virus,” was posted on her social media. “Please be careful, stay at home and stay healthy.”

Kapas said her first test was negative but a second test showed she had the virus. She was staying in quarantine at home for two weeks.

Kapas, 26, won the 200m fly at last summer’s world championships by passing Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters. She clocked 2:06.78 to prevail by .17 of a second.

Kapas also took bronze in the Rio Olympic 800m freestyle won by Katie Ledecky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.