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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

World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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