Yuzuru Hanyu gave his best Grand Prix performance in years last week. Nathan Chen can respond this week in what will likely be his last event before a showdown with Hanyu at December’s Grand Prix Final.
Chen and fellow reigning world champions Alina Zagitova and Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron headline Internationaux de France, streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers on Friday and Saturday.
Chen is undefeated in full competition since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. This week, he goes for an eighth straight Grand Prix victory, which would be the longest streak for a singles skater since the early 2000s.
His competition is stronger than at Skate America two weeks ago, when Chen dusted the field by 44 points. That’s because of the presence of Japanese Shoma Uno, who owns three silver medals between the Olympics and world championships. Albeit Uno ranks eighth in the world this season by top total scores.
Chen remains such a strong favorite that the real measuring stick is what the two-time Olympic champion Hanyu did at Skate Canada last week — six quads between two programs for 322.59 points. At Skate America, Chen landed five quads total for 299.09.
It’s Chen’s second straight year on this schedule, taking classes at Yale and training without California-based coach Rafael Arutunian on site. It’s already running smoother than in 2018. Chen struggled through illness to start last season, where he won Skate America with one fewer quad than two weeks ago.
“Last season, I started really slow,” Chen said on the Ice Talk podcast at Skate America. “This season, I definitely feel like I’m getting to things faster.”
A podium finish in France should put Chen in December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six skaters from the fall Grand Prix season. Hanyu, who took silver to Chen at last year’s worlds while injured, can earn his place in the Final with a solid performance at NHK Trophy in Japan in three weeks.
Internationaux de France also marks the Grand Prix season debuts for Zagitova and Papadakis and Cizeron.
The 17-year-old Zagitova, the only skater who is a reigning Olympic and world champion, must this season stave off a group of younger Russian teens armed with triple Axels or quads. Zagitova, who has never landed a triple Axel or quad in competition, faces one of them this week in Alena Kostornaia, who landed two triple Axels (one under-rotated) in her senior international debut last month.
Papadakis and Cizeron aren’t feeling nearly as much heat going into their full-fledged season debut. They haven’t lost to a dance couple other than the recently retired Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in almost five years. Look for them to chase this number: 209.55 — Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue‘s world-leading score for the season set at Skate America.
Hubbell and Donohue aren’t in Grenoble, but U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates could be the closest to the French this weekend.
As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season 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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Internationaux de France Broadcast Schedule
|Friday||9:30 a.m.||Men’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|11:30 a.m.||Rhythm Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|1:15 p.m.||Women’s Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|3 p.m.||Pairs’ Short||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Saturday||8:15 a.m.||Men’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|10:30 a.m.||Free Dance||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|2 p.m.||Women’s Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|4 p.m.||Pairs’ Free||NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK|
|Sunday||4-6 p.m.||Highlights||NBC | STREAM LINK|