Alysa Liu can become the youngest American singles skater to make a Grand Prix podium in 14 years. Vincent Zhou can qualify for his first Grand Prix Final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates can tie the U.S. record for Grand Prix Final berths.
It’s even possible that Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc achieve a rare feat for a U.S. pair this weekend — earning a medal at two Grand Prix stops in one season.
Big-name withdrawals at NHK Trophy, the fourth of six Grand Prix Series stops, put Americans in a greater spotlight this week in Tokyo. Coverage live streams on Peacock starting Thursday night. NBC airs a highlight show Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
NHK Trophy was to feature two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, countrywoman Rika Kihira and Russian jumping queen Aleksandra Trusova. But all three withdrew due to injury.
Some of America’s best can benefit. Liu, who won national titles at 13 and 14, is now 16 and coming off a fifth-place finish in her senior Grand Prix debut at Skate Canada two weeks ago. Liu won three lower-level international events before that, and only faces one Russian at NHK versus three at Skate Canada.
Should Liu make the podium, she will be the youngest U.S. women’s medalist on the circuit since Caroline Zhang, who won three medals before turning 16. Liu’s chances may hinge on her triple Axel. She landed it in the Skate Canada short program (under-rotated) and fell in the free skate.
Zhou is the men’s favorite, given he won Skate America with seven quadruple jumps three weeks ago. He defeated world champion Nathan Chen and Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno at that event and gets Uno again this week. The list of U.S. men to win both of their Grand Prix Series (pre-Final) stops in one season: Chen, Johnny Weir, Todd Eldredge.
Chock and Bates took silver behind training partners Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue at Skate America. With a win at NHK, they can match Hubbell and Donohue with 28 points atop the Grand Prix standings. With a podium finish of any kind, they can plan their travel to Osaka for December’s Grand Prix Final. It would be their sixth Final, tying the U.S. record held by Meryl Davis and Charlie White (and soon to be shared by Hubbell and Donohue). Chock and Bates must get past world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia for their first Grand Prix gold in six years.
Pairs at NHK should be a Russian battle between reigning world champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Gallyamov and three-time world medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. Cain-Gribble and LeDuc are coming off a bronze at Skate Canada, albeit with a lower total score than two other U.S. pairs tallied in non-medal performances at Skate America.
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2021 NHK Trophy Broadcast Schedule
|Thursday||10:30 p.m.||Pairs’ Short||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|Friday||12:20 a.m.||Rhythm Dance||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|2:10 a.m.||Women’s Short||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|5 a.m.||Men’s Short||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|10:20 p.m.||Pairs’ Free||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|Saturday||12:45 a.m.||Free Dance||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|2:40 a.m.||Women’s Free||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|5:30 a.m.||Men’s Free||Peacock | STREAM LINK|
|Sunday||4 p.m.||Highlights||NBC | STREAM LINK|