Last Grand Prix Final spots at stake at Rostelecom Cup; TV, live stream schedule

Kamila Valieva
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It has been a grab bag season in figure skating’s Grand Prix Series going into this week’s Rostelecom Cup, which streams live on Peacock on Friday and Saturday.

Take your pick of how Olympic favorites are emerging.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the biggest name in all of skating, has not competed at all this autumn and might not until the Olympics. Nathan Chen suffered his first loss since the 2018 Olympics, then posted the world’s highest score this season the following week.

Russia’s conveyor belt of female stars produced 15-year-old Kamila Valiyeva. She quickly surpassed all three 2021 World Championships medalists from her nation to become the woman to beat heading into the most competitive event of the season — not the Olympics, but the Russian Championships in one month.

Pairs has been the tightest discipline. The top three in the world this season are separated by less than five points. It will squeeze even more if the third-ranked team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China benefit from home ice at the Winter Games.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France went 20 months between competitions since suffering their only defeat of this Olympic cycle at the January 2020 European Championships. They returned this autumn to post the world’s top three scores this season, re-establishing themselves as Olympic favorites.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, will be an Olympic preview in pairs and dance (but hopefully not for the men, since Hanyu is out, and maybe not for the women without injured Russian Aleksandra Trusova). The Final’s fields will be complete after Rostelecom Cup.

Rostelecom Cup Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Friday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Rhythm Dance Peacock | STREAM LINK
10 a.m. Pairs’ Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:25 a.m. Women’s Short Peacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
7:40 a.m. Free Dance Peacock | STREAM LINK
9:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
11:10 a.m. Women’s Free Peacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday 3 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

How each discipline’s Grand Prix Final field is shaping up going into this week …

Men
Yuma Kagiyama
(JPN) — 30 points (QUALIFIED)
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Nathan Chen (USA) — 26 (QUALIFIED)
Jason Brown (USA) — 24 (not competing this week)
Shun Sato (JPN) — 22 (not competing this week)

Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 13
Yevgeny Semenenko (RUS) — 11
Matteo Rizzo (ITA) — 7

Brown’s chances of qualifying for the Final for the first time since 2017 were trimmed by Hanyu’s withdrawal from Rostelecom Cup (ankle), but they’re still pretty good. Brown’s simplest path is if Kolyada wins this week, and Semenenko either finishes third or lower or places second but with fewer than 267.74 points. Semenenko’s personal best is 258.45. The U.S. also put three men in the Final in 2017 with Chen, Brown and Adam Rippon.

Hanyu also missed the 2017 Grand Prix Final with an ankle injury, then won the PyeongChang Olympics two months later. Chen, though he was third at Skate America, will go into the Final as the favorite given he won Skate Canada with a score 11.62 points higher than any other man this season.

Women
Anna Shcherbakova (RUS) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 24 (QUALIFIED)
Aliona Kostonaya (RUS) — 24 (not competing this week)
You Young (KOR) — 22 (not competing this week)
Mai Mihara (JPN) — 18 (not competing this week)

Kamila Valiyeva (RUS) — 15
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 13
Maliya Khromykh (RUS) — 13
Loena Hendrickx (BEL) — 11

Coming into the season, it looked like Russia had a shot at taking all six women’s spots at the Final. But world bronze medalist Trusova missed NHK Trophy due to injury, and Sakamoto swooped in to win the event. If this week Valiyeva (15 years old), Tuktamysheva (24) and Khromykh (15) make up the top three in any order, they will all qualify for the Final.

Valiyeva is bidding to repeat the feat of Alina Zagitova, who four years ago entered the Olympic season as the reigning world junior champion and won all of her events through the Winter Games. Valiyeva, part of coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s school of stars, has competed twice internationally this season and posted the world’s two best scores, distancing the second-ranked skater (Shcherbakova) by 28.3 points. The most competitive figure skating event in the world this year will be the Russian Championships in late December, after which the three-woman Olympic team will be named.

Russia has the world’s top six women right now. The highest-ranked American is Alysa Liu at No. 9. A U.S. woman made at least one podium in the Grand Prix Series every year since its inception in 1995, but none have this season, and it would be a surprise to see it happen this week. However, if you take out all the Russians from the rankings who won’t be at the Olympics, then Liu ranks fifth in the world.

Pairs
Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 26 (QUALIFIED)
Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN) — 24 (not competing this week)
Yuliya Artemeva/Mikhail Nazarychev (RUS) — 24 (not competing this week)

Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 15
Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 13
Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 9

Sui and Han, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists and China’s best figure skating medal hope overall, won both of their Grand Prix starts. But Tarasova and Morozov have the best score in the world this season, and Mishina and Galliamov, the reigning world champions, have the best Grand Prix score. Miura and Kihara will likely become the first pair from Japan to qualify for a Grand Prix Final since 2011, boosting the nation’s hopes of grabbing a medal in the Olympic team event. The last time a U.S. pair made the Final was 2015.

Ice Dance
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 30 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 28 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 26 (not competing this week)
Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 22 (not competing this week)

Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 15
Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 13
Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) — 11
Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 9

Papadakis and Cizeron, 2018 Olympic silver medalists, lost their last head-to-head with Sinitsina and Katsalapov way back at the January 2020 European Championships. But this season, the French have competed three times and posted the world’s top three scores. Gilles and Poirier and the two American couples are within 1.43 points of each other on best scores this season, likely forging a tight battle for the third podium spot in Beijing. Barring a bonkers Rostelecom Cup result, this will be the seventh consecutive Final with multiple U.S. dance couples.

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As Ilia Malinin ponders quintuple jump, figure skating may face an urgent matter

Ilia Malinin
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SAN JOSE, California – The subject of a five-revolution jump was sure to come up, now that Ilia Malinin has become the first person to land a fully rotated quadruple Axel, which has four and one-half revolutions in the air.

And, in Malinin’s case, to land it cleanly not only once but three times this fall, the most recent with stunning command at December’s Grand Prix Final.

Rafael Arutunian, who coaches Malinin intermittently, said via telephone that he and the skater talked about a quintuple when they were working together in California during the high school senior’s recent holiday break.

“I was basically saying a five-revolution toe loop can be done,” Arutunian said. “He agreed and was smiling.”

“It is definitely in the back of my mind right now,” Malinin, 18, said in media conference call last week. “It’s very hard to think of it at this moment because it’s still pretty much the middle of the middle of the season. I think after the season I’ll think about it, and maybe we will see one.”

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

With a laugh, Arutunian described the impish plan he is dreaming of for Malinin to make the attempt.

The jump would come out of the blue.

This is the scenario: Arutunian would ask Malinin, favored to win his first senior U.S. Championship title this weekend in San Jose, not to publicize his practicing a quint on social media, as he had done with the quad Axel and many of the unprecedented jump combinations he tries.

“He would just come out and do it in a competition, and that would be a shock, right?” said Arutunian, who guided Nathan Chen to the 2022 Olympic title. “Imagine what the officials would do then.”

As it turns out, the officials would do literally nothing. Under current rules, Malinin would get zero points for the jump, as quintuple jumps are not yet recognized or given a value in the sport’s Scale of Values (SOV).

That is something U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier plans to discuss with Fabio Bianchetti, head of the International Skating Union’s singles and pairs technical committee, when the two are to meet at next month’s Four Continents Championships in Colorado Springs.

“I believe Fabio and the technical committee will update the SOV soon, and if anyone is practicing (a quint) and may try it, they will get the change in before it is done in competition,” Auxier said in a text message. “With Ilia, I think that needs to be urgent!”

Even before such a rules change is made, Auxier said, if competition officials were aware a skater was planning to attempt a quint, they would ask for an emergency ruling and have the tech team add a value into the computer system used to calculate scores.

“We wouldn’t let it be zero,” Auxier said. “However, if someone did it with no warning … that would be a problem.”

Bianchetti does not feel the same sense of urgency.

“So far the prospect of executing quintuple jumps seems remote,” Bianchetti said in an email. “We are not aware of any quintuple jump correctly executed and full rotated having been done even in practice.

“Therefore there is not an urgent need to add quintuple jumps in the SOV. In any case it is something we will discuss in the near future.”

For now, then, everyone can continue to marvel at Malinin’s quad Axel. He said the jump has not become a burden and isn’t worried about fans being disappointed if he doesn’t attempt one, as Malinin has in all five of his competitions so far this season.

“Some people might think that (it is a burden),” he said. “My priority is focusing on what I’m doing in practice. I have been sticking with it, and I am planning to attempt it (in the free skate at nationals.)”

The irony is the risk on the jump seems greater than the reward, given the quad Axel’s surprisingly low base value as compared to its difficulty and uniqueness.

“I have always prided myself on looking for a challenge,” Malinin said.

At 12.5 points, the jump is worth just one point more than a four-revolution quad Lutz. Yet 23 men and women have been credited with a fully rotated quad Lutz a total of 228 times in international competition, according to skatingscores.com.

Until the SOV revision for the 2018-19 season, when no one had landed a quad Axel, it was worth 15.0. All quads had their base values lowered in 2018, but the Axel had the biggest percentage drop.

“It should definitely be worth more, and we will ask that be considered also,” Auxier said. “(A base value of) 12.5 doesn’t reflect the true difficulty of the jump.”

Bianchetti sees it differently. His perspective is affected by a general feeling many in the sport share that jump pyrotechnics have become too big a factor in determining results.

“As to the value of the quad Axel, the matter to change its value is not on the agenda at the moment,” Bianchetti wrote. “A discussion to make some changes on the value of the jumps should include a general evaluation on all the jumps, not only the quad Axel, to have a more correct proportion between the various jumps but taking also into consideration the fact that the weight of the jump elements in total is already too high with respect to the other not jumping elements and the components marks.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
U.S. Figure Skating
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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.