NHK Trophy: U.S. figure skaters eye Grand Prix Final berths; TV, live stream schedule

Madison Chock, Evan Bates

This week’s NHK Trophy will be decisive for several U.S. figure skaters eyeing spots in December’s Grand Prix Final, the most important competition of the fall and often a preview of March’s world championships.

NHK Trophy, which airs live on Peacock, features American women, a pair and ice dancers vying for the Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series. NHK in Japan is the fourth of six events, and skaters compete twice over the series, so some skaters have already qualified.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates head the U.S. contingent this week. The three-time world medalists won Skate America last month and will clinch a Grand Prix Final spot by finishing third or higher at NHK.

They would be the first U.S. skaters in any discipline to qualify for seven Grand Prix Finals (if including last year, when the Final was canceled after the qualifying series finished) and the second to compete in six Finals after 2014 Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Bates, 33, can break the record for oldest American to qualify for a Final currently held by pairs’ skater Todd Sand from the 1996-97 season. Bates is already the only U.S. figure skater to compete in four Winter Olympics and the oldest to win a medal (in the team event).

This season, Chock and Bates rank fifth in the world by best total score (202.80). Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who are not in the NHK field, have the best score of 215.70. None of the Olympic ice dance medalists are competing internationally this fall.

NHK Trophy Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Platform
Thursday 10:30 p.m. Pairs’ Short Peacock
Friday 12:15 a.m. Women’s Short Peacock
2:15 a.m. Rhythm Dance Peacock
5 a.m. Men’s Short Peacock
10 p.m. Pairs’ Free Peacock
11:50 p.m. Women’s Free Peacock
Saturday 2:50 a.m. Free Dance Peacock
5:30 a.m. Men’s Free Peacock
Sunday 4 p.m. Highlights NBC | NBC Sports app

While Chock and Bates are podium regulars, Americans Starr Andrews and Amber Glenn enter NHK coming off their first Grand Prix medals. Andrews, with her silver at Skate Canada two weeks ago, became the first Black American to make a Grand Prix podium. Andrews and Glenn likely need to finish in the top three again this week for any shot at the Grand Prix Final.

It’s a tall order. NHK has arguably the best women’s field of the six Grand Prix events, including world champion Kaori Sakamoto, Skate Canada winner Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, and South Korean Kim Ye-Lim, who was second at Grand Prix France.

Another American, Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion, is not competing at NHK but can clinch her Grand Prix Final spot depending on other skaters’ results this week. At 15, she would be the youngest American to make a Final in 15 years.

World champion Shoma Uno of Japan headlines the men’s field. Uno, who won Skate Canada with 273.15 points, ranks third in the world this season by best total score. American Ilia Malinin, who is not at NHK, leads with 280.37 points.

NHK also has the world’s top-ranked pairs’ team of Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan. The next-highest-ranked pairs’ team at NHK is the U.S. duo of Emily Chan and Spencer Howe. Chan and Howe, fourth at last season’s nationals, will clinch their first Grand Prix Final berth if they repeat their runner-up finish from Skate Canada.

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Mikaela Shiffrin skips Lake Louise speed races with different World Cup schedule

Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin will not race downhills and a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, this weekend, skipping the traditional first speed races of the World Cup season for the first time since 2014 to focus on training her primary events of slalom and giant slalom.

Shiffrin decided before the season began that she would not race Lake Louise, a representative said. A reason: For the first time in six years, tech races rather than speed races in Europe are scheduled for the weekend following Lake Louise.

Shiffrin’s schedule for now includes the next speed races in St. Moritz, Switzerland, from Dec. 16-18, but that may change.

For the first time in her career, Shiffrin won her first two races of the season, taking slaloms on back-to-back days in Levi, Finland, two weekends ago.

MORE: Alpine Skiing Broadcast Schedule

This past weekend, she placed 13th and fifth in a GS and a slalom in Killington, Vermont. In five previous trips to Killington, she finished second, third, fourth and fifth in the GS and won all five of the slaloms.

“There are positives to take away from the races and positives about my skiing,” Shiffrin posted on social media. “I know the direction I need to work in GS, and I just need a few days to get that repetition. With slalom, I also have a bit of a direction as well.

“It’s easy for people to say that I won in Levi and that I’m back and I’m going to win everything now again…it’s not really the case. There are women who are skiing better than I am, and on any given day any one of us have the capability to win.”

Shiffrin has raced more downhills and super-Gs in Lake Louise than any other World Cup venue. She made her World Cup super-G debut there in 2015 and her World Cup downhill debut there in 2016 and earned her first World Cup downhill win there in 2017 and first World Cup super-G win there in 2018.

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Anna Shcherbakova, Olympic figure skating champion, extends competition absence

Anna Shcherbakova

Olympic figure skating champion Anna Shcherbakova will miss the Russian Championships because she has not fully recovered from August knee surgery, a representative for the skater said Tuesday.

Shcherbakova, 18, has been sidelined from competition since the surgery. All Russian skaters are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine, but Russia has been holding domestic events with its top skaters.

Shcherbakova will take part in non-competitive skating shows in December, first at a World Cup fan zone in Qatar and later a show in Russia that takes place during the national championships, according to Russian media. Shcherbakova’s representative did not address her show plans when confirming her absence from nationals.

Russia is scheduled to hold its national championships the week of Christmas, as usual. That event usually determines its team for March’s world championships, though there is no indication that the ban on Russian skaters will be lifted any time soon to make them eligible for worlds.

Since Russian skaters were banned from competing at last March’s worlds, they were unable to qualify more than the minimum one entry per discipline for the next worlds for which they will be eligible.

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