Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates led a group of five U.S. figure skaters to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final after the NHK Trophy event finished on Saturday.
Chock and Bates, three-time world medalists, finished runner-up to Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen at NHK in Japan, the fifth of six Grand Prix Series events that act as qualifiers for the Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the season.
The Final is often a preview of March’s world championships.
Chock and Bates qualified for the Final by combining their win at Skate America in October with their runner-up at NHK.
They became 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). They will tie the U.S. record of six Grand Prix Final starts held by 2014 Olympic ice dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Bates, 33, broke the record of oldest American to qualify for a Final 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).
Chock and Bates will look for their first Grand Prix Final title, and the biggest international title of their careers, after silver medals at the event in 2014, 2015 and 2019.
They rank fifth in the world this season by best total score (209.13 points). Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who have not gone head-to-head with Chock and Bates this season, rank first with 215.70 points.
None of the Olympic medalists from February are competing this fall: French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are taking at least this season off. Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov are banned indefinitely, along with all Russian skaters, due to the war in Ukraine. Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue retired.
NHK Trophy highlights air Sunday on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.
Also Saturday, world champion Shoma Uno of Japan won the men’s event with the world’s second-best total score this season (279.76). Only American Ilia Malinin has scored higher this season (280.37 to win Skate America).
Uno and Malinin will go head-to-head for the first time this fall at the Grand Prix Final, should Malinin have a decent result at his second Grand Prix start next week in Finland.
Also at NHK, Yelim Kim held off world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan to become the second South Korean to win a Grand Prix after 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim.
The NHK results also ensured world junior champion Isabeau Levito earned a place in the Final with her second-place finishes at two prior Grand Prix events. Levito, 15, is the youngest American to qualify for a Final since Caroline Zhang in 2007.
Fellow Americans Starr Andrews and Amber Glenn followed their first Grand Prix podiums earlier this season by placing ninth and 11th at NHK. They needed podium finishes to remain in contention to qualify for the Final.
Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the pairs’ title at NHK, improving on their world-leading score this season. Americans Emily Chan and Spencer Howe were second to join the Japanese in the Grand Prix Final. Americans Brandon Frazier and Alexa Knierim, the world champions, and Canadians Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps qualified for the Final earlier this month.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk