Han Cong

Anna Shcherbakova extends Russian teen figure skating reign at Cup of China

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Anna Shcherbakova extended the new reign of Russian 15- and 16-year-olds, making it four wins in four Grand Prix events this season for her group.

Shcherbakova, 15, comfortably took Cup of China by 14.86 points over Japanese veteran Satoko Miyahara, totaling 226.04. Another Russian, the 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, was third.

Shcherbakova became the first woman to qualify for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final by coupling her Cup of China title with her Skate America crown from three weeks ago.

She did so by landing a pair of quadruple Lutzes in Saturday’s free skate — changing her blue costume to a red one mid-performance — just as she did at Skate America (though one quad was deemed under-rotated in Chongqing).

Countrywomen Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia, 15- and 16-year-olds taught quads (Trusova) and the triple Axel (Kostornaia) by the same coaches as Shcherbakova, won the previous two Grand Prix events. They compete separately in the last two competitions the next two weeks, looking to make it an unprecedented Russian women’s sweep of the series leading into the Final.

China’s Jin Boyang took the men’s title by overtaking countryman and short-program leader Han Yan. Jin, a two-time world bronze medalist, earned his first Grand Prix title by 12.08 points, landing two quads in Saturday’s free skate.

Jin is questionable to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, however, since he was sixth at Skate America. He is ranked third in the world by best scores this season behind Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, who are expected to headline the Final.

China also went one-two in pairs, led by world champions and Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Sui and Han, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to her stress fracture in her right foot, tallied 228.37 points in their season debut. It’s the highest score in the world this season, supplanting Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by 11.66.

Earlier in ice dance, Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov held on to beat Madison Chock and Evan Bates by 1.35 despite the Americans topping the free dance.

Chock and Bates, who missed the last Grand Prix season due to Chock’s recovery from ankle surgery, earned their seventh straight Grand Prix runner-up finish (not counting Grand Prix Finals).

They will likely clinch a spot in their fifth straight Grand Prix Final spot (not counting last season’s injury absence) and rank fifth in the world this season.

Cup of China
Women
1. Anna Shcherbakova (RUS) — 226.04
2. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 211.18
3. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 209.10

4. You Young (KOR) — 191.81
5. Sofia Samodurova (RUS) — 185.29
6. Amber Glenn (USA) — 178.35
7. Marin Honda (JPN) — 168.09
8. Yi Christy Leung (HKG) — 157.47
9. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 155.12
10. Kailani Craine (AUS) — 149.83
11. Zhu Yi (CHN) — 139.63
12. Choi Yujin (KOR) — 131.48

Men
1. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 261.53

2. Yan Han (CHN) — 249.45
3. Matteo Rizzo (ITA) — 241.88
4. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 237.36
5. Keiji Tanaka (JPN) — 233.62
6. Cha Junhwan (KOR) — 222.26
7. Brendan Kerry (AUS) — 220.31
8. Camden Pulkinen (USA) — 218.67
9. Zhang He (CHN) — 217.42
10. Andrei Lazukin (RUS) — 210.01
11. Conrad Orzel (CAN) — 192.60
12. Chih-I Tsao (TPE) — 186.82

Pairs
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 228.37

2. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 199.97
3. Lyubov Ilyushechkina/Charlie Bilodeau (CAN) — 190.73
4. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 182.88
5. Ryom Tae Ok/Kim Ju Sik (PRK) — 179.55
6. Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea (USA) — 178.79
7. Tang Feiyao/Yang Yongchao (CHN) — 172.53
8. Alisa Efimova/Alexander Korovin (RUS) — 170.19

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 209.90
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 208.55
3. Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) — 190.74
4. Wang Shiyue/Liu Xinyu (CHN) — 186.45
5. Katilin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker (USA) — 179.96
6. Sofia Evdokimova/Egor Bazin (RUS) — 169.27
7. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 169.24
8. Chen Hong/Sun Zhuoming (CHN) — 162.91
9. Guo Yuzhu/Zhao Pengkun (CHN) — 150.91
10. Misato Komatsubara/Tim Koleto (JPN) — 145.35

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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MORE: Canada seeks new figure skating stars after gold-medal retirements

10 things we’ve learned halfway through the Grand Prix figure skating season

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With the senior Grand Prix series at its halfway point and skaters heading for Chonqing, China for the fourth of six “regular season” events, here are 10 things we’ve learned from the series so far:

WOMEN

1. The kiddie corps of Russian women has been even better than expected – and expectations were very high.

Anna Shcherbakova, 15, Alexandra Trusova, 15, and Alena Kostornaia, 16, each has easily won gold in the first three events. Shcherbakova took Skate America by 10-plus points; Trusova won Skate Canada by 10-plus points over reigning Grand Prix Final champion Rika Kihira of Japan; and Kostornaia took Grand Prix France by nearly 20 points over reigning world and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia.

It is likely that only Kihira, at the season-ending NHK Trophy in Japan, can prevent Russian women from sweeping gold in the six events. That has happened in only one of the four Grand Prix disciplines; Russian men swept in 1998-99 and 1999-00, an era when some skaters did three events instead of the current two.

The three young Russian women have posted the three highest free skate scores in the two seasons of the revised scoring system.

2. The jump revolution in women’s skating, with quads and triple Axels, has had a bigger and faster impact than expected – even though women cannot do quads in the short program.

Trusova’s four quad attempts (three clean) helped her wipe out Kihira’s 7.95-point edge after the short program at Skate Canada. Shcherbakova’s two clean quad Lutzes carried her from fourth after the short (7.5 points from first) to the title at Skate America. Kostornaia’s three triple Axels (even the one under-rotated in the short) were difference-makers in France.

And these stats, courtesy of skatingscores.com: Four women – Trusova, Shcherbakova and juniors Kamila Valieva of Russia and Alysa Liu of the United States, the latter two winners of two Junior Grand Prix events each this season – have done 19 jumps credited as quads in international events (including the free skate-only Japan Open) this season. There had been only 22 other jumps called quads in the previous history of the sport.

The success rate for women’s quads is the big change: Last season, just five of the 16 jumps called quads got a positive Grade of Execution (another got a neutral 0.0). This season, 16 of the 19 jumps have positive GOEs – 12 of them at 2.30 or higher.

3. Mariah Bell’s two strong skates in France produced the second Grand Prix medal of her career, a bronze (after her silver at Skate America in 2016).

More striking: Bell never lost her focus and made no significant mistakes, as she frequently had in the past, and she beat Zagitova in the free skate. Yet it still seems unlikely (but not impossible) that either Bell or Bradie Tennell, second and fourth at her two events, will be the first U.S. woman to qualify for the Grand Prix Final since Ashley Wagner in 2015. Bell’s second event is Rostelecom Cup in mid-November.

MEN

4. Two-time men’s Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, the sport’s superstar, may be heading for an even higher level of brilliance if his performance at Skate Canada is any indication.

Hanyu’s skating was his finest ever in his Grand Prix season debut. Clean in a two-quad short program, one minor mistake in a four-quad free skate, full of passion and competitive fire, this was a Hanyu asking “Can you top this?” to rival Nathan Chen, winner of the last two world titles.

5. The answer? Chen could not top it – so far.

In finishing first in all four programs at his two Grand Prix events, taking gold in both by a mile, Chen extended his Grand Prix winning streak to eight (including two wins at the Final) and became the first man to qualify for this season’s Final. But just one of his four performances (the short at Skate America) was clean.

Of course, Chen had an even messier Grand Prix record last season, but he improved in each event before lights-out, landmark performances at the U.S. and world championships.

6. All skating fans should keep their fingers crossed for a Hanyu-Chen meeting at the Grand Prix Final, since Hanyu missed the last two with foot injuries. Hanyu’s second event is the series finale (NHK in Sapporo) three weekends from now.

7. Hanyu and Chen are now light years ahead of the rest of the men in the world.

Reigning Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan is struggling, reigning world bronze medalist Vincent Zhou of the U.S. is sitting out the Grand Prix to concentrate on his first semester of college, and eye-catching Kevin Aymoz of France is a year or two from international title contention.

PAIRS

8. Few would have foreseen heading into the season that three young Russian couples, Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin (ages 16 and 20), Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitri Kozlovski (17 and 19) and Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (18 and 20) would take command of the pair scene so far.

Call it making hay while the sun shines (and the veteran teams haven’t – yet). Reigning world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong (24 and 27) of China make their season debut this week at Cup of China. Reigning Grand Prix Final and European champions Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres (32 and 28) are taking the long view at contending for a 2022 Olympic medal by skipping this season’s Grand Prix for a mental and physical break. Reigning world silver medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (24 and 27) slogged to third at their first competition.

And a veteran U.S. couple, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (24 and 26), have stepped into the open space with two second-place free skates to get bronze medals and, if results are jumbled enough the next three weeks, have a shot at a spot in the Final. Only one U.S. pair has made it in the past 11 seasons (Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim in 2015.)

ICE DANCE

9. It is no surprise that there is the team Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, first at the Grand Prix of France, and then there is everyone else. Their “Fame” rhythm dance is disco delight, goofy costumes included, even if it is better in execution than conception. The spoken passages in their free dance are more distraction than enhancement. But the skating – oh, the skating. The attention to detail, the synchronicity, flow, edge work. They are prohibitive favorites to win Olympic gold in 2022.

10. What a battle there should be at 2020 Worlds in Montreal for the silver and bronze medals in dance. Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada threw themselves into the mix with a Skate Canada upset of Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue of the U.S. (Hubbell and Donohue are reigning Grand Prix Final champions and world bronze medalists who have won medals in 13 straight series events.)

Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the U.S., looking for their first worlds medal since 2016 after 11 straight medals on the Grand Prix, were a solid second behind Papadakis and Cizeron in France. Reigning world silver medalists Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia make their Grand Prix season debut this week. Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy are contenders, as are Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin of Russia. Musical chairs dance, anyone?

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Will Nathan Chen return to six quad jumps in his free skate?

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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Cup of China TV, live stream schedule

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Anna Shcherbakova can lock up a spot at the Grand Prix Final this weekend at Cup of China, streaming live for NBC Sports Gold subscribers on Friday and Saturday.

Shcherbakova, 15, won Skate America while landing quads to kick off her debut senior Grand Prix season. Her biggest challengers for the podium will come from within her own country, from 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and 2019 European champion Sofia Samodurova. Keep an eye on Shcherbakova’s quads, of course, but also Tuktamysheva’s triple Axels. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, a two-time world medalist, also makes her Grand Prix season debut in China.

The men’s side is a less clear picture. With the withdrawal of Vincent Zhou a few weeks ago, there is more room on the podium for the likes of China’s Jin Boyang, Canada’s Keegan Messing, and South Korea’s Cha Jun-Hwan.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates compete in back-to-back weekends as they head to China following a silver medal finish at Grand Prix France. Their biggest competition will likely come from training partners and fellow Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker as well at from Russians Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. Skate America bronze medalists, Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen of Canada, should also make a push for the podium.

In pairs, the two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong are easy favorites, especially at home. This is their first major international competition of the season. Last year, the team was sidelined by injuries for much of the early part of the season before coming back to win the world championships.

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.

MORE: Tuktamysheva, armed with triple Axel, fights to compete with Russian teens

Cup of China Broadcast Schedule

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 2:30 a.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
4 a.m. Ladies’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
6 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Saturday 1:30 a.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
3:30 a.m. Ladies’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
5:45 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Sunday 12-1:30 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

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