Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen
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Assessing figure skating’s Grand Prix season at the midpoint

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The early figure skating season produced the usual dominance from Yuzuru Hanyu and Alina Zagitova, but also surprises, such as defeats for Yevgenia Medvedeva and a mild shakeup atop the pairs’ order.

We’re halfway through the Grand Prix campaign, with early favorites emerging for December’s Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event series.

The most anticipated Final fields are singles, where Hanyu and Nathan Chen are expected to meet for the first time since PyeongChang. Hanyu repeated as Olympic champion in February, while Chen rebounded from a short-program disaster to top the free skate for fifth overall.

Likewise, the Grand Prix Final should feature Zagitova and former training partner Medvedeva in their first head-to-head since they were separated by 1.31 points in PyeongChang. That is assuming Medvedeva takes care of business at her second Grand Prix in two weeks.

A discipline-by-discipline look at the figure skating season so far …

Men
Top Season Scores
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 297.12
2. Nathan Chen (USA) — 280.57
3. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 277.25
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 276.20
5. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 274.37
6. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 265.17
7. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 263.65
8. Cha Jun-Hwan (KOR) — 259.78
9. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 257.98
10. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 257.16
Jason Brown (USA) — 234.97
Jason Brown (USA) — 233.23
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 225.75

Favorites Hanyu, Chen and Uno won their opening Grand Prix events, though Chen’s jumping program at Skate America included half the quads he attempted in PyeongChang. Chen’s score from winning the Hanyu-less world championships last season would have taken gold at the Olympics. We’ve never seen Chen and Hanyu hit all of their jumps in the same competition. Brown and Zhou were fifth and sixth, respectively, in their Grand Prix openers, putting them all but out of the running for the Final.

Women
Top Season Scores
1. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 238.43
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 221.44 (junior)
3. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 221 (junior)
4. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 219.71
5. Rika Kihira (JPN) — 218.16
6. Alina Zagitova (RUS) — 215.29
7. Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 213.90
8. Mai Mihara (JPN) — 209.22
9. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 206.41
10. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 206.07
Bradie Tennell (USA) — 192.89
Mariah Bell (USA) — 190.25
Mariah Bell (USA) — 188.97
Ashley Lin (USA) — 181.21

Noticeably absent from the top-10 scores list is Medvedeva, who went undefeated for more than two years from 2015 through 2017, then finished second or third in her last four events dating to January. Perhaps the biggest story in skating the rest of the Grand Prix season will be whether Medvedeva, after finishing third at Skate Canada, can qualify for the Grand Prix Final. She may need to win in France in two weeks to lock up a spot. It’s looking like the Grand Prix Final will be all Russian and Japanese women after Tennell finished fourth at Skate America. The U.S. is searching for depth with Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner taking indefinite breaks and Karen Chen missing her Grand Prix opener with a foot injury. Sochi Olympian Gracie Gold is set to compete in two weeks for the first time in nearly two years.

MORE: Figure skating season TV schedule

Pairs
Top Season Scores
1. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 221.81
2. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 210.21
3. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 206.42
4. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 204.85
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 201.08
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 200.93
7. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 198.98
8. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 198.51
9. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 196.54
10. Natalya Zabiyako/Alexander Enbert (RUS) — 196.15
Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc (USA) — 181.56
Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim (USA) — 177.22
Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc (USA) — 175.06

Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay (USA) — 174.91

All the Olympic medalists are sitting out this fall or retired. The French burst through that opening. It’s not a huge surprise given they were fifth in PyeongChang and third at worlds. But James and Cipres were outscored by Tarasova and Morozov at each of the last four world championships and European Championships. Cain and LeDuc have an outside chance at the Final after their first Grand Prix medal at Skate America (bronze), but they likely need a silver in a deep Rostelecom Cup field next week.

Ice Dance
Top Season Scores
1. Madison Hubbell/Zach Donohue (USA) — 200.82

2. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 200.78
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 200.49
4. Madison Hubbell/Zach Donohue (USA) — 197.42
5. Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) — 197.27
6. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 196.42
7. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 196.29
8. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 195.17
9. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 194.12
10. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 193.28
Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 180.95
Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter (USA) — 180.57

The top returning couple this season, French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, has not competed internationally. They’ll now miss this week’s NHK Trophy after Cizeron hurt his back in a training fall last week. The Final was expected to be a showdown between Papadakis and Cizeron and training partners Hubbell and Donohue, who were fourth in PyeongChang and second at worlds behind the French. Papadakis and Cizeron would be ineligible for the Final with just one Grand Prix start. Instead, Hubbell and Donohue could have their hands full with Stepanova and Bukin. They were second at last season’s Russian Championships, but Bukin was not invited to the Olympics by the IOC. They later finished seventh at worlds. Two more promising U.S. couples, Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker and the Parsons siblings, make their Grand Prix season debuts this week.

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MORE: Olympic pairs’ champions from Russia retire

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

Yevgenia Medvedeva rallies, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva wins Skate Canada

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Brian Orser looked to his new pupil, Yevgenia Medvedeva, and said what so many skating fans had to be thinking.

“Been a long 24 hours, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” Medvedeva responded, a wreath of flowers sitting atop her head.

The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion recovered from the worst program of her senior career Friday with a strong but flawed free skate Saturday. It wasn’t enough to overtake countrywoman Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at Skate Canada.

Tuktamysheva fell on her triple Axel after hitting it in the short program but still totaled 203.32 points, topping Japan’s Mako Yamashita by .26.

Medvedeva jumped from seventh after the short to third with the top free skate, 5.41 behind Tuktamysheva overall.

“Today I felt like a wild animal,” Medvedeva said, according to Golden Skate. “When you feel sorry for yourself, it’s awful. For my mind and for my body also. I’m thankful to Brian for helping me with my mental health so, so much.”

MORE: Skate Canada Results | Grand Prix TV Schedule

It’s the first Grand Prix title for Tuktamysheva since 2015, when she was coming off sweeping every major event in the post-Olympic season. Medvedeva turned senior in 2015-16, when Tuktamysheva plummeted out of the top five of the deep Russian field, eventually missing the PyeongChang Olympics.

While Tuktamysheva may be rediscovering her form, Medvedeva faces her own smaller climb.

She’s been beaten in four straight events since returning in January from a broken bone in her foot. Then-training partner Alina Zagitova had her number in PyeongChang, after which Medvedeva split from their coach, Eteri Tutberidze, and moved from Moscow to Orser’s group in Toronto.

Earlier Saturday, Shoma Uno rallied to win the men’s title, overcoming a 6.18-point deficit to Canadian Keegan Messing from the short program. Uno fell on his final two free skate jumping passes but still landed four quads to Messing’s one to win with 277.25 points.

Messing got second, 12.8 behind, while 2014 U.S. Olympian Jason Brown moved from 11th after the short to sixth.

Uno’s rivals are Olympic and world champions Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen, whom he will not face before December’s Grand Prix Final.

U.S. champions and world silver medalists Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue were upset in the free dance but held on to win their second straight Grand Prix. They’re the first skaters in any discipline to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

In pairs, world bronze medalists Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres won their first Grand Prix title. The French tallied the highest score in the world this season — 221.81 — and prevailed by a comfortable 20.73. James and Ciprès and Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who won Skate America last week, are the top pairs at the moment with none of the Olympic medalists competing this fall.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, the 2017 U.S. champions, improved from eighth out of eight in the short program to sixth overall.

The Grand Prix series moves to Finland next week, headlined by Hanyu and Zagitova.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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: New-look Jason Brown returns after missing Olympic team

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue win Skate Canada, into Grand Prix Final

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Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue wasted no time, becoming the first skaters to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final by winning the first two Grand Prix events.

The U.S. champions and world silver medalists followed their maiden Skate America title last week by holding on for a Skate Canada victory Saturday, despite being beaten in the free dance.

Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov became the first couple to better Hubbell and Donohue in a program this season but could not make up a 5.83-point deficit from Friday’s rhythm dance.

The Americas won by 5.59 in Laval, Quebec, getting docked a point for an extended lift in an otherwise strong performance.

“We were feeling the two weeks fatigue today,” Hubbell said, according to the International Skating Union. “It was a pretty tough free dance, not without mistakes, but overall we were very pleased with how we were able to face these challenges.”

MORE: Skate Canada Results | Grand Prix TV Schedule

Hubbell and Donohue, who finished fourth in PyeongChang after he fell in the free dance, reached their fourth straight Grand Prix Final. The event is the most exclusive in the sport, taking the top six per discipline from the fall Grand Prix series.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the only U.S. ice dancers to win the title, doing so five straight times from 2009-13 before becoming the first American ice dance gold medalists in Sochi.

Hubbell and Donohue have yet to earn a Grand Prix Final medal but will surely be favored for the podium this year. That’s in part because Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada are likely done competing and bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking this season off.

Whether Hubbell and Donohue enter the Final in Vancouver as favorites will largely depend on the performances of their training partners, Olympic silver medalists and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.

Papadakis and Cizeron make their season debut in two weeks at NHK Trophy.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE 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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: New-look Jason Brown returns after missing Olympic team