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Figure skating Grand Prix series: Eight matchups to watch

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Now that the Grand Prix figure skating assignments have been announced, a look at eight of the most exciting head-to-heads this fall …

Men
Skate America – Nathan Chen vs. Jason Brown
Two of the U.S. men are showcased at the Grand Prix opener in October. What makes this so special? The last time these two competed at the same Grand Prix, in France last November, Brown actually led Chen after the short program. In the end, though, Chen rallied to keep his undefeated season intact.

Also notable in the field: South Korea’s Cha Jun-Hwan, who trains with Brown in Toronto.

Internationaux de France – Nathan Chen vs. Shoma Uno
Chen and Uno have shared world podiums, most recently in 2018 when Chen took gold and Uno the silver. Uno’s coaching change should only spice things up; however, he has not announced where he will train.

Also notable in the field: world junior champion Tomoki Hiwatashi makes his senior Grand Prix debut. He was fourth at the U.S. Championships in January.

Rostelecom Cup – Shoma Uno vs. Vincent Zhou
After competing in France, Uno gets a week to rest before facing another top American in Vincent Zhou. Zhou had a breakthrough end of last season, claiming his first, top-level senior international medals — bronze at Four Continents and worlds.

MORE: Nathan Chen learns from chaos of balancing Yale, skating

Women
Skate America – Anna Shcherbakova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and Yelizabet Tursynbaeva
All are known for jumps: Shcherbakova, the 15-year-old Russian champion, for a quadruple Lutz, Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion, for her triple Axel and the Kazakh Tursynbaeva for a quad Salchow in taking silver at worlds.

Also notable in the field: 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen returns to competition for the first time since the PyeongChang Olympics; 2018 U.S. champion Bradie Tennell, Chen’s Olympic teammate.

NHK Trophy – Rika Kihira vs. Alina Zagitova
Kihira, who swept her Grand Prix starts last fall, will likely show off her triple Axel on home ice, but Olympic and world champion Zagitova is also beloved in Japan.

Also notable in the field: Russian Sofia Samodurova, who defeated Zagitova at January’s European Championships.

MORE: Bradie Tennell on self-doubt, lessons learned in 2019

Pairs
NHK Trophy – Sui Wenjing and Han Cong vs. Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres
We have to wait a while for it, but China’s Sui and Han facing off against France’s James and Cipres should be a real treat.

Sui and Han own two world titles, including from March despite a series of injuries that kept them out most of the season. James and Cipres had been undefeated last season before a short program error at worlds, where they finished fifth.

Also notable in the field: The two U.S. pairs, Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea and Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim, should be pretty evenly matched. It could be a preview of January’s nationals.

Ice dance
Skate America – Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue vs. Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin
The Americans earned world champs bronze ahead of the Russians by a slim 1.88 points in March. Similar to last season, Hubbell and Donohue will get their Grand Prix starts out of the way in the first two weeks and likely become the first qualifiers for December’s Grand Prix Final.

Also notable in the field: Spain’s Olivia Smart and Adrian Diaz train in Montreal alongside Hubbell and Donohue and a number of other teams that will be at Skate America.

MORE: Hubbell, Donohue already eyeing 2020 World Championships

Internationaux de France – Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron vs. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
Four-time world champions Papadakis and Cizeron will face stiff competition from training mates Chock and Bates. Chock and Bates had an abbreviated season last year, as Chock was away from competition for nearly 10 months after ankle surgery. Nevertheless, they won Four Continents and placed sixth at worlds.

Also notable in the field: European bronze medalists Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri from Italy, who earned bronze at their first Grand Prix Final last season.

MORE: Chen, Zagitova among top takeaways from last season

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Nathan Chen headlines Skate America; Grand Prix assignments announced

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Nathan Chen will try to become the first male singles skater in 22 years to three-peat at Skate America. Chen’s return to the biggest annual international figure skating event in the U.S. highlights the Grand Prix season fields announced Thursday.

Chen, a two-time world champion who went undefeated last season, will try to join Scott Hamilton and Todd Eldredge as the only men to win three straight Skate America titles. The competition is in Las Vegas in October, kicking off the six-event Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy.

GP Entries: Men | Women | Pairs | Dance

Joining Chen at Skate America are past U.S. champions and Olympians Jason BrownBradie Tennell and Karen Chen. Reigning U.S. pairs’ champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc and ice dance champs Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue are also slated for Las Vegas.

The top international names at Skate America include two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China, world silver medalist Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan and 15-year-old Russian champion Anna Shcherbakova in her senior Grand Prix debut.

Nathan Chen will also compete at Grand Prix France the first week of November, which would require him to skip classes at Yale. Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is entered in two other Grand Prix events in Canada and Japan.

U.S. champion Alysa Liu, at 13, is too young for the senior Grand Prix. She will make her Junior Grand Prix debut in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August.

As previously announced, U.S. Olympians Ashley WagnerMirai Nagasu and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are skipping the Grand Prix Series as they continue to take indefinite breaks from skating. None have competed since the PyeongChang Olympics.

Also not in the Grand Prix fields, as expected, are Olympic medalists Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, Carolina Kostner of Italy and Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They all sat out last season, too.

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MORE: Ice dance world medalists take competition break

Kaitlyn Weaver, Andrew Poje, world ice dance medalists, step away from competition

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Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, three-time world ice dance medalists, are stepping away from competition indefinitely.

The couple will “evaluate their future plans and will provide an update on their career later this season,” according to Skate Canada.

Weaver, 30, and Poje, 32, placed seventh at the 2014 Olympics and 2018 Olympics. They also earned world championships medals in 2014 (silver), 2015 (bronze) and 2018 (bronze) as well as back-to-back Grand Prix Final titles in 2014 and 2015.

They have competed on the top senior international level since 2007 but have largely been in the shadow of fellow Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the 2010 and 2018 Olympic champions who are also on an indefinite break from competition (possibly never to compete again).

Weaver and Poje placed fifth at worlds this past spring after skipping last fall’s Grand Prix season.

The world’s top ice dance couples are French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (four-time world champions), Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

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