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NHK Trophy Recap

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The Grand Prix is always an exciting event to watch, but with the Olympic Games only three months away there is added intrigue. It’s not all about who finishes on the podium, it is also about vying for a spot on the Olympic Team. There are now layers and consequences to each competition for each country.

Adam Rippon wins round one

We are more than halfway through the Grand Prix circuit and we finally got to see Adam Rippon compete. This was the first face-off between Adam Rippon and Jason Brown this season, who are both fighting for a spot on the Olympic Team.

Rippon was in fourth place after the short and delivered a fantastic free skate. Adam opened with a quad lutz, that was under-rotated, but he proceeded to land each element. This program is a perfect fit for Rippon and the judges apparently agreed as he captured the silver medal. Sergei Voronov secured the gold, while Israel’s Alexei Bychenko took home the bronze.

Jason Brown had a fairly solid short program, but struggled in the free skate falling on both of his triple axels. It was certainly not the clean Jason that we are used to seeing. Brown desperately needed to make it onto the podium to secure a spot in the Grand Prix Final but also to set himself apart as one of the leading U.S. men. Unfortunately Jason finished in fourth place, leaving his future unclear.

Hubbell and Donohue make strides, while Virtue and Moir stumble

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won their second Grand Prix gold this season and have punched their ticket to the Finals. This win did not come without its bobbles though. No world record scores were given here as Scott fell out of his twizzles during the short dance. This may seem like a minor thing, but considering how close the scoring is between Virtue and Moir and Papadakis and Cizeron, this could easily open the door for a major upset. In ice dance, there is little room for mistakes like this.

Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue made quite a statement overcoming 2014 world champions Anna Cappaellini and Luca Lanotte. Hubbell and Donohue stole the silver from Cappaellini and Lanotte by less than 2 points with a fabulous free dance. This was a much needed win for Hubbell and Donohue as they work to surpass the other U.S. ice dance teams and assert themselves as a top team.

Evgenia Medvedeva is in fact fallible

I seriously thought that Evgenia had to be injured. Medvedeva had an expected solid short program, but had a tough free skate. Evgenia surprisingly fell on her opening triple flip and then came apart on her triple lutz. Evgenia so rarely makes a mistake that when she does, it is a show stopper. Despite the mistakes, Medvedeva still managed to capture the gold and finish with a 12 point lead over second place finisher, Carolina Kostner.

It will be interesting to see if these mistakes continue as the season progresses. If Evgenia continues to come unglued, her top spot could easily come into question and she could be overtaken before the Olympics and we have no idea how that would affect her. Things just got more interesting in ladies figure skating.

 

Satoko Miyahara is no longer in contention

It has been a long wait for Japanese skater Satoko Miyahara to return to the ice. Miyahara has not competed for 11 months due to a hip injury. Satoko is such a charming skater, but sadly she could not keep it together. Her errors added up and she finished in fifth place. With so many talented Japanese ladies, it is unlikely that she will make the Olympic Team.

Yuzuru Hanyu sidelined by injury

Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu was injured during a practice prior to the start of the NHK Trophy. He apparently has ligament damage to his right ankle after falling awkwardly on the quad lutz. It was a devastating blow for the Japanese fans. Hanyu has won the last four consecutive Grand Prix Finals, but now he will not even qualify for the Grand Prix Final as he withdrew from the NHK Trophy.

It has been released that he will need 10 days of complete rest and it will take him three to four weeks to completely recover. Yuzuru is still hoping to compete at the Japanese Nationals, which takes place at the end of December. With the Olympics only three months away, he needs all the time that he can get to recover and remain healthy.

What this means for the Grand Prix Final is fairly significant. With the absence of Yuzuru Hanyu, Javier Fernandez and Patrick Chan the door is wide open for some new faces on the Grand Prix Final podium.

Mirai Nagasu out skates Bell

The NHK Trophy was the third time that Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell have faced off. The first round went to Nagasu at the Salt Lake Classic. The next round belonged to Bell at Cup of Russia finishing sixth ahead of Nagasu who was ninth. At the NHK Trophy it was Mirai Nagasu who came out on top. Nagasu finished in fourth place, while Bell finished in ninth.

U.S. Figure Skating is definitely watching these results to help them decide who should make the Olympic Team. Though Nagasu and Bell have both not had outstanding results during the Grand Prix, the U.S. ladies have three spots and Nagasu has shown that she would be the best pick between her and Bell for the Olympic Team.

Sui and Han continue to impress

It was another gold for Wenjing Sui and Cong Han as they also qualified for the Grand Prix Final. They are the pair team to beat this season. They skate with such confidence and strength that you almost forget that they have been plagued by injuries.

The Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov claimed the silver, while their teammates Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov secured the bronze.

Americans Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim finished in fifth. Overall they had a good showing here, but Chris kept falling on their side-by-side jumps. Had they worked out their side-by-side jumps they would have been real contenders here. Regardless of placement, the Knierims still have the highest U.S. pairs team overall score of 192.51 for the Grand Prix this season. This score could still help them make the Olympic Team.

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