2011 NHK Trophy preview
Grand Prix Series heads to Japan for fourth event
|Japan's Mao Asada will debut her new programs in the ladies competition at NHK Trophy. (Getty Images)|
While several skaters will compete in their second Grand Prix event hoping to secure their spot in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, others are just entering the series now.
2011 world silver medalist Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) and 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) headline the men's competition. Both took bronze medals in their first Grand Prix event, and at NHK Trophy they are looking to book their ticket to the final. Tomas Verner (CZE) and Brandon Mroz (USA) will compete in their first Grand Prix this season.
2010 world champion Mao Asada (JPN) leads the ladies and will debut her new programs. Competition should come from Akiko Suzuki (JPN) and Ashley Wagner (USA), who won the silver and the bronze, respectively, at Skate Canada two weeks ago. Both have a good shot to qualify for the final. Alena Leonova (RUS) wants to improve on her fourth-place finish at Skate Canada. European bronze medalist Kiira Korpi (FIN) and Agnes Zawadzki (USA) will skate in their first Grand Prix event this year.
Three-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy (GER) will meet 2010 European champions Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov (RUS) in the pairs event. Both couples won their first Grand Prix this season; the Germans struck gold at Skate America while the Russians are fresh off their victory at Cup of China last week. Narumi Takahashi and Mervin Tran (JPN), Stefania Berton and Ondrej Hotarek (ITA), Lubov Iliushechkina and Nodari Maisuradze (RUS), and Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (USA) want to challenge for the podium as well.
World ice dancing bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (USA) will face competition from Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje (CAN), and Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov (RUS). The Shibutani siblings and the Weaver-Poje team claimed silver medals at Cup of China and Skate Canada, respectively, and want to assure their spot in the final. Ilinykh and Katsalapov will compete in their first event this season. Other contenders include Nelli Zhiganshina and Alexander Gazsi (GER), and Lorenza Alessandrini and Simone Vaturi (ITA). The full list of entries is available at www.isu.org
The schedule for NHK Trophy is as follows:
Friday, Nov. 11: Short dance, ladies short program and pairs short program
Saturday, Nov. 12: Free dance, men's short program, ladies free skating and pairs free skating
Sunday, Nov. 13: Men's free skating, Exhibition Gala