The 2006/2007 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating resumes this week with the NHK Trophy in Nagano, Japan from November 30 to December 3. The NHK Trophy is the sixth and last event in the Grand Prix series and thus provides the last opportunity for skaters to earn points and to qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in St. Petersburg (RUS).
In the Men’s event, three competitors still have a good shot at grabbing one of the available spots in the Grand Prix Final. Four Continents Champion Nobunari Oda (JPN) has 15 points from his win at Skate America. Daisuke Takahashi (JPN), who finished second to Lambiel in Victoria, got 13 points. Kevin van der Perren (BEL) enters the NHK Trophy with 9 points after placing fourth at Skate America. Chengjiang Li (CHN), who withdrew from the Cup of China due to illness, is also a medal contender in Nagano. Other competitors include World Junior Champion Takahiko Kozuka (JPN), Patrick Chan (CAN), Alexander Uspenski (RUS) and Kristoffer Berntsson (SWE). Reigning World Champion Stephane Lambiel (SUI) withdrew Wednesday due to health problems.
The Ladies’ event promises a tough competition for the remaining spots in the Grand Prix Final. Japan’s Fumie Suguri and Yukari Nakano both come with 13 points to Nagano after taking silver medals in Canada and China. Defending Grand Prix Champion Mao Asada (JPN) has 11 points from a third-place finish at Skate America. Other competitors include Beatrisa Liang (USA), World Junior bronze medalist Christine Zukowski (USA), Arina Martynova (RUS), Tugba Karademir (TUR) and Lesley Hawker (CAN).
Reigning Olympic silver medalists Dan Zhang/Hao Zhang (CHN) lead the pairs. The main challenge should come from their compatriots and Olympic bronze medalists Xue Shen/Hongbo Zhao. Both couples picked up 15 points by winning their Grand Prix events Skate Canada and Cup of China. Skate Canada bronze medalists Valerie Marcoux/Craig Buntin (CAN) and Trophee Bompard bronze medalists Julia Obertas/Sergei Slavnov (RUS) are also vying for a spot in the Grand Prix Final and a medal in Japan. Also competing are World Junior Champions Julia Vlassov/Drew Meekins (USA) and Utako Wakamatsu/Jean-Sebastien Fecteau (CAN).
In the Ice Dancing event, reigning World silver medalists Marie-France Dubreuil/Patrice Lauzon (CAN) want to secure their ticket to St. Petersburg. They have earned 15 points at Skate Canada. Skate America silver medalists Melissa Gregory/Denis Petukhov (USA) come with 13 points to Japan and Cup of China bronze medalists Jana Khokhlova/Sergei Novitski (RUS) with 11. Both couples can make it to the Final here in Japan. Other competitors are Nozomi Watanabe/Akiyuki Kido (JPN), Anna Zadarozhniuk/Sergei Verbillo (UKR), World junior bronze medalists Meryl Davis/Charlie White (USA) and Trina Pratt/Todd Gilles (USA).
The schedule of the NHK Trophy is as follows:
Thursday, November 30: Compulsory Dance, Pairs Short Program
Friday, December 1: Original Dance, Ladies Short Program, Pairs Free Skating
Saturday, December 2: Men Short Program, Free Dance, Ladies Free Skating
Sunday, December 3: Men Free Skating, Exhibition Gala