The NHK Trophy, being held this year in Sendai, Japan, is the last stop on the ISU Grand Prix circuit. For those skaters hoping to claim a spot in the Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy, December 6-9, it is now or never. For those skaters waiting at home to see if their scores will hold up, they will find out soon enough.
The ice dance event promises to be a thrilling competition, with three of the world’s top teams aiming to take home the gold medal. France’s Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder were victorious at Trophee Eric Bompard, with a total score of 194.14. Delobel & Schoenfelder had a strong showing in both the compulsory and original dances, giving them a six-point lead going into the free dance. Their free dance, to music from “The Piano,” had a few errors that hurt their levels and placed them second in the free dance portion, but still first overall. Delobel & Schoenfelder will be looking for a clean skate in the free dance to lift them to the top of the podium in Sendai.
The team that won the free dance at Trophee Eric Bompard, Russia’s Jana Khoklova & Sergei Novitski, will challenge for the top spot here at NHK. Khoklova & Novitski finished a close second overall at Trophee Eric Bompard with a thrilling, athletic, and dynamic free dance to “A Night on Bald Mountain” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” In order to be competitive at NHK, they will need to have stronger performances in their gypsy-themed OD and compulsory dance to keep in reach of the gold.
Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir of Canada are coming off of their first Grand Prix victory at Skate Canada. With strong performances in all three portions of the competition, Virtue & Moir achieved a personal best score of 197.07. In Sendai, the Canadians will want to prove they can repeat the success on foreign ice. Their “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” free dance, which electrified their home crowd with its fast twizzles and seamless choreography, has been a highlight of this Grand Prix season.
Although the medallists will most likely be the French, Russians, and Canadians, other teams will be looking to improve on their first Grand Prix events’ scores and possibly make a surprise jump onto the podium.
Kim Navarro & Brent Bommentre of the United States posted a new personal best at this year’s Skate America, where they finished 6th with 159.93. The buzz after the competition was that the Americans had been scored too harshly in their compulsory and original dances. They’ve had five weeks to work on polishing their dances with the feedback received in Reading. Kristin Fraser & Igor Lukanin of Azerbaijan have also had those five weeks. They received a 167.80 at Skate America, less than a point out of 4th place. Sinead Kerr & John Kerr of Great Britain have an innovative free dance to music by Enigma, but struggled with their Scottish original dance. The Kerrs finished 5th at Cup of China this year with a score of 152.99.
Japan’s Cathy Reed & Chris Reed will make their second Grand Prix appearance of the season. The siblings placed 9th in Skate America. Russia’s Julia Zlobina & Alexei Sitnikov are also appearing on the Grand Prix circuit for the second time this season. They were last at Skate Canada.