Grand Prix Final Qualification Begins at NHK Trophy

by Ashli Meynert | Photo by Liz Chastney

The weekend of November 8-10 marks the fourth Grand Prix competition for this Olympic season. Skaters from six different countries are traveling to Tokyo, Japan, in hopes of adding their names to the list for the Grand Prix Final in December. Most teams have competed only once so far, and this will be the first opportunity for some of the top contenders to qualify for the Final. NHK Trophy features all three of the medalist teams from Skate America.

The hallmark skaters of this event are Meryl Davis & Charlie White from the United States. Davis & White currently hold the best total score of the season, 188.23, which they set in front of a home crowd at Skate America. This score is only one point from their world record score, set at the 2013 World Championships, an amazing accomplishment for the beginning of the season. They are skating to “My Fair Lady” for their short dance and “Scheherazade” for their free. 

Also representing the United States are Maia Shibutani & Alex Shibutani. The Shibutani siblings placed third at Skate America with their Michael Bublé short dance and Michael Jackson free dance. They just might be one of the most personable ice dance teams out there, as they connect with their fans through fun videos posted to their “ShibSibs” channel on YouTube. The Shibutanis scored 154.47 and they will need to get past Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte in order to increase their chances of making the Final.

Italians Cappellini & Lanotte were second at Skate America with a total score of 168.49, a big number compared to their recent Grand Prix efforts. This year, they are skating to “42nd Street” for their short dance and to “Barber of Seville” for their free dance. Cappellini & Lanotte earned all level 4s in the short dance at Skate America, a first for them.

13gpjpn-kolcarRussians Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov could disrupt the Skate America podium reunion. This will be their first international competition of this Olympic season and fans are anxious to see how their “Swan Lake” free dance looks. Ilinykh & Katsalapov won a pair of silver medals on the Grand Prix circuit last season, as well as at the European Championships, but faltered at the World Championships, where they placed a disappointing ninth.

Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin will also represent Russia in Tokyo. They are coming off off a 160.22-point, silver-medal-winning outing at Ice Star in Minsk, Belarus, but their compatriots Bobrova & Soloviev already had trouble matching Ice Star’s inflated marks on the Grand Prix last week.

Canada is sending Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier to this event. Gilles & Poirier have skated together for the past two seasons and are the youngest partnership in the event. After a broken ankle to Poirier set this team back over the summer, they debuted their Caro Emerald short dance a couple of weeks ago at Octoberfest, a club competition in Ontario. Their free dance to the “Hitchcock” movie soundtrack will get its first outing this weekend in Japan.

Germans Tanja Kolbe & Stefano Caruso (pictured, left) will make their Grand Prix début this week. They have plenty of senior B experience and were eighth at the European championships last year. Kolbe & Caruso placed third at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial earlier in the season with their “New York, New York” short dance and their free dance to music from the movie “Enchanted.” 

Cathy Reed & Chris Reed from Japan are the host pick for this competition, as usual. They were fifth at Skate America with a score of 136.13. Their short dance this year is “Puttin’ On the Ritz” by Irving Berlin and their free is to the “Shogun 2 – Total War” soundtrack.

The short dance will be held Saturday afternoon, and the free dance is scheduled to precede the gala on Sunday afternoon.