by Matteo Morelli

Sapporo is ready to welcome back NHK Trophy, the fifth of the six ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series of this year. 

This will be Japan’s 44th NHK Trophy event: the competition first started as an international event back in 1979, and was added to the series in 1995. 

The Medal Hunt: Coming back to their second Grand Prix, USA’s Madison Chock and Evan Bates will be hoping to secure another top podium result at NHK Trophy. This season, they took the risk to first present their programmes at Skate America, still managing to win the most important medals at the event, but stepping away with more work required to show their full potential.

Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen will be back for their second Grand Prix, after a silver medal earned at Grand Prix de France in Angers. They will try to contend the highest spots, to secure a qualification to the Grand Prix Final.

France’s Evgenia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud will also fight for a medal that they aim to add to their bronze earned at Grand Prix de France. 

Japan’s darlings Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi will try to improve their results: they ended sixth at Skate America, but only by a fraction of a point from the teams in fifth and fourth place. 

Late Grand Prix start for China’s Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu, competing back to back at the last two of the series. Also competing at their only Grand Prix are Lithuania’s Allison Reed and Saulius Ambulevicius, after they had to withdraw from Skate America.

Current expected qualifications for the Grand Prix final: After four events, Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri are safely qualified for the grand prix final that will take place in their home country, after collecting two gold medals from Angers and Sheffield. Also qualified are Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, with their two silver medals won in Mississauga and Sheffield. The next two grand prix events will determine the remaining 4 teams to qualify for the final.

Event info: Teams have official practices on Thursday, November 17. The rhythm dance kicks off at 4:15pm (JST) on Friday, November 18, with the free dance occurring on Saturday, November 19 at 4:50pm (JST).