winter sports

Japan figures out paths to Grand Prix Final

Yuzuru Hanyu packs a lot of jumps into a short program. The Japanese teen’s leaping prowess gave him a world record 95.07 points in the short program at Skate America. Then he beat that this weekend in his home country with 95.32.

He won the NHK Trophy and qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, the 2014 Olympic site. But he won’t have an easy time getting back there in 15 months. FOUR of the six qualifiers for the men’s Final are from Japan.

Canada’s back-to-back world champion Patrick Chan is officially first, tying at 28 points (one first place, one second) with Hanyu and Takahiko Kozuka. Then it’s Tatsuki Machida at 26 points, tied with Daisuke Takahashi. Spain’s Javier Fernandez has the last spot with 24 points.

Japanese men won four of the six Grand Prix events. That’s one each for Hanyu, Kozuka and Machida, then one for Takahito Mura. But Mura had a bad run at Skate Canada, finishing eighth, so he’s only the third alternate. Fernandez and Chan have the other wins.

The U.S. skaters aren’t totally out of it. Jeremy Abbott (second in France, fifth at Skate America) is the first alternate. Ross Miner beat Fernandez to reach the podium at the NHK Trophy, which I still keep typing as “NHL Trophy.”

Check the men’s standings, and we’ll move to the others. Yes, the USA will be represented at the Final. Not as much as Japan. Or Russia.

Women

Ashley Wagner won in the USA and France. Japan’s Mao Asada won in China and Japan. They’re 1-2 headed into the Final. Then it’s Finland’s Kiira Korpi and another Japanese skater, Akiko Suzuki. Then two Russians, Julia Lipnitskaia and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.

Two more Americans, Christina Gao and Mirai Nagasu, are the first two alternates, ahead of yet another Japanese skater and another American, Agnes Zawadski. Add Gracie Gold in 12th, and the USA has five skaters in the top 12 along with three Russians, three Japanese skaters and Korpi. Shall we start a team event? (Women’s standings)

Ice dance

If you read the season preview, you won’t be surprised to see that the USA’s Meryl Davis/Charlie White and Canada’s Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir won their events. France’s Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat, third in last year’s Worlds, won the other two.

Then three other pairs each took second in their events. That’s your Grand Prix Final field. The top two alternates each placed third in their two events, but the USA’s Shibutani siblings (Maia and Alex) messed everything up by finishing third and fourth in their events.

Check the standings — this event is nothing if not predictable.

Pairs

Almost as predictable as ice dance. Russia’s Tatiana Voloshozhar/Maxim Trankov won both of their events.

Russia’s Vera Bazarova/Yuri Larionov and China’s Pang Qing/Tong Jian won the events without Voloshozhar/Trankov and finished second in the events with the top pair.

Russia’s Yuko Kavaguti/Alexander Smirmov won without the top three and finished second to Pang/Tong.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford finished second in each event — once to Kavaguti/Smirnov, once to Germany’s Aliona Savchenko/Robin Szolkowy.

The Germans only competed in one event, leaving space in the top six for one more pair. Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch finished fourth in China, then placed second when only one of the top five pairs competed in Japan.

That squeezed out the USA’s Caydee Denney/John Coughlin, who finished third in each event.

Check the standings if you want to see all that in chart form.

Countries

So the 24 entries in the Grand Prix Final are set, pending injuries and illness. Country-by-country:

  • Russia: 2 women, 3 pairs, 2 dance duos
  • Japan: 4 men, 2 women
  • Canada: 1 man, 2 pairs, 1 dance duo
  • USA: 1 woman, 1 dance duo
  • China: 1 pair
  • France: 1 dance duo
  • Italy: 1 dance duo
  • Finland: 1 woman
  • Spain: 1 man

(Yes, the headline pun is awful.)

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