TOKYO (AP) The world’s top figure skaters will be looking to sharpen their routines at this weekend’s Grand Prix Final in Japan, the last major international competition before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
American skater Nathan Chen headlines the men’s event. The 18-year-old emerging star secured his place in the final with a win at Skate America last month.
Chen, who won silver in last year’s GP Final, struggled on a few of his five quad attempts at Skate America and will be looking for improvement in Nagoya.
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”I want to do better than I did at Skate America,” said Chen. ”I want to skate a clean program. I’ve been working a lot with my coaches and feel I have improved a lot over this season.”
Chen reeled off four quads at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow earlier this season when he beat Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
Hanyu is still recovering from a leg injury sustained during practice at last month’s NHK Trophy and won’t be taking part in the Dec. 7-10 Finals.
Chen said he looks forward to competing against Hanyu once the Olympic gold medalist recovers.
”I hope all athletes can compete healthy which will make for the best competition,” Chen said.
Chen’s countrymen Adam Rippon and Jason Brown are also competing.
In Hanyu’s absence, local favorite Shoma Uno will be vying for the top of the podium. Uno won gold at Skate Canada and finished runner-up at Internationaux de France last month.
Other men scheduled to take part are Russians Mikhail Kolyada and Sergei Voronov.
In the women’s competition, two-time defending world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia pulled out because of a fracture in her foot.
In the absence of Medvedeva, compatriot Alina Zagitova will be among the gold medal favorites. Zagitova secured her place in the GP Final by winning the Internationaux de France, adding to her win in China.
The 15-year-old Zagitova won the junior Grand Prix Final in her debut on the international circuit one year ago.
World silver medalist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada will also be vying for a podium finish. Osmond earned her spot in Nagoya with a gold medal at Skate Canada and a bronze medal in France. 2012 World Champion Carolina Kostner of Italy will also be a medal contender.
Maria Sotskova of Russia and Japanese skaters Wakaba Higuchi and Satoko Miyahara round out the women’s field.
In the Ice Dance event, reigning world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada and world silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France will face each other for the first time this season.
World bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States won their two events and will be top challengers.
In pairs, reigning world champions Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China will be the favorites but will face a challenge from European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia.