OSAKA, Japan (AP) Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu just needs a podium finish at the NHK Trophy this weekend to secure a spot in figure skating’s Grand Prix Final.
Making the podium appears to be a formality for Hanyu, who bruised his head and chin in a scary collision with Chinese skater Yan Han in warmups for the Cup of China three weeks ago. He still went on to skate in Shanghai and finish second, but was visibly shaken and fell five times.
Hanyu, who has been recuperating in Japan and did not return to his base in Toronto after Shanghai, ought to expect a rousing reception on home ice from Japanese fans.
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Three male skaters have already earned berths in the GP Final in Barcelona next month: Tatsuki Machida of Japan, Maxim Kovtun of Russia, and Javier Fernandez of Spain.
In addition to Hanyu, Takahito Mura of Japan, who won Skate Canada, and Rostelecom Cup silver medalist Sergei Voronov of Russia are tipped to secure spots for Barcelona. Jeremy Abbott of the United States would need to upset the favorites in the grand prix series closer to qualify.
On the women’s side, four slots for the GP Final have been claimed by Russians Elena Radionova, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Anna Pogorilaya and Julia Lipnitskaia.
Satoko Miyahara of Japan along with compatriot Kanako Murakami and U.S. champion Gracie Gold all earned a bronze medal in their first grand prix this season, and have entered the NHK to compete for the two remaining spots.
In pairs, Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada will be up against two-time world bronze medalists Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov of Russia. Both teams won their first event on the circuit but have yet to qualify for Barcelona.
World junior champions Xiaoyu Yu and Yang Jin of China claimed a silver medal at the Cup of China and have a chance to qualify as well.
Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada lead the ice dance field, and will be looking for a second grand prix gold medal and qualification for the GP Final following their victory at Skate Canada. European bronze medalists Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland of Britain won bronze at the Rostelecom Cup and are also in the qualifying hunt.