Figure skating: Decisive battle for spots in the Grand Prix final unfolds in Japan
This Friday the sixth and last event in the figure skating Grand Prix series NHK Trophy kicks off in Japan. This will be the last chance for all of the event participants to qualify for the Grand Prix final in Sochi that will be held in December. 49 athletes representing 9 different countries will be fighting for important points to earn a spot in the final.
So, whom will we see in Japan this week? Of course much attention will be focused on Japanese skaters who are definitely intending to please the home crowd with their immaculate skating. Competing for Japan will be 2012 world silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi and world bronze medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. They will be accompanied by world bronze medal holder Akiko Suzuki and world champion Mao Asada who prevailed at the Cup of China two weeks ago.
the 2011 world gold medalists in ice-dancing Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the USA will also take part in the event that precedes the Grand Prix final in Sochi. There is no doubt the 2012 world runners up will progress to the culminating Grand Prix event as they have already claimed a solid victory at the Skate America. Their principle archrivals world and Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada have already made it into the final, so the first meeting of the world's strongest ice-dancing duets will take place in Sochi in two weeks.
Of course Russian skaters are among the participants and let's name those athletes who will try hard to join the list of Sochi qualifiers. In men's program Russia will be represented by Sergey Voronov but obviously his chances of being among the the finalists are miserable, nevertheless it will be a nice opportunity to test his readiness ahead of the national championship.
Sofia Birukova and Ksenia Makarova will battle for awards in women's program. Vera Bazarova and Yuriy Larionov will defend the national colors in Japan in pair skating discipline. and by the way the possibility of seeing them in Sochi is very high as they took silver at the home event in Moscow and in case they repeat this result in Japan they will automatically advance to the Grand Prix final. Bazarova and Larionov will not be the sole Russian couple to compete in Japan. Anastasia Martiusheva and Alexei Rogonov will also perform at the 6th Grand Prix event.
And finally in ice-dancing the 2012 European bronze medalists Elena Iliynikh and Nikita Katsalapov will apply efforts on finishing in the top three.