The NHK Trophy is the penultimate competition of the Grand Prix series before the Grand Prix Final. Taking place in Sapporo, Japan, it was an intense event as each skater worked to put their best out on the ice, with athletes striving to secure a spot in the final. Read on for a closer look at what went down!
🥇Shoma Uno (Japan)
🥈 Sota Yamamoto (Japan)
🥉 Junhwan Cha (South Korea)
🥇 Yelim Kim (South Korea)
🥈 Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)
🥉 Rion Sumiyoshi (Japan)
🥇 Laurence Fournier Beaudry / Nikolaj Soerensen (Canada)
🥈 Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA)
🥉 Caroline Green / Michael Parsons (USA)
🥇 Riku Miura / Ryuichi Kihara (Japan)
🥈 Emily Chan / Spencer Akira Howe (USA)
🥉 Brooke McIntosh / Benjamin Mimar (Canada)
Winning the gold medal in the men’s event was Shoma Uno of Japan, achieving another first-place Grand Prix finish this season. Skating to ‘Gravity’ in the short program, he picked up on the variations in dynamics and emotion in the piece, achieving these dualities and controlling both flow and pauses in movement. He had a fall on the quad toe-loop, subsequently missing out on the combination, but his triple axel and quad flip both earned high GOE of +3.61 and +2.29 each. The step sequence to the guitar section displays his commitment to details of the choreography, using his whole body to express the music. The performance, despite its mistake, earned him a season’s best of 91.66 points. In his free skate, he returned to the classical and baroque style which plays to his strengths, and earned a standing ovation from the home audience. Shoma opened with delicacy and sensitivity in the ‘Air on the G String’ section of the program, landing a strong quad loop. He popped the quad flip into a double, however, which cost him numerous points, but delivered high quality and high-scoring jumps in the rest of the program. The choreo sequence is no doubt a highlight of the free skate, with the use of his hand and arm to skillfully enunciate the nuances of the music: a detail which does not go unnoticed. He achieved another season’s best of 188.10 for the performance.
In second place was compatriot Sota Yamamoto. His short program was a clean skate, nailing a 4T-3T, 4S and 3A. He has had a good season so far, with a silver medal in the Grand Prix de France a couple of weeks ago, and is a strong skater in terms of both TES and PCS. His lyrical and flowing performance to ‘Yesterday’ showed neat positions in spins, which maintained speed and were centered. He picked up on the accents of the piece and its intricacies, although there is still room to push the performative aspects even further and project more to the audience. The short program earned him a season’s best of 96.49 points. He wasn’t able to carry this momentum to the free program, producing only the sixth-highest scoring FS, with two falls, both on the triple axel (which was consequently a repeated element), and had an edge call on the lutz. Nonetheless, he maintained his second-place position to win another silver GP medal.
Junhwan Cha of South Korea was third. He came into the free skate in sixth place after a slightly disappointing short program, with a fall on the quad salchow and a step out on the triple loop: the latter was consequently judged as landed on the quarter, further decreasing the TES. Junhwan showed high quality in his other elements, with him and Shoma Uno being the only men to be rewarded with a level four step sequence. He furthermore secured level fours in all spins, skating to the Michael Jackson program which works well for him. His free skate to the soundtrack of James Bond saw him landing two stunning quads in the intense opening to the performance. It wasn’t an entirely flawless skate, with some rougher landings and a step out from a triple axel, paired with some underrotated jumps. However, it is a crowd-pleasing and strong program which interlinks choreography and elements, and he delivered it all with a seamless flow between each movement. He ended the program with his trademark and beautiful Ina Bauer as part of the choreo sequence.
In a notoriously intense men’s field, there were three other skaters who came into the competition with a Grand Prix medal from this season.
Kazuki Tomono of Japan, third in the Grand Prix de France, missed out on a medal here and finished in fourth place. His personality and character are evident in his short program to ‘Happy Jazz’, which includes an intricate step sequence that he made look easy, displaying his strong musicality and showmanship. Misha Ge’s choreography in his free skate highlights all his qualities as an entertainer, and he delivered a skilful interpretation of the classical music. He opened with a great 4T-3T combination but popped the following quad salchow and had a fall on the quad toe-loop later on. Nonetheless there was attention to all the nuances of ‘Die Fledermaus’; the step sequence was again complex yet fun, engaging with the audience and the judges.
The winner of the French Grand Prix, Adam Siao Him Fa of France, came fifth at the NHK Trophy. He is a passionate performer, and his two programs form a larger narrative: a creative approach. He takes ownership of Benoit Richaud’s choreography, from the opening movements of the short program to the transitions between the jumping passes. There were technical errors in the SP for the second two jumping passes, the 3A and 4S. His free skate was riddled with errors, with popped jumps and a step out. However, he delivered a quality quad salchow here, and executed the choreography with dedication. His step sequence and choreo sequence at the end of the program enables him to showcase his artistry, with features of contemporary dance in the movements.
Matteo Rizzo of Italy, third at Skate Canada, was sixth. He had a mistake on the opening quad toe-loop in his short program, incurring a deductive GOE. He thus decided to make it a single-quad program, which worked for him as he managed to attain positive grades of execution in all other elements. The rousing Måneskin program enables him to display his musicality and charisma, and the step sequence is always a highlight. He didn’t go for the quad loop as he did in Skate Canada. In his free skate, he had an under-rotated quad toe-loop with a step out, but managed to recover from this setback by delivering some strong jumps afterwards, including a beautiful 3A-2A combination with great distance. His choreo sequence underscored his musicality, and he showed versatility between the ‘Talking to the Moon’ and ‘That’s What I Like’ sections of the program.
Yelim Kim of South Korea won the Women’s event. Her short program produced a season’s best score of 72.22 and was a clean skate. She landed all her jumps with flow, and the grace of her skating was evident, with an effortlessness in her movements. She also showcased great transitional content, and all the elements blended seamlessly into the wider choreography. She opened with a beautiful Rippon triple lutz-triple toe-loop combination in her free skate. Yelim struggled with the triple flip in the program, with a hand down on one and a fall on the other, resulting in a repeated jump. This cost her some valuable points; however, whilst her free skate score of 132.27 came in second after Kaori Sakamoto’s 133.80, she maintained her lead overall to take the gold medal. This is South Korea’s first Senior Grand Prix gold since Yuna Kim.
Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won the silver medal, following on from her gold medal win at Skate America. She wasn’t able to deliver a clean short program, and finished in second place after the SP. As always, she demonstrated remarkable ice coverage, however didn’t nail all the jumps in her short program, with mistakes on the triple lutz and triple flip-triple toe-loop combination. The judges furthermore noted an unclear edge in the lutz, and an under rotation on the toe-loop, which led to negative grades of execution. Her free skate to ‘Elastic Heart’ had speed and flow throughout the performance. She got a high GOE of +1.41 on the opening element, the double axel, but wasn’t able to maintain this quality across the whole program, with two jumping passes given a minus GOE. Nonetheless, she had the highest PCS in the women’s event for the free skate.
Rion Sumiyoshi ofJapan won the bronze medal, as she did in the Grand Prix de France. Her short program attained level fours in all spins and the step sequence, although her triple toe-loop in combination was marked as landed on the quarter. She showed sensitivity towards the nuances of the music, using her whole body to express ‘White Flowers Take Their Bath’. Her free skate opened with a quad toe-loop attempt, which was both downgraded and a fall. She recovered from this to deliver some beautiful jumps, however fell again on the final jumping pass, the triple salchow. It was a strong skate despite this, with power and dynamism.
Rinka Watanabe of Japan won the gold medal at Skate Canada, but produced a disappointing short program, including a fall on the triple axel and an invalidated popped loop, which had her coming in ninth place. She climbed to a fifth-place finish overall, delivering the third-highest scoring free skate. Amber Glenn of the USA, who won the bronze medal at Skate America, finished eleventh overall. She landed the triple axel in the free skate, judged fully rotated, but four elements were given negative grades of execution. Starr Andrews of the USA, the silver medalist at Skate Canada, finished in ninth place; she was fifth after the short program but had a difficult free skate with multiple jumping errors.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada finished in first place for the Ice Dance event. The rhythm dance showed neat twizzles and high GOEs in every element; although they were second in terms of PCS, they had the highest TES and took the lead. Their free dance was another flawless skate, with remarkable flow in the lifts and unison in the twizzles. Both skaters have good performative abilities and brought the program to a vibrant and captivating ending. There was a deduction for an extended lift, lowering their score slightly, but they nonetheless achieved the highest free dance score and took the gold medal, with just over a point above Madison Chock and Evan Bates.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the USA won the silver medal: many were expecting them to win, as World bronze medalists and winners of Skate America. Their rhythm dance was given 85.00 and was a season’s best, but this wasn’t enough to go into the free dance in a first-place position. However, they put out a clean rhythm dance, with all elements being given a high GOE; notably, their twizzles were rewarded with a level four and +2.86. The free dance maintained fluidity throughout the program, with high levels and grades of execution given once again. There were slight issues with balance in the twizzles, but they were clean otherwise, skating to an intense program set to ‘Souffrance’ and ‘Les Tectoniques’. The 124.13 score was a season’s best.
In third place was Caroline Green and Michael Parsons of the USA. They produced a season’s best of 77.00 in the rhythm dance, which was a clean skate. The two maintained unison throughout the program, right from the opening sets of twizzles, and gave an energetic and fun performance. The free dance to ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ condensed the piece into the program with success, reflecting both the softer and louder sections of the music, and showcasing the slower and more up-tempo areas as well. The twizzles were given a level 4 and positive GOE, and the performance built up to an energetic conclusion. They were given a standing ovation by members of the audience.
Fifth after the rhythm dance and sixth overall were Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, finishing three places ahead of compatriots Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto. They delivered a high energy rhythm dance, with verve from the very opening of the program; both are charismatic performers with strong musicality. The very different tonality and character of this program from their free dance demonstrates their range as artists. The free dance to ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ opened with a captivating choreo step. The program plays to their strengths of storytelling, and although it is a popular and often-seen choice of music, the two manage to bring something original to the musical. Their twizzles were unfortunately out of sync, but they showed quality elsewhere and brought the spectators with them in the dynamic performance.
In first place for the Pairs event was Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan. The gold medalists of Skate Canada produced another strong set of performances. Both programs earned the highest PCS and TES scores. Their short program was clean, nailing the side-by-side triple toe-loop and the throw triple lutz. Their lift was awarded a +2.30 GOE. They maintained flow throughout the program, and exuded vibrancy in the step sequence. The two appeared to be delighted by their score of 78.25. The free skate was performed to the emotive and touching lyrics of ‘Atlas: Two’ by Sleeping at Last, which they expressed well in their choreography. They covered the ice with speed; although three elements were given a negative GOE (of which two were the side-by-side jumping passes), they racked up points and grades of execution bonuses elsewhere. The total score was a season’s best of 216.16.
Winning the silver medal was Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe of the USA: their second Grand Prix silver this season after Skate Canada. They weren’t able to deliver a completely clean performance in the short program, with a two-footed landing from the throw triple loop, and a fall on the side-by-side triple toe-loop. It was a solid performance nevertheless which had them coming in second place after the short program. They picked up on the beats of percussion during their step sequence and emoted well towards the audience. There were some smaller errors in the free skate, with just a double toe-loop, and again a two-footed landing from a throw jump. However, it was a good skate by the team, who interpreted the soundtrack of ‘Ghost’ with sensitivity and musicality.
Brooke McIntosh and Benjamin Mimar of Canada were in third place. The short program was a clean skate apart from negative GOE on the throw triple loop, with McIntosh managing to hold onto the landing. They connected well to the music, and we should see the skills of expressing and emoting grow further still as they gain more experience on the Senior circuit. They were rewarded well for the lift: an element which contributed 7.92 points to their overall score. The free skate was set to the music of ‘Les Miserables’; the performance had a strong first half, with the two nailing the side-by-side jumping passes. There was a level 4 lift, with a +1.40 GOE. Unfortunately, the throw triple loop led to a hard fall, meaning that they struggled a little in the following lift. Nonetheless they stayed in third place to win the bronze medal, with a considerable margin over the fourth-place finishers.
Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany, Grand Prix de France bronze medalists, withdrew prior to the competition, due to Annika testing positive for COVID-19. Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev of France, who won the silver medal in France, finished in fifth place in Sapporo. They had a slight problem with the lift in the short program, leading to a -0.19 GOE, and had a step out from the salchow, which was consequently another negative grade of execution. They also lost valuable points elsewhere, such as a level two step sequence and the death spiral given just +0.04. They were fifth after the short program; their free skate was the fourth highest score, but this wasn’t enough to put them in front of Irma Caldara and Riccardo Maglio of Italy, with a margin of over two points. They had negative GOE for two elements in the free skate: the throw triple flip and the side-by-side 3T-1T combination.