From November 25 – 27, this year’s NHK Trophy took place in Sapporo. This was the sixth event in the International Skating Union’s 2016 – 2017 Grand Prix Series. Japan sent 6 skaters, a pairs team, and 2 ice dance teams to this competition. Japanese skaters won a medal of each color at the event.
Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s portion of NHK Trophy with a total score of 301.47, 32.56 points ahead of the second place finisher, American Nathan Chen. This score is the highest total score for a skater this season. Yuzuru’s short program received a score of 103.89, putting him in first place, 15.95 points ahead of Nathan. This score is the highest short program score for a skater this season. Yuzuru opened with a quad loop, that though fully rotated, had a bit of an off-balance landing. “I was not able to cleanly land my quad loop,” he later said. “I’m very disappointed by that. I could have done better. Looking back at my performance, I was able to enjoy my skating.” “I have now done a performance that will carry over until tomorrow and the next event,” he continued. “I have been able to skate through a full program. I do want to practice on my loops and spins. I’m skating better in my short program than I was at Skate Canada.”
Yuzuru’s free skate was the highest scored of the night with 197.58 points, 16.61 points ahead of Nathan. Yuzuru’s program called for four quadruple jumps, and he was able to cleanly land three of them. He fell on a planned quad salchow/triple toe loop combination near the middle of his program. He quickly recovered, hitting a quad toe loop on the very next element. After his skate, Yuzuru said, “I was able to land the (quad) loop cleanly for the first time in a competition.” He also revealed that he consulted with his coach, Brian Orser, after Skate Canada in an attempt to improve. “I did get advice from Brian. He told me I should work on the total package. We had a difference in our view. I told him, ‘I can’t get the total package unless I can get the jumps.’ So after that we agreed to work together on the total package toward the NHK Trophy.” Yuzuru added that confidence and preparation were important for him coming into this event. “I felt that I was mentally prepared. I had practiced really hard before coming here. Skating at home always helps as well.”
Keiji Tanaka placed third with a total score of 248.44, 20.47 points behind Nathan Chen. This is Keiji’s first senior Grand Prix medal. His short program received a score of 80.49, putting him in third place, 7.45 points behind Nathan. Keiji’s free skate was the third scored of the night with 167.95 points, 13.02 points behind Nathan. “My goal was to do a very good performance,” he said. “My score was not as good as Yuzuru or Nathan, so I have to build up from this.”
Satoko Miyahara placed second with a total score of 198.00, 12.86 points behind the winner of the ladies’ event, Anna Pogorilaya of Russia. Satoko’s short program was the third best of the night with a score of 64.20, 5.76 points behind Russia’s Maria Sotskova. Satoko fell on her second jump, a planned triple lutz/triple toe loop combo. She replaced the triple/triple with a triple loop/double toe loop combo later. She appeared in good shape coming out of her step sequence, but did not get enough lift out of her skid and got her feet tangled on the triple lutz, crashing to the ice. “Today was disappointing for me,” she said. “I’m not satisfied. I’m still in third place, so I will do my best for tomorrow.” Satoko, who received level-fours for her spins, said she put too much energy into the jump before her fall. “I practiced hard after Skate Canada to land cleanly on my jumps,” she noted. “I was much more confident today. I tried too hard to do my best. I put too much power into my jump.”
Satoko’s short program was given a score of 133.80, the second best of the night, 5.5 points behind Anna. “I think today’s performance was much, much better than yesterday’s,” Satoko said afterward. “I was more nervous than yesterday. I’m glad to finish in second place.” She did come up short on three jumps in the free skate however. She analyzed her current situation at this stage of the season. “Under-rotations are the part I have to work on the most,” she commented. “I think it is getting better. I felt that I under-rotated a few jumps today. If I practice I can do better on not under-rotating.”
Ryuju Hino finished in ninth place with a score of 207.15. Wakaba Higuchi finished in fourth place with a score of 185.39. Yura Matsuda finished in seventh place with a score of 178.26. The pair of Sumire Suto and Francis Boudreau-Audet finished in last place (7th) with a score of 161.85. The ice dancing team of Emi Hirai and Marien de la Asuncion also came in last place (9th) with a score of 120.35. The ice dancing team of Kana Muramoto / Chris Reed withdrew from the competition.
With the Grand Prix Series over, next up is the Grand Prix Final. This event will take place in Marseille, France on December 8 – 11. The male skaters Japan is sending are Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno. They finished the Grand Prix Series in third and fourth place, respectively. The only female skater Japan is sending to the Grand Prix Final is Satoko Miyahara, who qualified in sixth place. Mai Mihara is the third alternate. About the Grand Prix Final, Yuzuru said, “I’m actually very relieved that I can advance to the Grand Prix Final.” Satoko expressed similar sentiment, saying, “I’m very happy to be able to go to the Grand Prix Final. It was a hard way to get there.”