For the first time in 17 years, no Japanese skater stood on the podium at the NHK Trophy. Despite the lack of hardware for the home team, there were still many noteworthy moments at this year’s edition in Osaka.
The withdrawal of Yuzuru Hanyu on the morning of the short programme due to an injury sustained to a lateral ligament of his right ankle on the landing of a quadruple Lutz in practice the day before left the men’s event wide open.
Sergei Voronov, at the age of 30, became the oldest man ever to win a singles title at a Grand Prix. The Russian took the lead in the short programme and then closed the door in the free skating with a new personal best of 181.06. He took the title with a lifetime best combined total of 271.12 and became the first male singles skater from Russia to win at NHK Trophy since Ilia Klimkin in 2002.
The other men who climbed onto the podium with Voronov could also be described as veterans. Adam Rippon celebrated his 28th birthday on the day of the free and laid down one of the best performances of his career that included a landed but under rotated quad Lutz to bring him a silver. Alexei Bychenko (29) dropped from second after the short to wind up with bronze.
Even though Evgenia Medvedeva ultimately maintained her unbeaten international streak that extends back to November 2015, she also showed in Osaka that she is actually human. After a flawless short, the two-time World champion began her free in chaotic fashion. She fell on an opening triple flip and stepped out of a triple Lutz. She was able to calm herself down and finished the rest of her routine without error. Despite her errors, she still won the title and sealed her place at the Grand Prix Final back in Japan next month.
Carolina Kostner flew the flag for the veterans on the ladies side. The 2012 World champion doubled a triple toe and fell on a triple Salchow in her free, but had enough in hand from the short to stay in second place overall. The Italian appears to be certain to skate in her first Grand Prix Final since 2011.
After being sidelined for the past year, Polina Tsurskaya made an impressive Senior Grand Prix debut by winning bronze in Osaka. She was the only one of the top three to skate cleanly in the free.
Following their victory at home last weekend, Wenjing Sui & Cong Han were back on the ice in Japan and, if anything, skated better than they did in Beijing. The reigning World champions booked their ticket to the Grand Prix Final with a seemingly effortless win and a 155.10 free skate that saw them surpass the four year old world record score of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. This was also the first NHK Trophy title for the Chinese pair.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov had a much more cohesive competition than at Rostelecom Cup, even though the outcome for them was the same. With two silver medals, the 2014 Olympic silver medallists also look set to return to Japan next month for the Grand Prix Final.
There was also a repeat of their Rostelecom Cup result for Kristina Astakhova and Alexei Rogonov who picked up bronze again this week, albeit with an entire new set of personal bests.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir retained the NHK Trophy gold they won last year with ease, despite slight errors in both of their routines. Their win also confirmed that they would be also be in line to defend their Grand Prix Final title in December.
There will be a little bit of a wait for Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue to see if they will be able to join the Canadians in Nagoya, but silver in Osaka has kept them firmly in the running.
Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte repeated their bronze medal from the previous NHK Trophy. The 2014 World champions notched up a new personal best of 75.87 in the short dance and will look to secure Grand Prix Final qualification at Skate America in two weeks time.