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Last Grand Prix Final spots at stake at Rostelecom Cup; TV, live stream schedule

Kamila Valieva

CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 26, 2020: Athlete Kamila Valieva performs her free skating program at the 2021 Russian Figure Skating Championships at Traktor Ice Arena. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images)

Sergei Bobylev/TASS

It has been a grab bag season in figure skating’s Grand Prix Series going into this week’s Rostelecom Cup, which streams live on Peacock on Friday and Saturday.

Take your pick of how Olympic favorites are emerging.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the biggest name in all of skating, has not competed at all this autumn and might not until the Olympics. Nathan Chen suffered his first loss since the 2018 Olympics, then posted the world’s highest score this season the following week.

Russia’s conveyor belt of female stars produced 15-year-old Kamila Valiyeva. She quickly surpassed all three 2021 World Championships medalists from her nation to become the woman to beat heading into the most competitive event of the season -- not the Olympics, but the Russian Championships in one month.

Pairs has been the tightest discipline. The top three in the world this season are separated by less than five points. It will squeeze even more if the third-ranked team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China benefit from home ice at the Winter Games.

In ice dance, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France went 20 months between competitions since suffering their only defeat of this Olympic cycle at the January 2020 European Championships. They returned this autumn to post the world’s top three scores this season, re-establishing themselves as Olympic favorites.

The Grand Prix Final, which takes the top six per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix Series, will be an Olympic preview in pairs and dance (but hopefully not for the men, since Hanyu is out, and maybe not for the women without injured Russian Aleksandra Trusova). The Final’s fields will be complete after Rostelecom Cup.

Rostelecom Cup Broadcast Schedule

DayTime (ET)EventPlatform
Friday5:30 a.m.Men’s ShortPeacock | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m.Rhythm DancePeacock | STREAM LINK
10 a.m.Pairs’ ShortPeacock | STREAM LINK
11:25 a.m.Women’s ShortPeacock | STREAM LINK
Saturday5:30 a.m.Men’s FreePeacock | STREAM LINK
7:40 a.m.Free DancePeacock | STREAM LINK
9:30 a.m.Pairs’ FreePeacock | STREAM LINK
11:10 a.m.Women’s FreePeacock | STREAM LINK
Sunday3 p.m.HighlightsNBC | STREAM LINK

How each discipline’s Grand Prix Final field is shaping up going into this week ...

Yuma Kagiyama
(JPN) -- 30 points (QUALIFIED)
Shoma Uno (JPN) -- 28 (QUALIFIED)
Vincent Zhou (USA) -- 28 (QUALIFIED)
Nathan Chen (USA) -- 26 (QUALIFIED)
Jason Brown (USA) -- 24 (not competing this week)
Shun Sato (JPN) -- 22 (not competing this week)
Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) -- 13
Yevgeny Semenenko (RUS) -- 11
Matteo Rizzo (ITA) -- 7

Brown’s chances of qualifying for the Final for the first time since 2017 were trimmed by Hanyu’s withdrawal from Rostelecom Cup (ankle), but they’re still pretty good. Brown’s simplest path is if Kolyada wins this week, and Semenenko either finishes third or lower or places second but with fewer than 267.74 points. Semenenko’s personal best is 258.45. The U.S. also put three men in the Final in 2017 with Chen, Brown and Adam Rippon.

Hanyu also missed the 2017 Grand Prix Final with an ankle injury, then won the PyeongChang Olympics two months later. Chen, though he was third at Skate America, will go into the Final as the favorite given he won Skate Canada with a score 11.62 points higher than any other man this season.

Anna Shcherbakova (RUS) -- 30 (QUALIFIED)
Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) -- 24 (QUALIFIED)
Aliona Kostonaya (RUS) -- 24 (not competing this week)
You Young (KOR) -- 22 (not competing this week)
Mai Mihara (JPN) -- 18 (not competing this week)
Kamila Valiyeva (RUS) -- 15
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) -- 13
Maliya Khromykh (RUS) -- 13
Loena Hendrickx (BEL) -- 11

Coming into the season, it looked like Russia had a shot at taking all six women’s spots at the Final. But world bronze medalist Trusova missed NHK Trophy due to injury, and Sakamoto swooped in to win the event. If this week Valiyeva (15 years old), Tuktamysheva (24) and Khromykh (15) make up the top three in any order, they will all qualify for the Final.

Valiyeva is bidding to repeat the feat of Alina Zagitova, who four years ago entered the Olympic season as the reigning world junior champion and won all of her events through the Winter Games. Valiyeva, part of coach Eteri Tutberidze‘s school of stars, has competed twice internationally this season and posted the world’s two best scores, distancing the second-ranked skater (Shcherbakova) by 28.3 points. The most competitive figure skating event in the world this year will be the Russian Championships in late December, after which the three-woman Olympic team will be named.

Russia has the world’s top six women right now. The highest-ranked American is Alysa Liu at No. 9. A U.S. woman made at least one podium in the Grand Prix Series every year since its inception in 1995, but none have this season, and it would be a surprise to see it happen this week. However, if you take out all the Russians from the rankings who won’t be at the Olympics, then Liu ranks fifth in the world.

Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) -- 30 (QUALIFIED)
Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) -- 28 (QUALIFIED)
Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) -- 26 (QUALIFIED)
Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN) -- 24 (not competing this week)
Yuliya Artemeva/Mikhail Nazarychev (RUS) -- 24 (not competing this week)
Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) -- 15
Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) -- 13
Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) -- 9

Sui and Han, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists and China’s best figure skating medal hope overall, won both of their Grand Prix starts. But Tarasova and Morozov have the best score in the world this season, and Mishina and Galliamov, the reigning world champions, have the best Grand Prix score. Miura and Kihara will likely become the first pair from Japan to qualify for a Grand Prix Final since 2011, boosting the nation’s hopes of grabbing a medal in the Olympic team event. The last time a U.S. pair made the Final was 2015.

Ice Dance
Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) -- 30 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) -- 28 (QUALIFIED)
Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) -- 28 (QUALIFIED)
Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) -- 26 (not competing this week)
Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) -- 22 (not competing this week)
Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) -- 15
Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) -- 13
Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Sorensen (CAN) -- 11
Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) -- 9

Papadakis and Cizeron, 2018 Olympic silver medalists, lost their last head-to-head with Sinitsina and Katsalapov way back at the January 2020 European Championships. But this season, the French have competed three times and posted the world’s top three scores. Gilles and Poirier and the two American couples are within 1.43 points of each other on best scores this season, likely forging a tight battle for the third podium spot in Beijing. Barring a bonkers Rostelecom Cup result, this will be the seventh consecutive Final with multiple U.S. dance couples.

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