The Figure Skating Grand Prix Series Begins this Weekend
This weekend, the 2022–23 Grand Prix of Figure Skating will kick off at Skate America. The Grand Prix is a series of six events with 12 skaters each. Skaters can be assigned to a maximum of two events. The Grand Prix series will culminate with the Grand Prix Final in December in Turin, Italy, where the top six skaters will compete based on placements at their Grand Prix.
This year’s Grand Prix series will be slightly different due to location changes. Traditionally, the six events are held in the same countries: the United States, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, and China. The Cup of China was canceled by the Chinese Figure Skating Association due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, and Russia was banned from hosting the Rostelecom Cup after the invasion of Ukraine. The Grand Prix events in Russia and China have been replaced with new events in the United Kingdom and Finland.
Another notable change is that Russian skaters will be absent from the Grand Prix series because the International Skating Union (ISU) banned Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine. Last season, Russian skaters won five of the six Grand Prix events and qualified for five out of six spots in the Grand Prix Final before it was canceled due to COVID-19. However, the absence of Russian skaters allows other skaters to finally break through, as we saw at the 2022 World Championships. Additionally, the Kamila Valieva doping case, which could potentially implicate the Russian figure skating system, has still not been finalized. A Russia-less Grand Prix season has the potential to be more exciting and more equitable.
The six Grand Prix events are listed below in chronological order along with viewing information and skaters to watch in the women’s event.
Kaori Sakamoto, the defending World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist, will be the favorite to win this event. Last season, Sakamoto was the only non-Russian skater to win a Grand Prix event (NHK Trophy) and to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. She is beloved by figure skating fans around the world for her enthusiasm and entertaining programs. This season her short program is a Janet Jackson melody while her free program is set to “Elastic Heart” by Sia.
The American skaters will also be looking to make a mark here at Skate America. Last year’s Junior World Champion Isabeau Levito will be making her senior Grand Prix debut. She has already competed twice this season and won both competitions, and she is known for her artistry and classical style. Joining her is Amber Glenn who made her Grand Prix debut in 2017 but has yet to win a medal. Glenn has cultivated a large following on TikTok and often attempts the triple axel, but she is unfortunately inconsistent.
Because the United States is the host of this event, they receive an extra spot in each discipline, and the invitation spot for the women’s event was given to Gracie Gold. Gold finished fourth at the 2014 Olympic Games and also won a team bronze medal, and she has a total of six medals in the Grand Prix series, including two golds. After the 2016–17 season, she took a break from the sport in order to receive treatment for mental health issues and an eating disorder, but she still continues to compete for the love of the sport.
Skate America will be hosted in Norwood, Massachusetts. The women’s short program will take place on Saturday, October 20 at 4:15 p.m. EST, and the free program will be on Sunday, October 21 at 3 p.m EST. Both events will be available for streaming on Peacock, and the short program can be watched on NBC while the free program will be on E!.
This will be Rika Kihira’s first Grand Prix competition since the 2019 Grand Prix Final. She is the 2018 Grand Prix Final champion and a two-time Four Continents Champion, but she has been struggling with ankle and foot injuries which led her to not compete at all last season. She returned to competition earlier this month at the Japan Open and finished fifth overall.
Following Wakaba Higuchi’s withdrawal from Japan due to injury, You Young from South Korea enters this event as the likely favorite. Last season, Young won bronze medals at Skate America and the NHK Trophy. She also placed sixth at the Olympic Games and fifth at the World Championships. She usually performs the triple axel in both programs.
Canada will be represented here by Gabrielle Daleman and Madeline Schizas. Daleman won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships and a gold medal in the team event at the 2018 Olympic Games. Similar to Gold, Daleman has been off and on the competition scene due to mental health issues and an eating disorder. She finished third at the 2022 Canadian Championships, but Canada only had one women’s spot at the 2022 Olympics. This one spot went to Schizas who finished third in both segments of the team event to help Team Canada finish fourth.
Lindsay Thorngren from the United States will be making her senior Grand Prix debut after winning a bronze medal at the 2022 Junior World Championships.
Skate Canada will happen the weekend after Skate America in Mississauga, Ontario. The women’s short program will begin on Friday, October 28 at 2:00 pm EST, and the free program will be on Saturday, October 29 at 1:15 p.m EST. Both events will be streamed on Peacock, and the free program will be broadcast on NBC on October 30 at noon.
Grand Prix de France
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium is the favorite to win the competition. She won the silver medal at the 2022 World Championships and last month she won gold at the Nebelhorn Trophy. She is known for her powerful skating and entertaining programs. Another skater to watch here is South Korea’s Kim Ye-lim. She has already had a successful start to her season, winning gold at both the U.S. Classic and the Finlandia Trophy and earning a personal best free program score at the Finlandia Trophy.
Mana Kawabe from Japan is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 23rd-place finish at the Olympic Games. She burst onto the scene last season by winning silver at the NHK Trophy and bronze at the Japanese Championships with successful triple axels. Fan-favorite Maé-Bérénice Méité from France will be making her return to major international competition after she suffered a torn achilles at the 2021 World Championships that kept her out of the Olympics.
The 2022 Grand Prix de France will be held from November 4th through the 6th in Angers, France. The event can be streamed on Peacock, and there will be a recap broadcasted on E! On November 6 at 10 a.m. EST.
MK John Wilson Trophy
You Young, Isabeau Levito, and Gabrielle Daleman will all compete here in their second Grand Prix. Mai Mihara from Japan will be competing here as her first of two assignments. Mihara won the gold medal at the 2022 Four Continents Championships and was Japan’s alternate for the 2022 Olympics.
This competition is supposed to mark the return of two-time U.S. Champion Bradie Tennell. She withdrew from all of her competitions last season due to a foot injury. However, she recently withdrew from the Japan Open due to an ankle injury, so it is questionable whether or not we will actually see her compete here.
The first of the two new Grand Prix events, the MK John Wilson Trophy, will be held from November 11 through the13 in Sheffield, England. The event will be streamed on Peacock, and the competition on the 13th will be aired on NBC at 4 p.m. EST.
This will be the second Grand Prix assignment for Kaori Sakamoto, Kim Ye-lim, and Amber Glenn. Another skater to watch here is Japan’s Rinka Watanabe, who will make her Grand Prix debut as a result of Wakaba Higuchi’s injury. Watanabe recently won gold at the Lombardia Trophy as an upset over Kaori Sakamoto. Wi Seo-yeong from South Korea will also make her senior Grand Prix debut here. In September, won the silver medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy behind Loena Hendrickx.
The NHK Trophy will be hosted from November 18 through the 20 in Sapporo, Japan. The competition will be streamed on Peacock and broadcast on November 20 on NBC at 4 p.m. EST.
Grand Prix of Espoo
Loena Hendrickx will compete at her second event here and should be the favorite to win as well. This will also be the second event for Madeline Schizas, Mana Kawabe, Rika Kihira, Mai Mihara, Bradie Tennell, and Lindsay Thorngren. Another skater who will be competing at her second event here is Anastasia Gubanova representing Georgia. She placed sixth at the 2022 World Championships and recently won a bronze medal at the Finlandia Trophy.
The final Grand Prix event and the second new location is the Grand Prix of Espoo, and it will be held in Espoo, Finland, from November 25 to the 27. The competition will be streamed on Peacock and broadcast on November 27 on NBC at 4 p.m. EST.
This year’s Grand Prix season will certainly look different than previous seasons due to the ban on Russian skaters and the two new Grand Prix events. However, these changes open up opportunities to other skaters who have been in the shadow of the dominant Russians. This will be without a doubt a competitive and unpredictable Grand Prix season.