NHK Trophy 2023 Commentary
The NHK Trophy 2023 in Japan closed out the Grand Prix qualifier series with some of the most wild competition (and results!) we’ve seen. From a potential change in the tides for which dance team is the favorite for Europeans to a shock winner in the women’s event, there was a lot to discuss!
There is no way anyone saw this coming! After a rocky short program for many of the favorites, a brilliant Lindsay Thorngren led the way. However, a stunner of a free program gave the edge to another American — 17 year-old Ava Marie Ziegler — who capitalized on the moment and skated her way to gold in her only Grand Prix assignment this season! The surprise win with a score topping 200 points puts Ziegler squarely in the mix for U.S. Nationals.
Thorngren also shined and made it a tight competition, landing in second by less than 2 points! In third, the rising Belgian star of Nina Pinzarrone laid down two solid programs and continued to show off the talent and consistency that is bringing her to her first Grand Prix final this December.
For other favorites in the competition — which included reigning World Silver medalist Haein Lee and 2022 Grand Prix Final champion, Mai Mihara — here’s hoping the second half of the season is where they will come into their own.
Ice Dance Competition
It may not be a shock that Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson won NHK Trophy, but it was certainly a surprise for them to defeat reigning World Silver medalists, Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri.
Dance rarely sees a “changing of the guard” mid-season, as teams typically rise at a glacial pace when it’s “their turn.” This may not officially mark a shift in judges preference for the Disco Brits over the exceptional Italian team, but it certainly sends a bit of a shockwave through the dance world and likely has the top teams looking over their shoulder.
In terms of the skates themselves, both teams turned in brilliant performances in completely different ways. The enthusiastic Japanese crowd showed their appreciation for great skating all around, but it was certainly apparent that Fear & Gibson won the day in their collective hearts.
In the bronze position, the talented Lithuanian team of Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicius scored their second podium spot of the Grand Prix series and continued to show their growth as a team.
The pairs here gave us more of a competition than we’ve seen at many of the other events this season. In their second straight weekend of Grand Prix competition, the new German team of Minerva Fabienne Hase & Nikita Volodin looked even stronger and took gold again! We’re super impressed with this team and cannot wait to see how they evolve.
Italy took silver and bronze with great performances from another relatively new team, Lucrezia Beccari & Matteo Guarise and veterans Rebecca Ghilardi & Filippo Ambrosini — the latter of whom also earned their ticket to the Grand Prix final with this medal.
In what was probably the most predictable event of competition, we saw the thrilling first meeting of the season between reigning World Champion, Shoma Uno, and reigning Olympic Silver Medalist, Yuma Kagiyama.
Both extraordinary skaters threw down gorgeous, beautifully skated programs that reflect the talent and skating skills they both possess — but the day belonged to Yuma by a smidge. Both of them move onto the Grand Prix final with their medals here — and to say we cannot wait for that competition would be a massive understatement.
In third, Lukas Britschgi of Switzerland continued his strong season and threw down two strong skates for bronze. Also worth noting, the artistic development of Deniss Vasiljevs continues to impress — fingers crossed that the second half of the season sees more consistency in his jumps since he’s truly one of the best overall performers the men’s discipline has right now.