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For the world’s top figure skaters, the road to PyeongChang cuts through Nagoya, Japan, which hosts the 2017 ISU Grand Prix Final in figure skating beginning Thursday.
The crowning event of the International Skating Union’s six-leg grand prix series, the Grand Prix Final is the last major international before the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Half the finalists in men’s and ice dance in Nagoya represent Team USA, having earned the right to compete in Nagoya via their performances on the grand prix circuit earlier this season.
This season marks the first time since 2009 that the U.S. has advanced three men to the Grand Prix Final, which was also the last time it was won by an American, future Olympic champion Evan Lysacek. The ringleader of this year’s group is Chen, the smooth-jumping sensation who usually cranks quads like a machine. The 18-year-old clinched the victory at last month’s Skate America in Lake Placid, New York, despite a rough free skate, which he wrote off as a learning experience. He also won the Rostelecom Cup in October in Russia, where he beat reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. Chen came up short of Hanyu at last year’s Grand Prix Final, where he became the second-youngest man to medal at a Final, but sails into this year as the top seeded skater ahead of Japan’s Shoma Uno and Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada.
Japan secured a berth in the figure skating team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics, a source familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Japan will be one of the 10 nations and regions allotted a spot in the three-day competition, after it claimed enough points to finish among the top 10 as ranked by the International Skating Union.
The ISU will decide the countries based on the results at last season’s world championships and this season’s Grand Prix events. The union is scheduled to announce the 10 competitors after the Dec. 7-10 Grand Prix Final.