by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The NHK Trophy is a traditional annual international skating competition which has been taking place for 40 years (starting in 1979) and moves around Japan. Since the beginning of the series in the 1995, it has been part of the ISU Grand Prix Series.
This year, it is the fourth Grand Prix and takes place in Hiroshima, a harbor city on the Seto Inland Sea in the southwest of Japan, on Honshu, the largest island of Japan, with 1.2 million people. The city is worldwide known as the site of the explosion of the first atomic bomb in the history of mankind, on August 6, 1945. Nearly the whole city was destroyed. After the war the city was rebuilt quickly, and is a modern industrial city today.
The competition takes place in the Hiroshima Prefectural Sports Center on Friday November 9, Saturday, November 10 and the ice dance free program and the exhibition on Sunday, November 11. Also known as the "Green Arena," due to the color of its dome, it is located near the Peace Park and the city art museum, and holds about 6,000 people for the competition. At the center of the Peace Park is the Peace Bell which reminds of the catastrophe. Nearby is also the Atomic Dome (one of the few building near ground zero to survive the atomic blast) which can be seen from the arena, and the rebuilt Hiroshima Castle. The Castle, built in the 1590s was destroyed in the bomb blast when its foundation collapsed. The rebuilt castle is now a museum for the history of Hiroshima prior to WWII.
In the menís competition, the favorite is Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno. Japanís even bigger star Yuzuru Hanyu decided not to compete in his home country because he is always more nervous there than anywhere else. Other podium candidates are the two Russian skaters Sergei Voronov and Dmitri Aliev, the second Japanese skater Sota Yamamoto and Vincent Zhou from the USA.
In the ladies competition, Skate America winner Satoko Miyahara from Japan is one of two favorites and tries to win a second time. The same is true for Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia after her victory at Skate Canada. Maria Bell from USA, Maria Sotskova from Russia and Eunsoo Lim from South Korea also hope for a spot on the podium.
The pairs medal might go to the Helsinki Grand Prix gold medalists Natalia Zabiiako & Alexander Enbert, the Canadians Kirsten-Moore-Towers & Michael Marinaro, the Chinese team of Cheng Peng & Yang Jin. Outsiders are the two U.S. teams of Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim as well as Tarah Kayne & Danny OíShea.
In ice dancing, the big favorites Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron from France withdrew three days before the competition because Cizeron suffers from heavy back pain. The Gold medal favorite now seems to be Tiffani Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro from Russia, followed by four candidates for the other two medals: Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker from the USA, Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson from Britain, Shiyue Wang & Xinyi Liu from China, all three from the Montreal ice dance school, plus U.S. dancers Rachel & Michael Parsons.