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18th Grand Prix Season Begins with Skate America

(18 October 2012)

The Grand Prix Series includes six international figure skating competitions as a point-scoring series that awards prize money to eligible skaters. At the conclusion of the series, athletes’ points are totaled, and the top six ladies, men, pairs and ice dancing teams are invited to compete at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final. The Grand Prix Final is scheduled for Dec. 5-9, 2012, in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The event will run concurrently with the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final.  This season the Final will be the official test event for the new skating venue built in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games.

The 2012/13 ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating kicks off on October 19 with the first of six events in Kent, WA, USA. In this pre-Olympic season, the series features the World's top figure skaters who are competing for a prize money of U.S. $180,000 per individual event of the Grand Prix.

126 skaters/couples from 18 ISU Members have been invited to the series this season. The number of entries for each event is ten Ladies, ten Men, eight Pairs and eight Ice Dance couples. The top six qualifiers in each discipline will proceed to the Final in Sochi.

Skaters are seeded and invited to the Grand Prix of Figure Skating based on the results of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2012. Skaters/couples who have placed 1 to 6 in each of the four categories are considered to be seeded and are assigned to two events. Skaters/couples who have placed 7-12 at the ISU World Championships 2012 are selected for two ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating events, and skaters with a high seasons best score as well as those placed in the top of the World Standings can also be invited. In order for a skater/couple to be eligible to compete at a Grand Prix event, a minimum score must have been achieved. The minimum score for the 2012/13 season is 113.43 points for Ladies; 159.66 points for Men; 120.90 points for Pairs and 109.59 for Ice Dance.

Competitors earn points in their Grand Prix events towards qualification for the Grand Prix Final.

Skate America, which originated in 1979, is the second oldest competition in the Grand Prix Series of six events.  The oldest is Skate Canada International.

The series opens with Hilton HHonors Skate America in Kent, WA (USA), October 19 to 21. The event features 2012 World silver medalists Meryl Davis & Charlie White (USA), European silver medalists Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitri Soloviev (RUS), World silver medalists Alena Leonova (RUS), Tatiana Volosozhar & Maxim Trankov (RUS) as well as 2010 Olympic silver medalists Qing Pang & Jian Tong (CHN) and World bronze medalist Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN).

The roster of Skate Canada International in Windsor (CAN), October 26 to 28, includes four-time and reigning World Champions Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy (GER), two-time World Champion Patrick Chan, World and Olympic Ice Dance Champions Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir (CAN), World bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki (JPN) and Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Javier Fernandez (ESP).

Cup of China is the third event and will be held in Shanghai November 2 to 4. The event is headlined by two-time World Champion Mao Asada (JPN), European Ice Dance Champions Nathalie Pechalat & Fabian Bourzat (FRA) and World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi (JPN). Former World Champion Brian Joubert (FRA), World Junior Champions Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin (RUS), World Junior Champion Julia Lipnitskaia (RUS) as well as World bronze medalists Narumi Takahashi/Mervin Tran (JPN) and Four Continents Champions Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (CHN) are other top contenders.

Earlier this summer that was some concern expressed by the Japanese federation for the safety of their skaters in China due to political protests in that country, but that issue seems to have been resolved.

The series continues with the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow (RUS) November 9 to 11 with Chan, Volosozhar & Trankov, Virtue & Moir, Leonova, 2011 World Junior Champion Adelina Sotnikova (RUS). Johnny Weir (USA), who competed at Finlandia Trophy starts his comeback on the Grand Prix circuit at this competition.

The Trophée Bompard in Paris (FRA), November 16 to 18 is the next stop. Savchenko & Szolkowy will be challenged by two-time World bronze medalists Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov (RUS), Amodio and Joubert will meet three-time U.S. Champion Jeremy Abbott, and Johnny Weir. Four Continents Champion Ashley Wagner (USA) competes against Lipnitskaia and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS), while Pechalat & Bourzat lead the Ice Dance event.

The final opportunity to qualify for the final will be decided in Miyagi (JPN) at the NHK Trophy November 23 to 25. Top contenders include Takahashi, Hanyu, Fernandez, Asada, Suzuki, Davis & White, European bronze medalists Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), Takahashi & Tran and Sui & Han.