The NHK Trophy is the final event of the six-event Grand Prix series and in many ways, at least where the men's event is concerned, it feels like it's saving the best for last.
One look at the men's field and my overriding impression is that taking the title here is going to be important for one of these men. The next stop for the podium finishers in all likelihood will be the Grand Prix Final in Sochi and the momentum from a gold medal at NHK could be important.
It is a strong field starting with Skate Canada champion Javier Fernandez. Fernandez is the only remaining Grand Prix gold medallist left to compete in a second event.
The Japanese Federation has three entries, two of whom are contenders. I am secretly hoping that Daisuke Takahashi and/or Yuzuru Hanyu will have the skate of their life in front of the home town fans.
I am also wondering if Sergei Voronov, the Cup of China bronze medallist, has the strength to be a spoiler.
The women's event holds a special place in the hearts of Japanese skating fans. Mao Asada and Akiko Suzuki are strong competitors with medals already in the Grand Prix series. Their goal is the same and that is to make it to the podium and qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
If I had my way, I would love to see Georgia's Elene Gedevanishvili put together two outstanding performances to match her winning short program from Skate Canada. If she indeed suffers from nerves, I am hoping that as she continues to progress that will become less of a factor.
The ice dance event is interesting in a couple of ways. Meryl Davis and Charlie White will undoubtedly walk away with the title. Who else hits the podium is what I want to see.
Maia and Alex Shibutani had to interrupt their free dance two weeks ago at the Cup of Russia with a strained quadricep muscle for Alex. Have they made a complete recovery and if so will they be strong enough to take a predicted silver medal away from rivals Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov? When they met in Russia, Ilinykh and Katsalapov won silver while the Shibutanis settled for fourth place.
The pairs event is perhaps going to be the weakest field at this weekend's competition. The nod should go to Russia's Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov who have already earned a silver medal in this series.
The moment I am waiting for is when Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch take the ice. They have the ability to challenge and will hopefully seize this opportunity to demonstrate just that.
Men: Javier Fernandez (Spain)
Ladies: Mao Asada (Japan)
Dance: Meryl Davis and Charlie White (United States)
Pairs: Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov (Russia)
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