Recap: 2023 NHK Trophy
By Matteo Morelli
Osaka hosted this year’s NHK Trophy, with nine ice dance teams competing in the last Grand Prix event that confirmed all qualified teams to this year’s Grand Prix Final. This event in Japan was first held in 1979, and was added to the Grand Prix series in 1995.
Great Britain’s Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson won their first Grand Prix, adding to their silver medal from Skate Canada and qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. In second place were Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, which also qualified for the final strong of their win at Grand Prix de France. In third place, Lithuania’s Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevičius won their second ever Grand Prix bronze medal.
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson won an historic Grand Prix gold medal for Great Britain, adding to the silver they won at Skate Canada.
The British duo was second after the rhythm dance, but just half a point away from the Italians that were in first place. They saw their “Sweet dreams” programme as a chance for them to show the work they are doing on themselves this year.
“For us, a big project this season has been skating skills and I think that every competition is a great opportunity to put that to the test and to allow the programme and performances to grow and expand“, Fear said. “Turns have been a big focus for us over the past few weeks, just building the consistency, that had technical strength, and I am really proud that we implemented that today.”
Their “Rocky” themed free programme allowed them to gain the extra points that made a difference to finish first in the free dance segment and win the event. Their reaction to the score on the kiss and cry score was a mix of joy and surprise.
“It really just feels like a dream come true”, Gibson said. “To finally win a Grand Prix is everything and it is so exciting and I can’t really put that into words right now”.
With new personal bests and season bests, Fear and Gibson qualified for the Grand Prix Final, the second of their career.
Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy entered this event strong of the gold medal they won at Grand Prix de France. The Italians skated on their rhythm dance on “Holding out for a hero” and “Against all odds” with their vibrant costumes, ending first in this segment of the competition.
“We wanted to do another good rhythm dance here (after Grand Prix de France) and the performance today was what we wanted”, Fabbri said. “Our scores were a little bit lower than France because of the levels, but that is not the most important thing, the most important thing is getting into a good rhythm and feeling comfortable with a programme and that is how we felt today”.
The Italian team collected a season best in their free dance, but it was just not enough to let them lead again and win another gold medal. Their “Theory of everything” programme was executed with beautiful elements and with great lightness, however they received the final result with some disappointment.
“It is a mix of feelings, we know we skated well”, Fabbri shared. “That was basically the performance that we aimed at before coming here”.
“We cannot say that we are happy because of the results”, he added.
Guignard & Fabbri are also qualified for the Grand Prix Final. They already participated in two finals before, winning a bronze medal at each event.
In third place and winning a second Grand Prix bronze medal were Lithuania’s Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevičius.
Their rhythm dance on rock music from the 80s allowed them to earn another season best, improving from their results at Skate Canada.
“We made some changes since Canada and we feel that the changes are working for us”, Ambrulevičius said. “We still need time to build the programme and we enjoyed the performance”.
Their free dance to “Enough of Our Machines” and “Children” allowed them to hold on to the third place at the event.
“We are happy about our competition overall”, Ambrulevičius shared. “The second (Grand Prix) medal is something that we ever dreamed of“.
In fourth place and fresh of their Grand Prix bronze medal from Grand Prix of Espoo the week before were Finland’s Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis. They couldn’t earn as many points as they did in Finland, finishing outside of the podium behind the Lithuanians, which as last season are their main competitors at continental level.
In fifth plays, Loicia Demougeot & Theo Le Mercier skated to new personal best scores for each segment and overall, adding another fifth-place finish after the one achieved at Skate America.
In sixth place were Emily Bratti & Ian Somerville of the United States. This season, they already competed at Cup of China, also ending in sixth place. Also from the United States were Lorraine McNamara and Anton Spiridonov, which closed in eighth place.
Canada’s Marie-Jade Lauriault & Roman Le Gac ended in seventh place, and Japan’s Misato Komatsubara & Tim Koleto closed the event in ninth place.
The tenth team that was meant to compete at this event was Georgia’s Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya however they had to withdraw a week before because of health reasons. We wish them a speedy recovery and to come back soon to competitions.
Grand Prix Qualifications
With all six Grand Prix events now completed, we have the confirmed list of teams that qualified for the Grand Prix Final that is going to take place in Beijing, China, from December 7-10:
1. Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier, Canada – 30 points
2. Madison Chock & Evan Bates, USA – 30 points
3. Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri, Italy – 28 points
4. Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, Great Britain – 28 points
5. Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen, Canada – 26 points
6. Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha, Canada – 26 points.