The 2001 NHK Trophy Kumamoto, Japan at the Aqua Dome, November 28 – December 2, 2001, the final event of a series of six competitions before the Grand Prix Final.
Uzbekistan’s Tatiana Malinina took first place in a depleted field to qualify for the final remaining berth in Grand Prix Final. With the controversial last-minute withdrawals of Maria Butyrskaya and Irina Slutskaya, Malinina was able to accumulate enough points to vault ahead of Angela Nikodinov, who placed third in two tougher events where she did face Butyrskaya and Slutskaya, and where she beat Malinina by three places. The ISU’s method of assigning Grand Prix points has come under fire recently, and there is speculation that the system of assigning Grand Prix points may move more toward the system used to determine world rankings, where skaters earn points by finishing ahead of other skaters.
Competing in NHK as a non-scoring event, Nikodinov could have secured her own spot by placing second. Instead, after winning the short program, she had a meltdown in the free skate and dropped to fourth overall after landing only two clean triple jumps.
Japan’s Yoshie Onda moved up to second and qualified for the Grand Prix Final, which according to a Japanese news source, automatically qualifies her for the Olympic Games in the Japanese federation’s eyes. This is quite a coup for Onda, who was part of a three-way race for two spots with Fumie Suguri (a disappointing 7th at NHK) and Shizuka Arakawa.
Takeshi Honda of Japan won the men’s event, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final and guaranteeing an Olympic berth for himself, even though he landed just two clean triples and one quadruple jump. Honda’s training mate, Jeffrey Buttle of Canada, was surprisingly second, landing everything except his triple Axel and receiving high presentation marks across the board. Ivan Dinev of Bulgaria was third, qualifying for the Grand Prix Final over Elvis Stojko.
Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao won the pairs event with a nearly flawless free skate and once again received presentation marks in the 5.8-5.9 range. They will hope to challenge World Champions Sale and Pelletier and Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze at the Grand Prix Final in two weeks, which will be the first time any of these teams has met the other two.
Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat won the dance title despite a fall. Canadians Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon finished fourth, qualifying for the final place in the Grand Prix Final.
Featuring the top six finishers in each discipline, the Grand Prix Final will take place in Kitchener, Ontario from December 13-16.