Machida, Wagner look to clinch spots for GP Final
BORDEAUX, France (AP) World championships runner-up Tatsuki Machida of Japan and Ashley Wagner of the United States hope to clinch spots for the Grand Prix Final when they compete at the Trophee Bompard, which starts Friday.
Machida won Skate America last month in Chicago and will face his main competition from Olympic bronze medallist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan and Russian champion Maxim Kovtun, who finished first at the Cup of China two weeks ago.
Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu skipped the French event to compete at the NHK Trophy next week in Japan. Javier Fernandez of Spain, who tops the standings, has already qualified for the GP Final, which will feature the top six skaters or pairs or dance couples in each category.
Meanwhile, Wagner looks to become the first American since Michelle Kwan in 2001 to qualify for three straight GP Finals. Last year, she beat Adelina Sotnikova of Russia to claim the Trophee Bompard.
Sotnikova went on to win the gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.
Wagner, the runner-up at Skate Canada three weeks ago, will be under pressure from Russia's Julia Lipnitskaia, another star of the Sochi Games, and Elena Radionova. Worlds silver medallist Lipnitskaia placed second at the Cup of China, while two-time junior world champion Radionova won Skate America.
Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Anna Pogorilaya have already earned their spots at the GP Final with top two finishes at other events. Sotnikova skipped the Grand Prix series because of an ankle injury.
In pairs, Olympic silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov of Russia are the favorites after winning the Rostelecom Cup last week in Moscow. They could be challenged by China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han, the runners-up at Skate Canada.
In ice dance, world champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte of Italy have pulled out of the Trophee Bompard. France's Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, and Canada's Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier are the main contenders. The French duo won the Cup of China, while the Canadians claimed the silver medal at their home event.
The Trophee Bompard is the fifth event of the Grand Prix series. It begins Friday with short programs and short dance.
The NHK Trophy next week in Osaka, Japan, will be the last chance for skaters to qualify for the GP Final from Dec.11-14 in Barcelona, Spain.