BEIJING (AP) Three-time world champion Mao Asada will make her highly anticipated return to competitive skating at this weekend's Cup of China, the third event of the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series.
The Cup of China will be Asada's first Grand Prix event since December of 2013. The 2010 Olympic silver medalist announced in May she will return to skating after a year off.
Asada won gold at the 2013 GP Final in Sochi as well as the Cup of China and NHK Trophy the same year, so it was a surprise when she announced she was taking a break.
Asada's biggest competition in Beijing will likely be from Russian skaters Yelena Radionova - the world bronze medalist, European silver medalist and Russian national champion - and 2015 European bronze medalist Anna Pogorilaya.
Asada skated in the Japan Open team event in October where she helped Japan to a win over North America and Europe. She executed her trademark triple axel with ease and will be looking to take advantage of the jump in Beijing.
This year's Four Continents bronze medalist Rika Hongo of Japan, China's Zijun Li and Courtney Hicks of the United States are aiming for the podium as well.
World champion Javier Fernandez of Spain will make his season debut in the men's event.
While Fernandez will be the overwhelming favorite, 2015 Four Continents bronze medalist Han Yan of China will be looking for a podium finish to improve on his fourth place finish at Skate America. Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Sergei Voronov of Russia will also be contending for a place among the medals.
The women's and men's short programs are Friday. The free skate for both events will be held on Saturday.
The 2015 world silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China headline lead the pairs event and are looking for second gold medal following their victory at Skate America.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States, the 2015 world silver medalists, are aiming for their second gold medal and securing a spot for the Grand Prix Final after winning Skate America.