NAGANO, Japan (AP) For Mao Asada, the NHK Trophy presents a chance to add momentum to a comeback that began with a victory at the Cup of China this month.
For most other skaters competing in Nagano this weekend, the sixth event in the International Skating Union's Grand Prix series is the last chance to qualify for the Dec. 10-13 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona.
After taking a year off competitive skating, the three-time world champion won at the Cup of China. But after finishing third in the free skate, Asada is determined to improve at the NHK, an event she has won four times.
''There were challenges I found at the Cup of China,'' Asada said. ''The goal at this NHK is to overcome those challenges and advance to the GP Final.''
Gracie Gold of the United States and Russian teammates Evgenia Medvedeva and Elena Radionova have already qualified for the GP Final.
In addition to Asada, other skaters bidding for one of the last three spots in the GP Final include Ashley Wagner of the United States, Satoko Miyahara of Japan and Anna Pogorilaya of Russia.
Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada, Li Zijun of China, Alena Leonova of Russia and Mirai Nagasu of the United States are also in Japan.
Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu will be favored to top the podium in the men's event.
Hanyu placed second to Patrick Chan at Skate Canada and will be relying on his quad jumps to impress the judges.
Jin Boyang of China, who cleanly executed a rare quad lutz-triple toe loop combination to finish second in China, is also competing and will be a strong favorite for a podium finish. Other skaters taking part in the men's event are Russian teammates Maxim Kovtun and Konstantin Menshov and Grant Hochstein of the United States.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue of the United States are favored to secure a place in the GP Final after winning the short dance at the abbreviated Trophee Bompard. They can finish as low as fourth and still be guaranteed a spot.
Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States are also competing for a spot in the GP Final, along with Russian ice dancers Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev, and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.
In pairs, 2015 world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada are hoping to add to a win at Skate Canada and wrap up a spot at the GP Final.
Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim of the United States are also taking part, along with Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres of France.
The NHK Trophy begins on Friday with the pairs, men's and ladies short programs.