FIGURE SKATING Preview: U.S. stars Chen, Tennell and Hubbell/Donohue headline Skate America

World Champion Nathan Chen of the U.S. (Photo: ISU/Atsushi Tomura)

The winter-sports season is here, with the top-line ISU Figure Skating Grand Prix starting this weekend at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada with Skate America beginning on Friday.

While the second-tier ISU Challenger Series has been ongoing, the Grand Prix is an invitation-only showcase, designed to put the very best skaters in the world on the ice. The top entries:

Nathan Chen (USA) ~ World Champion 2018-19, Olympic fifth in 2018
● Boyang Jin (CHN) ~ Fourth at PyeongChang 2018, Worlds bronzes in ‘16-17
● Alexei Bychenko (ISR) ~ European silver in 2016
Jason Brown (USA) ~ 2015 U.S. champ; Worlds fourth in 2015

● Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) ~ Worlds silver 2018
● Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) ~ Fifth at 2019 Worlds
● Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) ~ 2015 World Champion
Bradie Tennell (USA) ~ 2018 U.S. Champion; 9th at PyeongChang ‘18

Ashley Cain-Gribble/Tim LeDuc (USA) ~ Ninth at 2018 Worlds
Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) ~ 2017 U.S. Champions, silver in 2019

Ice Dance:
● Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) ~ European silver 2019, bronze 2018
Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) ~ Worlds silver 2018, bronze 2019

Chen will be trying for his third Skate America title in a row; only Scott Hamilton (3) and Todd Eldredge (4) have done that or more. Japan’s Sakamoto has been second the last two years and looks to move up; Japanese skaters have won the women’s title for the last two editions.

The U.S. pair of Denney and Frazier have a good chance of being the first Americans to win this event in Pairs since 2006, while defending champions Hubbell and Donohue can extend the U.S. win streak in Ice Dance to 11 years in a row!

Prize money in the Grand Prix series is pretty good: $18,000-13,000-9,000-3,000-2,000 in all events.

NBC has heavy coverage of Skate America across multiple channels; the schedule is here. Look for results here.