This year’s figure skating Grand Prix Final will feature only five competitors in the men’s event after a series of withdrawals, the Japan Skating Federation said Wednesday.
The field was cut from six after world bronze medalist Even Lysacek, runnerup at the NHK Trophy in Osaka earlier this month, pulled out due to hip pain.
His replacement, Brian Joubert of France, was also forced to withdraw through injury. A second replacement, three-time world champion Evgeni Plushenko, is suffering from the flu and will also sit out the upcoming event to be held at Yoyogi national gymnasium in Tokyo on Friday and Saturday.
Skate America champion Daisuke Takahashi and NHK Trophy winner Nobunari Oda, who are vying for Japan’s only spot at the men’s event at the Turin Olympics, represent the host nation in the Grand Prix Final.
The men’s competition will also feature world champion Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland and Canadians Emanuel Sandhu and Jeffrey Buttle, a world silver medalist.
Three Japanese women — Mao Asada, Yukari Nakano and Miki Ando — will hit the ice trying to upstage Russian world champion and clear favorite Irina Slutskaya.
The 15-year-old Asada, who is too young to compete in the Turin Games because of the age eligibility rule, burst onto the senior circuit with a runnerup finish to Slutskaya in the Cup of China and victory at the Trophee Bompard in Paris.
Nakano got a confidence boost with her NHK Trophy victory over 2003 Grand Prix Final champion Fumie Suguri, while Ando, who scraped into the final after finishing fourth in Osaka, is looking to go at least one better than last year’s fourth-place showing.
American Alissa Czisny and Russia’s Elena Sokolova round off the elite field in the Grand Prix Final, which normally features six skaters each in the men’s and women’s events based on points from six meets in the Grand Prix series.
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