Figure skaters lock in 20 Olympic quota spots at Nebelhorn Trophy qualifying event

Tensions were high at the ISU Challenger as competitors looked to help their respective countries secure places for Beijing 2022. Olympic team event spots were also set.

By Nick McCarvel

The Olympic figure skating season is well and truly underway.

While international skating events started nearly a month ago, the stakes were high this past weekend at Nebelhorn Trophy, an ISU Challenger event that serves as the final Olympic Games Beijing 2022 qualifier for the sport.

The event, held in Oberstdorf, Germany, awarded quota spots - positions qualified for each country, not individual skaters - across all four disciplines. National governing bodies will select their Olympic teams in December and January.

The 2021 World Figure Skating Championships served as the first and main qualifying event ahead of Beijing 2022.

At Nebelhorn, the following spots were up for grabs - and these are the countries that secured them:

  • Men - 7: AUS, AZE, CAN, FRA, KOR, Russia (ROC), USA
  • Women - 6: AUS, BLR, POL, SUI, UKR, USA
  • Pair skating - 3: ESP, GEO, ISR
  • Ice dance - 4: ARM, CZE, FIN, GEO

The figure skating team event, introduced to the Olympic programme at Sochi 2014 will feature 10 teams. Its line-up was filled by qualifications at Nebelhorn, as teams must have skaters in three of the four disciplines to compete. The teams are: CAN, CHN, CZE, GEO, GER, ITA, JPN, ROC, UKR and USA.

MORE: Men's and pair skating round-up | See how the women and dance teams qualified

Read on to find out how the weekend shook out on the ice.

Singles: Zhou, Liu lead golden U.S. effort

Americans Vincent Zhou and Alysa Liu soared to respective wins in singles, both skaters helping to earn a third spot for each of the men's and women's Team USA squads.

Zhou brought some of the form that helped him to the PyeongChang 2018 Games as well as a 2019 world bronze medal, looking strong on his quads and scoring a 284.23 - securing victory by some 40 points.

Liu, who at 16 is making her senior international debut this season, was equally secure in her skating, though she popped an attempted triple Axel in her free skate.

"Coming into this competition, I knew I had the responsibility to earn the third spot," Zhou, 20, said. Added Liu: "It means a lot. I'm pretty excited. I actually completely forgot about that ... It's pretty crazy actually. It's great that I could do something to help the U.S."

Joining Liu in helping their countries secure a quota spot were: Ekaterina Kurakova of Poland; Victoriia Safonova of Belarus; Alexia Paganini (Switzerland); Anastasiia Shabotova (Ukraine); and Kailani Craine (Australia).

For the men joining Zhou it was: Adam Siao Him Fa of France; Mark Kondratiuk of Russia; South Korea's Lee Sihyeong; Vladimir Litvintsev of Azerbaijan; Brendan Kerry of Australia; and Canada's Roman Sadovsky.

Pairs, dance: Surprise shakes up Olympic invites

In pair skating, three teams helped their countries earn Olympic spots, with Spain, Georgia and Israel punching their Beijing tickets at Nebelhorn.

Laura Barquero and Marco Zandron of Spain; Karina Safina and Luka Berulava of Georgia; and Hailey Kops and Evgeni Krasnopolski of Israel each earned a quota spot.

For Spain and Georgia, it marks the first time a pairs team will go to the Olympics. It was also a minor upset: The Chinese duo of Wang Yuchen and Huang Yihang was not able to secure a third spot for the Olympic host country.

In ice dance, it was four duos that qualified spots for the Games: Finland, Georgia, Armenia and the Czech Republic.

Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis (Finland); Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya (Georgia); Tina Garabedian and Simon Proulx Senecal (Armenia); and Natalie Taschlerova and Flip Taschler (Czech Republic) also helped their countries secure spots.