The Nebelhorn Trophy is one of the oldest and most traditional events on the ISU calendar. Every year it attracts a premium field. Even before it was a Challenger Series event, it was one of the biggest Senior Bs anywhere in the world, and had an additional prestige - the role of Olympic qualifier.
Every four years, the Nebelhorn Trophy's already impressive field swells with skaters from countries that don't have Olympic entries. Six places are available for earning at Nebelhorn, and it's a guaranteed ticket to the Olympics if you earn one.
In 2013, Australian fans had extra special reason to pay attention, as Brooklee Han, Brendan Kerry, and Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman attempted to qualify the largest figure skating team Australia had sent since 1988. They were more than successful; they were convincing, and all received the honour of representing our country on the biggest stage of all.
This year, Team Australia will be represented by Andrew Dodds in the men, Brooklee Han and Kailani Craine for the ladies, and Pairs Stephens and Matthew Dodds in pairs. At the time of writing, however, it is not clear if Andrew, Paris and Matthew are going to be able to skate, as their bags have been lost en route from Salt Lake City - bags which include their skates and costumes.
UPDATE 24/9: Andrew has tweeted that their bags and their skates have arrived. A full team Australia will take to the ice!
In the men's event, the two big draws are former US National Champion Max Aaron and European bronze medallist Konstantin Menshov of Russia, bolstered by Olympic representative Peter Liebers (Germany), former French champion Florent Amodio, and Czech Republic skater Michal Brezina.
Aaron is looking towards this season as a redemption of sorts, after missing both the Olympic team in 2014 and the Worlds team in 2015. He has been working with acclaimed choreographer Phillip Mills over the off-season, and his new programs to seemingly uncharacteristic music choices were well-received by the judges at the World Team Trophy in Japan in April. Menshov, on the other hand, is the veteran of the skating world at 32, and will look to continue his push for a Worlds berth this season. The defending bronze medallist of this event, Menshov looked well-prepared at the open Russian Test Skates held earlier this month, and is in good shape to secure another medal finish here.
The ladies' event will have multiple storylines to capture the attention, with no outright favourites for the title. Both Mirai Nagasu and Courtney Hicks of the USA have been showing off video of triple Axel attempts (at varying degrees of under-rotation) on their social media pages, but question marks remain if they will attempt them in competition. Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond is making her competitive return after a nasty broken leg saw her sit out the entire last season, and she will have competition from her teammate Alaine Chartrand, the silver medallist at Canadian Nationals and looking to establish herself as the new Canadian number one.
Juulia Turkkila and Karoliina Luhtonen of Finland will have their own battle to fight as the race to establish a new number one, following sweetheart Kiira Korpi's retirement this year, will heat up. And Alena Leonova of Russia will be out to remind her much younger counterparts that she is still capable of winning medals. It is a very open field with a large possibility of an unexpected result, and should be one of the most entertaining segments to watch.
Pairs is set up to be the battle of the lovebirds, with the newlywed Olympic champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia the outright favourites. Engaged US pairs champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim will be looking to answer Kayne and O'Shea's strong outing in Salt Lake last week with one of their own, while French powerhouse pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres seek to open their season with a medal.
World medallists Madison Chock and Evan Bates from the USA are the favourites in the Ice Dance event, and they'll be out to prove that their stellar performances last year were not a fluke. Their teammates Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus are fresh out of Junior and will be keen to make a positive impression on their Senior international debut.
Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam of Canada will also be out to improve their results after a disappointing 13th at Worlds, and will be hoping for a strong start to the season here. Many couples will use this event to establish a baseline for the season, while others will prefer to get some international judging feedback ahead of the Grand Prix.
Team Australia Event Times:
Please note times are for the whole event only. Draws for the start orders have not yet taken place. All times are AEST.
This event will have an official, un-geoblocked live stream, available through the official website.
Friday 25th September
Pairs Short Program (Paris and Matthew): 00:30 - 02:10
Men's Short Program (Andrew): 04:00 - 06:45
Ladies Short Program (Brooklee and Kailani): 19:30 - 22:15
Pairs Free Skate: 22:45 - 00:40 (Saturday)
Saturday 26th September
Men's Free Skate: 03:00 - 06:15
Ladies Free Skate: 18:30 - 21:30