Figure skating’s flagship Grand Prix Series – which takes place each autumn – will be held this upcoming season, but with major changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The International Skating Union announced on Tuesday that the events – in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China, and Japan – will go on as planned in October and November, but will function as national and regional events to limit travel for athletes and their teams.
“Considering the continued critical COVID-19 developments involving many travel and other restrictions and especially risks around the world… the health and safety of the participants of international ice skating events remains the number one priority,” the ISU said in a statement.
Where do we go from here
What does that mean for the figure skating season? It means that the Grand Prix events will be limited to: competitors from the host country and also those who train regularly in said country, as well as competitors from “respective geographical areas” should they be able to safely and legally travel to said event.
“Mindful of the concern for health and safety related to COVID-19 but also the need to give skaters the best possible opportunities to compete internationally, the ISU will give its utmost support to ISU members in order to stage all international competitions that can safely be held during the season 2020/21,” the statement continued.
Competitor rosters for the Grand Prix will come at a later date.
Adjusting for COVID-19
Last month, the ISU canceled its Junior Grand Prix circuit, which was meant to start later this month. It cited travel concerns for athletes and their teams, as well as increased costs for event hosts to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols.
The proposed plan for the senior Grand Prix is the middle ground: Hold the Grand Prix Series, but do so in a way that mitigates travel and puts safety first.
The ISU said it remained committed to hosting the Grand Prix Final in December in Beijing, one of the designated test events for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. More details are to come in the near future about that event.
The ISU did not mention events that are scheduled for after January 1, including the European Championships, Four Continents and the World Championships, set for Stockholm, Sweden.
Skate America, the first Grand Prix, is set to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.
Health and safety
The ISU stressed the importance of athlete safety and health: “Each ISU Grand Prix event will be organized in accordance with the host country’s national health/sanitary requirements.”
No ranking points will be handed out for the Grand Prix, nor will scores count as Minimum Total Element Scores for ISU Championship events.
The ISU said its Challenger Series, the run of competitions just below the Grand Prix, would likely be set up in the same scheme, with athletes competing only domestically or regionally. It did, however, say that holding such events is "complicated" and will "only be accessible to a limited number of competitors."
No mention of admitted crowds was made, though the ISU stressed that each Grand Prix would have to adhere to specific guidelines from its own government.