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Nebelhorn Preview: Overview

Nebelhorn Trophy–or to use its full name, “ISU Challenger Series Nebelhorn Trophy 2021 – OWG Qualifying”–will take place September 23rd to September 25th in Oberstdorf, Germany. It is part of this year’s Challenger Series and, more importantly, the final qualifying event for the 2022 Winter Olympics. While there are some competitors who will not be competing for an Olympic spot and many for whom the Olympics are too far out of reach, let’s demystify the qualifying structure and what we can expect from this weekend’s competition.

As it stands

The majority of the Olympic qualifying spots were awarded at the 2021 World Championships in March. In figure skating, places at the Olympics are distributed via quota spots to individual countries, not to specific athletes. Each national governing body then uses their own criteria to decide which athletes will represent their nation at the Winter Games (usually from some combination of their national championships, performance over the season, or having literally only one option). The quota spots already decided are as follows:

MenWomenPairsIce Dance
Japan (3)Russia/ROC (3)Russia/ROC (3)Russia/ROC (3)
United States (2)Japan (3)China (2) United States (3)
Russia/ROC (2)United States (2)Canada (2) Canada (3)
Italy (2) South Korea (2)United States (2)Italy
Canada Belgium Italy (2) Great Britain
France Austria Japan Spain
South KoreaAzerbaijan Austria Poland
China Canada Germany China
Georgia Estonia Hungary Lithuania
SwitzerlandSwedenCzech Republic France
EstoniaNetherlands Germany
Belarus Bulgaria Japan
LatviaGermany Ukraine
Czech RepublicGeorgia
UkraineCzech Republic
SwedenGreat Britain
Israel Finland

How it will go

A certain number of additional quota spots will be awarded based on the results of Nebelhorn: seven spots in the men’s discipline, six in the women’s, three in pairs, and four in ice dance. Spots are distributed in finishing order, skipping any competitors who are not eligible to earn a spot.

Additionally, countries whose skaters placed high enough at Worlds to qualify two or three Olympic spots but did not have two or three entries qualify for the free skate/dance have the opportunity to earn those additional spits at Nebelhorn. The skaters who attempt to qualify at Nebelhorn cannot have already qualified via the free skate/dance at Worlds.

Here are the countries that have the option to earn additional spots:

MenWomenPairsIce Dance
United States (3rd) United States (3rd)China (3rd)Italy (2nd)
Russia/ROC (3rd)Belgium (2nd) Japan (2nd)Great Britain (2nd)
Canada (2nd) Austria (2nd)
France (2nd)
South Korea (2nd)


That leaves us with a whole lot of skaters competing for not very many remaining spots. Based on the skaters each country has decided to send and a bunch of other factors, here’s my wild guesses for which nations will be picking up those final, valuable spots:

MenWomenPairsIce Dance
United StatesUnited StatesSpain Georgia
Canada Poland Georgia Czech Republic
FranceSwitzerland Great Britain Finland
Russia/ROCBelarus South Korea
Azerbaijan Italy
Germany Hungary
South Korea

For the detailed reasoning and pure gut-feels behind those predictions and a look at the entire field for each discipline, check out my individual event previews here:

But at the end of the day, ice is slippery and the prospect of qualifying for the Olympics could rattle anyone’s nerves, so there’s no telling for sure how the order will shake out. What is for certain is that this weekend will bring some great skating and nail-biting competition that you won’t want to miss.

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