Grand Prix Final 2009/2010
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © M. Hashimoto, JSF
Day 3 was the highlight of this event, the tickets were sold out as soon as they went on sale and it was said that a ticket seller sold one for about US$1000.00. The lucky audience who could get a ticket would enjoy a world class performance here in Yoyogi in Tokyo.
We had the Junior ladies’ short, junior ice dance original dance, Senior Mens’ free, Senior Ladies’ free, and Senior Pairs’ free.
Junior Ice Dance Original Dance
Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khariavin from Russia won the original dance by 0.49. Both of their technical and component scores were slightly higher than Shibutanis’. Although both of these couples skated excellent performances without mistakes, Monko & Khariavin’s speed and sharp movements attracted the judges more.
Monko & Khariavin scored 55.70 for their routine to a Ukrainian Folk Dance where they performed beautiful level 4 twizzles and lifts. Adding to these their speed was so impressive in the later part of the program.
The Shibutanis’ performance wasn’t bad, but somehow lacking power to this kind of Japanese folk music. But it’s amazing how their movements were smooth and easy.
Elena Ilinykh & Nikita Katsalapov from Russia, who skated first in the second group to impress everyone who watched this dynamic performance with their fast twizzles, stayed third. Junior Ladies’ SP
Many Japanese fans who were surprised at the Shibutanis’ second place in the original dance might be a little surprised again to know that knowing Kanako Murakami was defeated by Russia’s Polina Shelepen.
Their performances looked equally good, both of them awarded level 4 for three of four spins and spiral sequence, and level 3 for a spin and step sequence. What placed Kanako second were her jumps.
Kanako’s combination jump was triple toe-triple toe while Polina jumped triple lutz-triple toe, which she risked for the first time. In addition Kanako’s double axel was downgraded.
“At some point you have to start doing it in competition and a big event like this motivates me even more to do it”, Polina said about her first attempt of the triple-triple combination.
Polina’s performance which scored 59.54 was energetic and powerful; her speed and stamina lasted until the very end - that’s compared to Kanako’s consistency and refinement. Just 0.02 behind Polina, Kanako said, “I don’t like to skate very last and I think I feel more comfortable with the skating order tomorrow”.
Ksenia Makarowa of Russia obtained 55.38 and came third. She captured the crowds with her grown-up skating style to Ladies in Lavender (sound track) routine, giving her applause before she finished the last layback spin. She was awarded two level 4s for a spiral sequence and a spin, and three level 3 for two spins and straight line step sequence.
Anna Ovcharova was fourth by just 0.46 and the other American girls followed her from fifth to eighth.
Mens’ free program
There had been awesome performances from four skaters yesterday, but it was a different day today.
All 6 skaters had mistakes, more or less.
The reigning world champion Evan Lysacek skated an almost clean program except he popped the axel and stumbled on the triple loop following it. He was not as powerful as yesterday but skated carefully and expressively. His program to Sheherazade earned a new personal season best of 159.60 thanks to his high program components score 84.00.
“I was happy because my elements scores were very good. I felt comfortable because the components scores were good as well, so I felt I was taking right direction”, said Evan.
Nobunari Oda popped two axels but finally managed to get a silver medal with third place in both programs. His Charlie Chaplin medley didn’t seem to be as charming as the ones in the last two Grand Prix events, however, he racked up +GOEs and gained 155.71 to be second place overall. As his team mate Takahashi lost his power during his performance, Oda obtained an Olympic place in Japan’s Olympic team.
“I was very happy because my goal for this Grand Prix Final was to gain a ticket to Vancouver Olympic games. I’m proud of myself”, Said Oda.
Jeremy Abbott was second in the free skate to the music of Symphony No.3 by Saint-Saens. He attempted quadruple toe-loop at the beginning, but he fell on this quad. He gained 158.73 for the free program and came second, but he needed some 2 points to reach the podium.
His teammate Johnny Weir edged him and gained a bronze medal. He skated a clean program again but didn’t have a combination jump.
“I’m kind of suspicious so I don’t want to say something not decided yet”, he answered when he asked how he will approach Vancouver.
Overnight leader Daisuke Takahashi fell on the opening quadruple toe-loop and lost the whole program. He landed several jumps in the middle of the program, but two spins were not counted. He dropped to fifth with the score of 155.8
Another disaster came from Tomas Verner. He was not so bad at the beginning. He popped attempted quadruple toe-triple toe combination into double toe but landed a beautiful quadruple toe and triple axel. However, in thesecond half of the program, he suddenly couldn't jump well. Fell on the triple lutz, popping three jumps in a row and lost something which usually makes his performance glorious.
Senior Ladies’ Free
Yu-Na Kim won the gold from second place in the Short Program. Miki Ando played it safe and took the silver medal. Surprisingly, third pace was Japan’s Akiko Suzuki who performed a perfect free program.
Kim had trouble with her blades this morning, but still she skated an impressive program to recapture the title of Grand Prix Final. Her score of 123.22 was not high for her, but enough for the gold medal.
“I was really happy that I could skate till the end without giving up” answered Kim, being asked to give feedback. “I think it was a good fight for the Olympics. And as I could keep up my strength, I found some self-confidence again”.
Reaching the podium would guarantee Ando an Olympic place as well as her teammate Nobunari Oda, but it made her a little nervous. Ando felt more nervous because it was held in Japan, and she said she felt tired. Her free skate to Mission Cleopatra from Asterix and Obelix was expressive and strong but lacking speed. She said she knew she needed more speed. She also said, “I have to work on building up my stamina before our Nationals”.
Suzuki’s free program “Westside Story” moves her up to third place. She nailed 7 clean triples and gained 2 level 4s for her spin and spiral sequence, 2 level 3s for a spin and spiral sequence. The audience loved her performance and gave her a standing ovation.
Joannie Rochette made several errors. She could land only 2 triple jumps which was a triple toe-triple salchow combination. “I’m excited to start rebuilding again, to prepare for Nationals and Olympics”, said Joannie.
Aleona Leonova Russia had another bad day. She was about to cry in the kiss and cry before her score was announced.
Ashley Wagner’s program was not that bad, however, as you know, her score was not as good as it looked because of the problem of incorrect edge and downgrade. She was the last in this segment.
Senior Pairs’ free program
Shew Shen & Hongbo Zhao were not perfect but they achieved a season’s best score again. With beauty and grace they skated to Adagio for the gold medal and had a huge standing ovation. As soon as they finished, the standing ovation began in the skaters’ area where the competitors from other segments were seated. The experts know best, don’t they? Zhao popped the first side by side double axel and their twizzles didn’t go too well, which was really unusual. And yet, they received 138.89 and won the pair title with overall score 214.45.
“Our program was really good today, it felt awesome. Each lift, the twist, the throws felt perfect and we felt more power”, Zhao said.
Qing Pan & Jian Tong rose to second from yesterday’s third position. Their performance to Man of La Mancha looked perfect except the hand down from Tong on the landing of side by side triple toe. They gained 133.82 for their free skate and climbed up to second with 201.86 in total.
Aleona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy of Germany seemed to lose their confidence because they couldn’t show the consistency they had last season. The reigning world champions had several mistakes in the beginning to be fourth in the free program but the overall score of 200.38 was enough for them to stay on the podium.
“We were not completely concentrating. I don’t know exactly”, said Szolkowy. “Maybe it was the quick turn-around between (Skate) Canada, Germany and Japan”.
Third in the Free Skate, Maria Mukhortova & Maxim Trankov of Russia earned 128.57 for their clean program to Love Story and were fourth overall with 198.35. Yuko Kavaguti & Alexander Smirnov who skated to the Swan to earn 120.71 came 5 th with 183.01. Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang finished in last place with 2.76 points behind them.
Hao Zhang said, “It was very bad. I don’t know what went wrong with us. But this is our problem so I can’t say without my partner”.