The Grand Prix Final day 1: Lots of Russian ladies, clean quads and very narrow margins
December 8, 2017
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai
The Grand Prix Finals of 2017 are happening at the Gaishi Arena in Nagoya, Japan. Since the Olympic Games are only about 2 months away, this competition has generated a lot of interest and expectations, especially here in Japan. Nagoya city set up a mock "kiss & cry" at the Nagoya Station for everyone to take pictures, and there's a photo exhibition of figure skaters near the venue. Lined up to compete are 6 each of junior and senior men, ladies, pairs and ice dance couples. These skaters have earned the most points from the various junior and senior Grand prix events during the fall.
The abilities of the Junior pairs did not seem to vary much. Apollinariia Panfilova/ Dmitry Rylov, Russia, won the short program with 60.26 points. Their speedy and amusing program enchanted the audience. Their triple twist was very high and the step sequences enjoyable with valuable movements. Apollinariia said it was their best short program of the season so far. As for their big twist; she explained that they are working on a quad twist, but it is not consistent enough to include in their programs yet. As close runners up and only 0.55 points behind are Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya/ Harley Windsor of Australia. They delivered an impressive short program with a fantastic step sequence saturated with a rich variety of movements. Ekaterina's flexibility is amazing! Harley said they are pretty happy about today's performance; that their preparations had been pretty good and that they skated pretty well too.
The pairs in third and fourth are also very close; the margin is a mere 0.04, with 54.51 and 54.47 points respectively. Daria Pavliuchenko/ Denis Khodykin of Russia moved very fast and gave us a brilliant performance. Unfortunately they had a fall on the throw triple-loop and lost some points, while China's Yumeng Gao/ Zhong Xie managed a solid performance where they kept good rhythm throughout their performance.
Alexei Krasnozhon, USA, nailed his performance and topped the junior men's short program. His Korobushka program had a step sequence that perfectly matched the music, and he earned his 81.33 points very well, his season's best. Alexei said he was happy to be first, but that the short program means nothing; there are 6 strong skaters competing and the free program will be more important. Alexey Erokhov, Russia, followed him only 1.94 points behind. Alexey has solid jumps and a well-executed, complicated step sequence. He felt his performance was neither bad nor the best he can do. In the free skating he said he wants to show everything, including three quads. Japan's Mitsuki Sumoto is in third place with 77.10 points. He skated a flawless program to the famous standard number Singing in the rain and expressed the mood of the song very well. He explained he has been struggling with his triple Axel during practice so he felt very happy he managed to land it in the competition. Russia's Makar Ignatov was very polished and classy and earned 75.78 points to finish fourth.
Surprisingly, or just well deserved, 5 out of the 6 ladies came from Russia. All the skaters delivered almost flawless programs and I was stunned. Especially Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostrornaia were amazing; they earned 73.25 and 71.65 points respectively. Alexandra performed a witty short program to the playful Big Spender, Jumping Jack, while Alena moved on the ice with such wonderful expressiveness the whole audience got totally involved. Alexandra admitted she was nervous because this was her first final and she expected over 70 points. Alena was very happy about the audience's warm support. She also said she likes to skate in front of a crowd and wants to skate her free program as well as today's short program. Anastasia Tarakanova skated with amazing speed and looked very strong athletically speaking. She thought she did all of her elements well, but wants to be more relaxed in the free skating.
The only non-Russian skater was Rika Kihira from Japan, who also delivered a near-perfect performance. She was very graceful to the Asian-ish music, Kung Fu Piano. She finished fourth with 66.82 points and was very happy to skate well at this amazing event.
The top two pairs both had fabulous performances and very close scores. AljonaSavchenko/ Bruno Massot, Germany, were stunning in their That Man programand received 79.43 points. Their program was funny and entertaining and the audience loved it. Evgenia Tarasova/ Vladimir Morozov, Russia, were very strong and solid to Piano Concerto No.2 by Rachmaninov, and received 78.83 points. Both pairs executed gorgeous twists. Aljona said: "I liked that we did all the elements cleanly, in spite of Bruno's lace and my dress coming apart. We fought until the end." Evgenia mentioned, referring to the recent ruling "everyone will know that we perform for Russia, that we represent our country even if we do it under a neutral flag." To our surprise,Weijing Sui/ Cong Han of China became only third with 75.82 points, since Cong fell at their side-by-side triple toe. They seemed very disappointed after their performance, and Cong said he regretted his fall and was really not happy that it happened. Russia's Ksenia Stolbova/ Fedor Klimov earned 73.15 and the margin between them and Meagan Duhamel/ Eric Radford of Canada were 0.97. Xiaoyu Yu/ Hao Zhang of China finished sixth, 2.03 points behind Meagan/ Eric.
As expected, there was a heated battle among the top three men. Nathan Chen, USA, skated last delivering a flawless performance to modern music with a strong beat (Nemesis by Benjamin Clementine). He landed all his jumps: a quad Lutz-triple toe, quad flip and triple Axel to score 103.32 points. He said he was very happy skating in Japan because of the energetic audience; and he was excited for the free program on Friday. Japan's Shoma Uno landed two quads cleanly but fell on the triple Axel. His performance to Winter by Vivaldi was very artistic as he moved well to the music's slow as well as fast sections. Because of his only mistake, a fall right after landing the triple Axel, his second place was decided. (His score was 101.51.) Shoma was surprised over the two points deducted, but he had changed the music a little and it caused a time deduction. Russia's Mikhail Kolyada was also strong but fell on his opening quad Lutz. He moved softly on the ice and with wonderful flexibility and got 99.22 points for his effort. He admitted his quad Lutz is not consistent yet, but his attitude is: "let's do this better next time!" Jason Brown, USA, ranked fourth with his characteristic and outstand performance of The Room Where It Happens but without a quad. He earned 89.02 points.
Delivering an emotional performance, Gabriella Papadakis/ Guillaume Cizeron of France won the short dance with 82.07 points, their season's best. They were elegant skating to a Samba and Rhumba. With fantastic speed and beautiful style they involved the whole venue. Later Gabriella commented: "It was a really, really good performance, the best of the season. When we got off the ice we said we'll be happy, because we did the best we could have done." Canadians Tessa Virtue/ Scott Moir were also stunning with good harmony and excellent technique. They were sophisticated and mature throughout their whole Samba, Rhumba, Cha cha program to Rolling Stones, Eagles and Santana. Their score was 81.53. Tessa said they were pleased with their performance because it was a step up from the Grand Prix and they were looking to improve. Maia/ Alex Shibutani finished third (78.09 points) after an elegant and neat performance. They earned the highest base value but got a little less +GOE and second marks. Alex was frustrated with his mistake and said, "I'm beating myself up over the mistake on the twizzles. If we had done the twizzles the way we're capable of doing them, the score would be even better."
Check out more photos of the senior skaters of day 1 here! (the juniors follow later)