We take a quick look back at what happened in the world of skating over the course of the past week.
Grand Prix Final Returns To Barcelona
While Mao Asada and Patrick Chan made their way back to the Grand Prix Final after sitting out last season, in the end this year’s competition belonged to one skater who is on his way to becoming a legend of the sport. Yuzuru Hanyu stepped out on to the ice of the International Convention Centre in Barcelona for his short programme on the first night and stamped his authority on the event. The Olympic champion skated his Chopin routine with what can only be described as flawless technique. He reeled off a quadruple Salchow, then a quad toe loop/triple toeloop combination and finally a triple Axel with consummate ease. His spins and step sequence looked similarly effortless and there was not one judge on the panel who graded any of the elements in his programme with less a mark of 2 for Grade of Execution (GOE) and he received 22 10s in his Program Components Scores (PCS). Not surprisingly, Hanyu surpassed the world record he had set at NHK Trophy two weeks with a score of 110.95 and the race for gold was over at that point.
Two nights later, he was back for the free skating as the final skater of the whole competition. There were a few who thought that it might be difficult mentally for him to skate all out given what he had done in the short. They needn’t have worried. Hanyu once again put down a master class with his “Seimei” programme and bagged another world record with him amassing a score of 219.48. Even with three quads, two triple Axels and five other triple jumps, the frightening thing is that there is still a little room for improvement with his step sequence only garnering a Level 3. His total of 330.43 gave him his third Grand Prix Final title in a row.
After a shaky start to his flamenco short with a fall out on his opening quad Salchow and only a triple Lutz/double toe combination, Javier Fernandez settled down nail the rest of his elements and still produce a very respectable 91.52 in front of the adoring Spanish public. Things went much better for the World champion in his “Guys and Dolls” free with only a step out on a quad toe marring the performance. The Spaniard was awarded a free score of 201.43 and became only the second man in the history of the current scoring system to break the 200 mark. Fernandez took the silver medal for a second time with his total of 292.95 which was also a new personal best.
Shoma Uno had been crowned the Junior Grand Prix Final champion twelve months ago at the same venue and a year later he was back, but this time in the senior ranks. A fall on a quad toe in the short had him down in fourth place on 86.47 going into the free. The World Junior gold medallist hardly put a foot wrong in his “Nessun Dorma” programme and delivered two quad toes, two triple Axels and five other triples to garner a new personal best of 190.32. He secured the bronze with a combined score of 276.79.
Just as Hanyu had dominated the men’s event, Evgenia Medvedeva was the clear victor in the ladies’ competition. She maximised the difficulty in her “Melodies of the White Nights” short by placing all her jumping passes in the second half to gain a bonus. There was never a question that she was going to land her triple flip/triple toe combination, her double Axel and triple loop. The reigning World Junior champion earned a new personal best score of 74.58 to give herself a five point lead going into the free. She performed that routine in the same manner as her short and, without a flicker of doubt, executed all seven of her planned triples perfectly to score 147.96. The Russian’s efforts over the two days gave her a total of 222.54 and she took home the gold.
Satoko Miyahara had been less than a point off of second place following the short where she had once again impressed with a very good performance to “Fire Dance” that had yielded her a score of 68.76. Things went even better the next day in the free when she skated sublimely to Liszt’s “Un Sospiro” and broke the 140 point barrier for the first time with 140.09. This gave her a total of 208.85 and the silver on her very first appearance at the Grand Prix Final. Her consistency has boosted her up to the top of the ISU rankings this week.
It wasn’t the prettiest at times, but Elena Radionova battled her way through both of her programmes in Barcelona to salvage a bronze medal. Her “Je t’aime” short was the better of her outings this weekend with only a wonky landing on a triple Lutz forcing her to improvise with a triple loop/triple toe combination later. She stood in second on 69.43 midway through the event. Skating to the “Titanic” film soundtrack in the free, the World bronze medallist stayed afloat until she hit an iceberg on a triple loop that sunk her score to 131.70 and put her in third overall on 201.13.
Russia was back on top in the pairs competition. Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov had seemed to make a habit of being runners-up with silvers at the Olympics, 2014 Worlds, 2014 and 2015 Europeans and last year’s Grand Prix Final. In Barcelona, they let it be known that they would be second best to no-one. Their “I Put A Spell On You” short contained a triple twist, a triple flip throw and side by side triple toes to garner them 74.84 which still only gave them little over a point lead going into the free. The Russians then proceeded to put daylight between themselves and all the other pairs in their routine to “Man And Shadow” which included a difficult triple toe/triple toe/double toe combination, in addition to a triple twist, triple flip and triple Salchow throws and side by side triple Salchows. This gave them a new personal best of 154.60 which approached the all-time high for a pairs free and sealed a first major gold for the duo with a total of 229.44.
Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were the defending champions and had been lucky to be in third following their “Your Song” programme which had been marred by three visible errors, the most egregious of which had been a fall on a triple Lutz throw. Even with this, they were still in striking distance on 72.74 with the free remaining. They showed improvement in their performance to Adele’s “Hometown Glory”, although both their quad Salchow and triple Lutz throws had scrappy landings. The World champions scored 143.93 for their free which gave them a total of 216.67 and brought them up to second overall.
The Grand Prix Final has not traditionally been the happiest of hunting grounds for Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov with their best placing a third in 2011 and a string of disappointing fifth and sixth places in other appearances. Their “I’ve Finally Found Someone” short bucked that trend with a clean skate that saw them post a score of 73.64 and put them right in the mix. However, in their free to Tchaikovksy’s “Manfred Symphony” Kavaguti struggled on the solo jumps with falls on both a triple toe and a double Axel. The two-time European champions regrouped to execute both a quad Salchow and a triple loop throw and a triple twist and managed to salvage bronze with a free score of 132.95 and a total of 206.59.
The ice dance competition turned out as expected. In fact, the rankings after the short dance were exactly in the order that the teams qualified. Things didn’t really change much at all in the free dance and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took home gold once more with Madison Chock and Evan Bates the silver medallists again. Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte won the bronze which was their first ever medal at the Grand Prix Final.
Junior Grand Prix Final Sees Future Stars Do Battle
As is customary, the Junior Grand Prix Final was held in conjunction with the senior event. Russia’s Polina Tsurskaya won the ladies event at the first time of asking over Maria Sotskova who had been the 2013 champion. Marin Honda also medalled on her debut at the competition as she captured the bronze. Russia and Japan look set to continue being the dominant forces in ladies skating for the foreseeable future.
In the men’s category, the top three after the short finished in the exact same order after the free. Nathan Chen from the U.S. took the title for the first time, despite two heavy falls in his free skate. Russia’s Dmitri Aliev bagged the silver medal with last year’s silver medallist Sota Yamamoto from Japan this year winding up with silver.
Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter from the U.S. comfortably took the junior ice dance title after missing out on qualification for the event last season. Russia’s Alla Loboda and Pavel Drozd finished second as they did in 2014 and American siblings Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons won the bronze.
All the junior pairs medalled at the event for the first time. Ekaterina Borisova and Dmitri Sopot from Russia picked up the gold, Anna Duskova and Martin Bidar from the Czech Republic the silver and Amina Atakhanova and Ilia Spiridonov from Russia the bronze.
Synchro Makes Grand Prix Final Debut
An extra element was added to this year’s Grand Prix Final with the top five synchronised skating teams from last season’s World Championships being invited to participate. Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden and the United States of America competed just a free skating routine and the winner was Team Paradise from Russia with Team Rockettes from Finland being awarded second and Team Nexxice from Canada the bronze.