The Audi Cup of China in Beijing marked the halfway point of this season’s ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating and records and skaters both tumbled at the event.
Mikhail Kolyada triumphed in the men’s competition thanks in large part due to a superb short programme that saw him land a quadruple Lutz which helped him earn a personal best of 103.13. His free skating was an altogether messier affair. The Russian fell on a quadruple Lutz, doubled a quadruple Salchow and singled a triple Axel. However, his nearest rivals fared even worse than he did and he clung on to first place overall. With a win here and bronze at Rostelecom Cup, Kolyada looks like a good bet to make the Grand Prix Final next month.
Local favourite Boyang Jin had been sitting in second place following the short and, despite a rough skate in the free peppered with mistakes, he maintained his position at the end of the event. Max Aaron was a surprise bronze medallist. He produced the best free of his career and won the segment.
Two-time World champion Javier Fernandez struggled in both programmes with a third in the short and a sixth in free to finish in sixth overall. It was the Spaniard’s worst placing at a Grand Prix since 2010. Following his free, it was reported that he had been suffering from stomach issues. He is almost certain not to advance to the Grand Prix Final.
In contrast to the men, the ladies battled it out in one of the highest quality competitions in living memory. Alina Zagitova was making her senior Grand Prix debut in China and got off to a rocky start in the short when she fell on the back end of a triple Lutz-triple loop combination. In fourth place going into the free, the Junior World champion waited until the second half of her “Don Quixote” routine to unleash all seven of her jumping passes. An under rotation call on a solo triple Lutz was the only blemish on her protocol as she leaped into first and claimed her first Grand Prix title.
Wakaba Higuchi spearheaded the Japanese team in Beijing and she executed two flawless programmes to secure silver. Coupled with a bronze from Rostelecom Cup, the two-time Junior World bronze medallist stands a fighting chance of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final. Elena Radionova hung on by less than a point to take third place.
There was never any doubt that Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were going to win the pairs competition. They did not put a foot wrong in the short and the only flaw in their free was a step out on a triple Salchow by Sui. The World champions garnered a personal best free score of 150.93. Remarkably, this was their first Cup of China title.
Sui and Han were joined on the podium by their compatriots Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang, who despite a couple of errors on side by side jumps in the free, took silver. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada moved up from fourth after the short to third with a new personal best free score of 132.00.
Two world records and a milestone were achieved by Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron in the ice dance competition. The two-time World champions scored a personal best of 81.10 in the short dance before going on to break their own free dance world record with a mark of 119.33. They became the first ice dance team in history to have a short and free dance combined scored of over 200 points.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates got the upper hand in the tussle for silver with Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev. The Russians will now have to wait and see if their second place at Rostelecom Cup and third place in China will be good enough to put them through to the Grand Prix Final.