A Retirement and More Withdrawals
Joshi Helgesson announces her retirement; expected withdrawals of Zijun Li and Duskova & Bidar accompanied by unexpected one of Daisuke Murakami.
We were expecting some sad updates this week, with two withdrawals anticipated from next week’s Internationaux de France. But it turns out that was hardly the only news of the week. Another skater is also completely out of the Grand Prix due to a very ill-timed illness. And, perhaps not quite as shockingly, yet another skater is out for good.
Joshi Helgesson Retires
Unfortunately, the news includes one thing we’re generally spared from during the Grand Prix series: a retirement. Like most of the ones that have happened these last months before the Olympics, it’s from a skater whose career just went so far downhill that recovering in time just isn’t feasible, and who then decided against sticking around for the next quadrennium either. In this case, it’s a lesser Swedish star, Joshi Helgesson, who actually remained the top Swedish lady through last season, but now has been usurped, and today announced she was done:
Jag har bestämt mig för att avsluta min karriär som elitidrottare. Det har vart ett svårt beslut, men det känns helt rätt. Jag har upplevt så många roliga minnen och är så tacksam för allt konståkningen har gett mig. Tack så jättemycket till alla som stöttat och hjälpt mig i min satsning! Ni kan läsa mer på DN:s hemsida❤⛸ *** I have decided to end my career as a competitive figureskater. It was a difficult decision, but now it feels totally right. I want to Thank everyone for all your support. It means so much to me and I am so grateful for all your kind words!❤⛸
For Helgesson, it was particularly tragic, because these were supposed to be her years to shine, following the retirement of her sister Viktoria Helgesson. In 2015, the last year Viktoria was competing, she even usurped her at the top of Sweden’s skating scene, coming in fourth at Europeans with a program that showcased her at her best:
That was the highlight of her career. Once she was left alone at the top, she started skating badly, failing to even make the free skate at Worlds either of the last two seasons. When young Matlida Algotsson claimed the Nebelhorn Trophy berth over her, and earned Sweden an Olympic berth there, it was perhaps already over. Certainly she must believe so, since she said to Swedish news she’s no longer good enough to make the Games. She also said she is going into coaching.
Update on Zijun Li
When Zijun Li pulled out of copy of China last week, fans worried she might be retiring. Comments on Russian TV claiming she’d left the skating school in Harbin made it look more likely. Now, however we have a few more details. Apparently she’s been struggling with a groin injury of a while, and it’s just flared up. She might not have recovered in time to skate at the Olympics anyway, and now she’s in no position to even qualify for it. Especially since Cup of China results apparently counted, enough so to put Xiangning Li in the lead.
The Chinese article speaks as if this by itself would not leave Li with motivation to continue, although it’s hard to tell through Google Translate. And at 21, Zijun Li could stay in for another quaddrennium if she really wanted to. But with it unlikely she can take her top spot back from Xiangning Li, and bad luck and bad skating plaguing her, she, like Helgesson, may well decide it’s not worth it, if indeed she hasn’t already.
She’s also now officially out of the Internationaux de France. With the competition less than two weeks away, The French federation isn’t required to replace her, though they’ve certainly got enough time to. The field remains a strong one, if not as deep as it was when Grand Prix assignments first came out.
Two More Withdrawals and Replacements
The week’s other two withdrawals came with replacements already named. Although one of them was already a foregone conclusion, so it makes sense the French federation has already chosen the replacement there. The other, however, is news, and sad news.
As expected after the news last week, Anna Duskova & Martin Bidar vanished off the French pairs roster even as she had her surgery. In their place, the French federation has invited Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran. That’s actually an interesting one, since in this field they may well make it onto the podium. If they would only not make all the mistakes they continually make, they probably would do so. As it is, they could still be in it if they’re not the only ones who make mistakes. There are two teams that will probably got 1-2, and then bronze might go to whoever delivers enough.
But in Japan, one man has had terrible luck. Days before he was to compete in the NHK Trophy, Daisuke Murakami has had to pull out due to illness. For some skaters, that wouldn’t be a drastic loss. After all, he should be able to compete again before too much time at all has elapsed. But this was supposed to be Murakami’s first international competition above the Challenger level since the 2015 Grand Prix Final! He had a breakthrough that fall, but failed to follow up at Japanese Nationals, and then last year broke his foot and missed almost the entire season. This was his only assignment. Plus this was a field where he could’ve medaled, which would have put him back in the conversation for Japan’s open third Olympic spot. He’ll likely still contend for it at Japanese Nationals, but it’ll be harder now.
Had he been a foreign skater, he likely would’ve gone unreplaced. But the Japanese federation has called in Kazuki Tomono. Newly up from juniors this year, Tomono is the reigning Junior National Champion and one of the country’s best up and comers. But that’s actually not saying much; Japan’s strength in junior men comes and goes, and the current rising class is a weak one. Tomono probably isn’t ready to contend for a Grand Prix podium yet.