Grand Prix Final Goes On Amid IOC-Russia Storm
Chen narrowly wins yet another bad men’s competition; Zagitova wins with yet more overscoring; Savchenko & Massot win a spectacular showdown over Sui & Han; Papadakis & Cizeron win the first proper spectacular showdown over Virtue & Moir.
As the skaters gathered in Nagoya, Japan for the Grand Prix, the Russian ones found their flag had been banned from the Olympics, and they couldn’t know whether they’d even be allowed to compete. It now seems they will be, with Vladimir Putin claiming he won’t stop them. With it sounding like the athletes themselves will have to decide whether they will or not, according to pairs skater Ksenia Stolbova, the media even’s been pestering them with calls in wee hours of the morning! (She & Fedor Klimov are a the first definite yes.)
Meanwhile, the International Skating Union managed to impress people more with a new scoretracker which shows not only the accumulated technical score, but each last element done, its base value, and the Grade of Execution score its getting as the marks come in. They were less impressed, however, when the Junior Grand Prix Final feed broke during the men’s free. (The juniors will be handled in a separate post.)
As for the competition itself, it had some great moments, in the pairs and ice dance especially, where we got one we’d long waited for. Though as seems inevitable this year, the men’s competition was another matter.
The men’s competition complimented all the ones that came on the Grand Prix before it by being a total disaster. As expected, it was a battle between Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno, but they both skated so badly it might not have been had the rest of the field skated better. Although they both could’ve been worse in the short program. Chen even landed all his jumps, including his quadruple lutz-triple toe loop combination and quad flip, though none of them were pretty at all. Uno’s quad flip and quad toe-triple, and his program in general, were far better, except he then slipped and fell on his triple axel. And he got hit with a time violation for starting late. That left Chen with a near two point lead going into the free.
They were worse in their free skates. Chen did the quad lutz combination better this time, but had an ugly turnout on his flip, three of his quads other went even worse, and while he landed the quad toe part of his three-jump, he doubled the salchow after the loop. Uno landed the salchow and flip, the second with difficulty, but underrotated and fell on his opening quad loop, did bad on one quad toe, and then worse on the second. At least he pulled off his three-jump, which merely had a triple axel in it. He won the free too, but by less than a point and a half. Had Uno started his short program on time, he would’ve won gold. But as it was, Chen held on to win gold by half a point.
Mikhail Kolyada came in four points below Uno with bronze. His successful quad elements consisted of the quad toe-triple toe in both programs. He would also open both programs by falling the quad lutz, and his free would include a fall on the quad salchow and a popped loop. Even with the last, his still ended up being the highest technical tariff of the night. One less mistake and he might’ve won. Winning or even medaling would’ve been much harder for either Adam Rippon or Jason Brown. But their fifth and sixth showings with multiple mistakes feel like a wasted opportunity anyway. Rippon was done in mostly by underrotations; his only other problem was the fall on his fully downgraded quad lutz attempt. Brown tried no quads, and struggled with the triple axel in his free program instead, though he had a couple other errors too.
The only man who didn’t make multiple major errors was Sergei Voronov. He had nothing worse than a turnout on his triple axel in the short and solo quad toe in the free. Each of his programs had a quad toe-triple toe, and all other jumps more or less landed. But with neither harder quads nor anything besides jumps to offer, he really couldn’t challenge even a badly skating top three.
The ladies competition was much better skated than the men’s. But it says a good deal that Alina Zagitova won without even skating her best, she received way higher presentation scores than she deserved in the free especially, and she still more or less deserved to win, because no one else really deserved to beat her. She was second in the short program, where she landed her triple lutz-triple loop, but stepped out of her flip. In the free she held onto the harder triple-triple again, but turned out of two more jumps, and all together wasn’t as energetic as usual, not that this affected her presentation scores much.
Between the next four skaters there was less than three points. It was perhaps appropriate Maria Stoskova won the silver, since she’s the one of them who skatest the closest up to potential. Her fourth place short program was truly lovely. Most of her free skate was the same, except she was very shaky on a solo loop. Her jumps included the triple lutz-triple toe in both programs, and a triple flip-loop-triple salchow. She probably should’ve matched Zagitova in the presentation scores, but she didn’t. Kaetlyn Osmond won the short program with a strong skate, and her triple flip-triple toe was even better in the free. But then she doubled a loop, tried changing her program, and fell on an underrotated salchow. She forced her three-jump out of an axel instead. She was fifth in the segment, but held onto bronze by less than half a point.
Carolina’s absolutely beautiful skating helped get her to a Grand Prix Final ten years after her first, but her lack of technical content gave her grief here. It didn’t help that while the other girls all landed difficult triple-triples in the short, Kostner didn’t even manage her triple toe-triple toe. She was last going into the free. She skated well enough in there to come very close to her personal best. But she tried no triple-triples, and errors crept in on her late jumps, one of which she doubled. It was still the third-place free.
The home skaters were stuck bringing up the rear. Satoko Miyahara was underscored in the short program, where she skated clean with a triple lutz-triple toe. But in the free, she underrotated both those triples plus a flip, meaning the lutz in her three-jump was the only hard triple she had. Wakaba Higuchi landed the combination in both programs, and everything else in her short. But two doubled jumps and a couple other errors in the free left her behind the rest of the field.
Returning to their old short program served Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot well. They managed to nail it even when his skate laces snapped on their side by side triple salchows. It got them the lead, a point ahead of Evgenia Tarasova & Vladimir Morozov, who managed a very pretty program despite shaky triple toes. Although Wenjing Sui & Cong Han did most of their program better than both teams, except he went down on their toes. They were in third, a couple of points ahead of Ksenia Stolbova & Fedor Klimov, who hit their elements well, considering right before them she hit the boards coming out of their split twist. In fifth, Meagan Duhamel & Eric Radford had more trouble of both their lutz elements, and in sixth, Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang suffered a fall from her on their toes.
Of the top three, Sui & Han skated first. They weren’t entirely perfect; the quadruple twist wasn’t easily done, and their salchows were shaky. Their three-jump was beautiful, though, and so was every other thing they did once the side by sides were done. Plus they’re showing signs of making this remake of a program their own. Sui especially is giving the character of Turandot a very different spin than Xue Shen did. They came within a sliver of their then-world record personal best, and looked very likely to win.
Then Aliona Savchenko & Bruno Massot skated:
They might have only had a level 3 triple twist, but they got top GOE marks for it. Their triple salchow three-jump was the hardest side by side element anyone pulled off. They did note afterwards the throw salchow could’ve gone better, but even how she saved it was impressive. Combined with how beautiful the rest of this program was, and they claimed the world record by over two points, and were only a point ahead of the world record overall total. It was, perhaps, the most high-quality 1-2 pairs finish ever.
In between them, Tarasova & Morozov started with a quad twist themselves. But then they went horribly wrong on both salchows and three-jump, landed only one of their throws clean, and failed to get credit for their final spin. They were last in the free, and dropped to fifth, although the lower four were all bunched within four points of each other. Of them, it was Duhamel & Radford who came out on top to claim bronze. They did it on their technical content; theirs was the highest technical tariff of anybody’s. This time side by side and throw lutzes were clean, though she went down on the throw salchow, and failed to do the third double of their triple salchow three-jump.
She wasn’t the only one to have that problem on the three jump; Stolbova similar missed the second double in her & Klimov’s. She also fell on their salchows, and their twist and throw lutz weren’t the neatest affairs. Fifth in the segment, they held onto fourth by a little more than half a point. Xiaoyu Yu also singled a double, in her & Hao Zhang’s triple toe-double toe. Landing the salchows and their easier throws got them fourth in the segment, but they were just a little too far behind to move up.
After three disappointments, we finally got the both-teams-at-their-best showdown we’ve been waiting a year and a half for between Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir and Gabriella Papadakis & Guillaume Cizeron. And after three competitions where they blew it, Papadakis & Cizeron showed here they’ve gotten so good even Virtue & Moir might no longer be able to beat them.
In the short dance, the Canadians were truly brilliant in an opening step sequence they got top GOE for. They were quick and smooth and electric throughout. But the French were just a little bit quicker, a little bit more electric, and a little bit sexier, even with the weird music. Virtue & Moir pulled out all the stops in a free dance they’ve recently revised to make stronger. Each element was perfectly done; their performance was the most passionate in Nagoya. They got a new personal best in the free, and tied their overall best. But once again, Papadakis & Cizeron were just too good. Each and every thing they did on the ice was breathtaking. They maxed out the score for two of their lifts, came close to their own world record free dance score, and set a new world record overall.
The technical tariff wasn’t a factor in that battle; the two teams got the same one in both segments. It wasn’t the highest in either case. In the short, it was Maia & Alex Shibutani who got the highest tariff, which helped them get over three points lead over the two Madisons and their partners, who were half a point apart. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue overcame a lower tariff than Madison Chock & Evan Bates’ by throwing themselves into it, while Chock & Bates were weaker in their rumba.
The Shibutanis ended up needing that lead when in the free dance, they got the lowest tariff thanks to their step sequences, and didn’t quite do the twizzles right. They were last in the segment there. Hubbell & Donohue got the highest tariff this time, but they had a little trouble getting into their final rotational lift. Chock & Bates took third in the segment over them, matching the tariff of the Canadians and the French and doing everything very well. But when the numbers crunched together, the Shibutanis stayed ahead of Hubbell & Donohue by .6 for bronze, while Hubbell & Donohue stayed ahead of Chock & Bates by .35.
In sixth, Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte weren’t really able to keep up with the rest of the field, especially in the short. But they did skate very well, also matching the tariff of the top two in the free dance, where their performance too was especially good.
View full results here.
Olympic Team Event Qualification
All results are in, and since it looks like the Russians can and will participate, the Olympic qualified teams are:
- Olympic Athletes Representing Russia
- United States
- South Korea
Spain finished ninth in the standings, but can’t participate because they’re only fielding two skaters in the individual events. Israel will be allowed to bring a lady as an Additional Athlete to compete only in the team event, and South Korea will bring in a pair, who will then presumably also get into the individual event as a host entry.