Skating Highlights of the Week: JGP Bratislava
The season opens with yet another Junior Grand Prix event dominated by the Russians.
The Junior Grand Prix series is usually a heavily European affair, but this year it is even more than usual. The only event taking place somewhere else is the one that moved from China to Canada. First up as host was Slovakia. Once upon a time they had a yearly event in Banksa Bystrica. Running for twenty years before being discontinued, it was called the Grand Prix SNP, and when they hosted a JGP event for the first two years of the series’ existence in 1997 and 1998, they gave it the same name and held it in the same place. The six times it’s been held since then, however, it’s usually been held in Bratislava, and has sometimes been called Skate Slovakia.
The last time before this year was in 2015. Past winners have including Johnny Weir and Yu-Na Kim. Other past medalists have included Alissa Czisny, Nobunari Oda, and Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. However, as is the case for many JGP events, there’s generally been Russian dominance, especially in recent years. In fact, all the winners of the pairs and dance events have been either Russian or American.
It was Russian dominance this time too. They won gold and silver in both ladies and dance, and swept the pairs program. In fact, the pairs event had a notably small field of only seven teams. They didn’t take any medals in the men, though. That competition was typical in a sadder way, that being: it was a mess.
While the men’s competition was littered with errors from the start, that took some time for that to kick in for Stephen Gogolev, who nailed his short on a day when most of the top names had at least a little trouble.
It didn’t catch up with him until the middle of his free skate, but which time he’d landed three quadruple jumps, including the first ever quad lutz landed internationally by a Canadian man. Not many junior men can even land one. Winning here wasn’t a problem.
The smoothest free skate of the men was Mitsuki Sumoto’s. Minimizing his rough spots in both programs made silver easy.
It was the sort of event where more or less landing everything in his short program enabled Daniel Grassl to win the bronze despite multiple errors in his free. It seems this Ezio Basso composition is catching on in the skating world, though Grassl may be the only one combining it with train noises.
Delayed a year due to injury, Anna Shcherbakova’s first JGP skate was all that could be hoped for, as she showed her sprite-like skating and triples to easily win both segments and the gold.
Her free skate to this old standard, which we first tried to watch at the test skates, feels a lot more personalized when you have a good view, and the costume helps too. She didn’t do her quad salchow, and didn’t need it here.
She couldn’t match Shcherbakova, and her free wasn’t perfect. But when a traffic accident at what would’ve been her first JGP event delayed Anna Tarusina’s debut by two years, she too wasn’t wasting her chance, and taking it won her silver.
As expected, Young You’s free skate is sweeter to watch when she lands everything. Even the fumble at the end was kind of endearing. After two close calls last year, she finally won her first JGP medal.
It was a night of good free skates. There was also one from fourth place Yi Christy Yeung, who eschewed the balletic feminine style of the other ladies in favor of bold and powerful movement. But for an underrotation in each program, she may well have medaled.
But none of the above were second in the segment. That went to Yuhanna Yokoi, who rebounded from a bad short with the moment of the night. Sadly, she was too far behind to finish higher than sixth.
Anastasia Mishina & Aleksandr Galiamov did their first JGP event together after making the Junior World podium last year, and won it. Their free skate, to The Master and the Margarita, is an ambitious one, both technically and in terms of performance. They didn’t quite hit everything this time, but came pretty close.
In their interview before Moskvina’s master class, Apollariia Panfilova & Dmitry Rylov told the story of their W.E. program, which isn’t unlike the real story of Edward and Wallis, though they describe her as simply not being high-born enough. Despite a fall in their short and limited technical content, the sheer beauty of this skate allowed them to squeak out silver by .13.
Not that bronze medalists Ksenia Akhanteva & Valerii Kolesov had that bad a free themselves, though they’re not yet at the level of the top two performance-wise.
Even when they weren’t quite perfect in either program, Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva & Nikita Nazarov were on another level from the rest of the ice dance field. They were already showing potential last season, and now they’ll likely be one of the top teams on the circuit.
Both Russians teams are pretty promising, as is typical for Russian teams that make the JGP. Elizaveta Shanaeva & Devid Naryzhnyy, who won silver in their JGP debut, even managed to make techno Samsom & Delilah work.
Now in their third year on the circuit, Eliana Gropman & Ian Sommerville have never been the strongest American team on it. But they’ve quietly been getting better and better, and it’s paid off with this oddly haunting performance and bronze.
View full results here.
Next week the series will be in Austria, but I will be out of town. Coverage will resume with the Amber Cup in Lithuania in two weeks’ time.