by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(5 November 2018) The ladies competition at the Helsinki Grand Prix had a good general level. Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova from the school of Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow won with 215.29 points after having taken the lead in the short program with 68.90 points. But there she could add only a single loop to the triple Lutz in her combination. Therefore this element received GOEs of -5 because this is an invalid combination for the senior short program. This cost her around ten points. Skating to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ”Phantom of the Opera," she performed six other excellent elements which had mainly GOEs of +4, +3 and some +5. She commented, “[After missing the combination] I thought I have to do all the other elements clean. I knew that the season after the Olympic Games will be hard, especially emotionally. I had my two weeks’ vacation as usual, then the training camp and the preparation for the season started."
In her free program she skated to "Carmen," which is not innovative, but still popular. She was a bit slow, but nobody deducted anything. After a very good double Axel for warming up she nailed an excellent combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop , three more very good triple jumps and a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, but both jumps were under-rotated. The spins and steps were excellent again and had mainly GOEs of +4. After the program she said, “I am not pleased about my short program. The free skating was better, but still not ideal. I did not quite have the focus I usually have and I took a long time to put the short program behind me. I analyzed it for a long time, almost all night long. When I got up, I told myself that I have to skate well in the free to please the spectators.”
The second Russian lady Stanislava Konstantinova from St. Petersburg in Russia won a surprising silver medal with 197.57 points in her first Grand Prix, although she was only fourth in the short and third in the free program. She seems to be a bit chaotic and would almost have missed the competition. The St. Petersburg skaters often do not fly to Helsinki, but can go by train or car in five or six hours. 15 minutes before the train left, she found out that she had taken an old passport with her which was no longer valid. She rushed back home and missed the train, but her mother drove her to Helsinki by car. In Helsinki she missed the skaters‘ bus from the hotel to the first practice and took a taxi. She told the taxi driver just to go to the ice rink. He did not drive her to the Jäähalli, but to the Hartwall Arena where the World Championships 2017 had taken place. When she arrived there she did not find any door for accredited figure skaters, but only the Florida Panthers ice hockey team training. Somebody had to call another taxi to get finally to practice.
Her landings are not as elegant as Zagitova’s and she does not do many diffcult steps between the elements, but she can fight as well. Her first element in the short program to modern versions of "Malaguena" was a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop , followed by other good elements. But later she landed the triple flip forward, fell and just got .08 points for this element. Her components had an average of 7.8. Her free program to the soundtrack of Anna Karenina was absolutely faultless, had seven good triples and two double Axels, but with GOEs of +2 and +3, but not more. Only her excellent spins and steps had higher GOEs, but her components were only around 7.7. She explained, “I am very happy to have won the silver medal in my first ever Grand Prix. I was absolutely unhappy with my short program where I made a costly mistake, but I am glad I was able to pull myself together and skate well today.”
Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, Winner of the Four Continents Championships 2018 and sixth at Worlds 2018, took the bronze medal with 197.42 points, just .15 points behind Konstantinova. During the first practice she had fallen on her head, but continued training. Afterwards the Finnish rink doctor, who had watched the fall, asked her if she had pain in her head and maybe a concussion. He asked her as a kind of control to count back from ten to one in English, but she could not do it. But she assured that she was fine, that she just had forgotten the numbers in English, and counted them in Japanese. So he allowed her to compete. In the short program to a new version of Debussy pieces, she fell on the triple flip and could not add a second jump for a combination. After some excellent elements, she performed a triple loop and wanted to add the triple toe loop there. But not being used to do this combination she fell on the toe loop which was downgraded. Therefore she was only in seventh position in the short.
But with an outstanding free program to the soundtrack of "The Piano“ by Michael Nyman she could move up to the podium. The public rewarded it with a standing ovation. She performed seven high triple jumps (only a Lutz got an edge call) and excellent spins and steps which got many GOEs of +4. She said, „In the free skating I gave it all I had, because this was my only chance to make the podium. I forgot about yesterday’s short program.” The next three Grand Prix will reveal if her second place at Skate America and the third place in Helsinki are enough for the Final.
Teammate Juna Shiraiwa finished on fourth place with 191.46 points after being second in an almost clean and entertaining short program. After a normal combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop she moved a bit during her flying sit spin. The double Axel, the triple loop and the other elements were excellent. “I am happy to land the combination,” she commented. “That was the focus for this season, so I’m very happy I did it. The story of my program is – I am a crew member and guide the passengers. The audience are the passengers for me and I hope I guide them well.” In the free program she dropped two spots because her jumps were small and three of them under-rotated, but she did not fall.
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium had almost recovered from the flu which had forced her to withdraw from the free program at Skate America. In Helsinki, she placed fifth, winning 191.22 points. In the short program, she was even third after performing a combination of a huge triple Lutz and a triple toe loop , but the toe loop was under-rotated. Later she stepped out of the triple flip which also was under-rotated. In the free program, she performed four clean triple jumps, but two others were under-rotated again.
Daria Panenkova from Moscow took sixth place with 161.48 points. In spite of heavy pain in her foot, she was better than at Skate Canada. Like many other Russian skaters she raises one or two arms over head on almost every jump because it increases the GOEs, but is risky. She began her short program with a very good flying camel spin, followed by a triple loop. Her combination was a triple Lutz and a triple toe loop , but she stepped out of the toe loop . After a good double Axel in the free program, her triple Lutz of her first combination was a bit shaky and then she stepped out of the triple toe loop which was downgraded. Next she fell on the triple Salchow (under-rotated). Later she performed three clean triple jumps, but two others were not landed clearly backwards.
Hanui Kim from South Korea finished on seventh position with 160.15 points. She began her short program with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop , but the second jump was under-rotated. Her triple loop was also not landed backwards. The other elements were good, the layback spin very good. In her free program, only two triple jumps were clean, but three under-rotated or popped. On the other hand she did not fall.
Finnish skater Viveca Lindfors finished eighth with 159.62 points. She had given an excellent performance at the Finlandia Trophy in early October. But this time she stepped out of the triple Lutz in the short program and could not add a second jump. She touched down on the triple flip and could add only a shaky double toe loop . The other elements were clean, the step sequence quite good. She begn her long program with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop , but then fell on the triple loop. Two more good triples followed, but near the end she made two more mistakes.
The other Finnish skater Emmi Peltonen ended ninth with 158.72 points. She had a good short program, but made several mistakes in the free program. Rika Hongo from Japan sits tenth, earning 156.59 points. She seems a bit out of shape and under-rotated all three triple jumps in the short program and also three in the free program.
U.S. skater Angela Wang, who trains in Edmonton, Alberta, with Ravi Walia, ended up eleventh and last with 149.57 points. She had been invited as alternate for the 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen whose foot injury prevented her from a fulltime training for a long time. In the short program to the song “Praying“ by U.S. pop singer Kesha, Wang singled the flip which was planned as a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop . In order to have a combination, she added a small double toe loop to the triple loop. The other elements were clean and the three spins had a level 4. Her components had an average of 7.0. The music of her free program was “Send in the Clowns," performed by Barbra Streisand. She began with exactly the combination she had planned in the short program, but this time in good quality. Then she popped the first Lutz, added to her under-rotated double Axel only a double toe loop instead of the planned triple one and repeated the same combination in better quality. Next she crashed hard on the ice on the triple Lutz. After that she fell again on a double toe loop , but this jump did not count anyway because it was her third double toe loop and each jump may be shown only twice. A small double Salchow was her last jump. The spins and steps were good.
The German champion Nicole Schott, 18th at the Olympic Games and 13th at the World Championships, withdrew three days before the competition due to her ongoing problems with a knee injury and the flu. It was too late to replace her, so there were only 11 ladies competing.