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2019 Skate France International Ladies

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany








Free Skate

(4 November 2019)  The Ladies Free Program at “Les Internationaux de France“ 2019 had a good level because around half the competitors performed good programs.

In the third Grand Prix of this season, for the third time a Russian teenager from the school of Eteri Tutberidze took the gold medal at her senior Grand Prix debut. This time it was 16-year-old Alena Kostornaia who had been second at Junior Worlds in March 2019 and had 236.00 points in Grenoble. In the free program, she skated to the “New Moon“ and the “Twilight“ soundtracks and to “Supermassive Black Hole“ by Muse. Her program was highlighted by two very good triple Axels (the first one with double toe loop) in the first minute, which impressed the judges. Six other triple jumps and one double Axel followed, with many GOEs of +4. Her spins, steps, skating skills, interpretation and performance were excellent as well because she is already a complete skater and does not only skate from element to element. Therefore her components had an average of 8.9. Later she commented in fluent English: “I am pleased that I was able to skate well and to show a clean program. I hope to improve my jumps and my program with each competition and to perfect myself. I had a show number to this music and I liked it so much and we decided to use it for this season.”

Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova, who is one year older, had to accept to finish only second with 216.06 points although she had higher components and an excellent presentation. She calls her program “Cleopatra“ and used the music of Peter Gabriel’s “The Feeling Begins“ and the soundtracks of “Lawrence of Arabia“ and “Ramses“. She almost fell on her opening triple Lutz which was a bit under-rotated. Six other triples and two double Axels followed, but three of them were under-rotated again. Her spins and steps were outstanding. “I think my performance was O.K.“, she said, “but obviously there is room to grow and that motivates me. I will try to improve in all aspects of my program, the spins, footwork and jumps and get more points on the GOE.”

With the second best free program, Mariah Bell from Irvine, California, winner of the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September, took the bronze medal with 212.89 points. The 23-year-old skater had five more technical points than Zagitova and three points less for her components, which were around 8.6. Bell skated to “Hallelujah“ by KD Lang and had six very good triples, one under-rotated triple Lutz and one double Axel, most of which had mainly GOEs of +3. She explained: “I’m really proud of how this competition went. I think the season started very well for me. I really worked on my training and it’s paying off which I’m really excited about. I’ve got Russia (Rostelecom Cup) coming up next, so I’m looking forward to just going in and bringing my programs out again.”

Kaori Sakamoto on fourth place was the best of the three Japanese ladies, earning 199.24 points. Three of her triple jumps were very good, among them her highlight, an excellent combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, but three others under-rotated and her Lutz got an edge call. She skated to the soundtrack of “Matrix“ and had components of around 8.6.

Starr Andrews of Lakewood, California, came on fifth position with 180.54 points. Her first element in her free program was an excellent choreographic sequence, followed by a good combination of triple toe loop and another triple toe loop. A combination of triple loop and double toe loop was good, but three others under-rotated, she fell on the triple flip and popped the Lutz which also was planned triple. She skated to “Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils“ by Richard Strauss and her components were around 7.5.

Wakaba Higuchi from Japan placed sixth with 174.12 points. She fell on the triple Lutz, doubled the triple loop, singled the flip and stepped out of the triple toe loop which she performed in combination with a double Axel. The triple Salchow and a combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop were good, however. Nicole Schott from Germany moved up from tenth to seventh place, winning 166.69 points. Skating to “Kung Fu Panda“ and „Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“, she had three good triple jumps and two good double Axels, but stepped out of the triple flip and under-rotated the first triple loop. Her components were around 7.2.

Lea Serna from France made several mistakes in her long program, sits eighth with 166.02 points and her new coach Brian Joubert will have a lot of work with her. Yuna Shirawa from Japan is on ninth place with 161.71 points and had five under-rotated jumps. The second French skater Mae-Berenice Meite made several mistakes and placed tenth with 157.45 points. She has no visa problems because she has an official working visa and works part-time in a P.R. agency in Florida. Maria Sotskova from Russia made several serious mistakes and ended up 11th with 144.89 points.

Short Program

(2 November 2019)  The Ladies Short Program in Grenoble had a relatively good level, there were many faultless programs.

16-year-old Alena Kostornaia from the Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze took the lead with 76.55 points. The winner of the ISU Junior Final last year skated to the soundtrack of “The Leftovers“ and to “November“, both pieces by young Russian composer Mas Richter. Her first element was a triple Axel, but it was under-rotated. The triple Lutz was almost unter-rotated as well, but the combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was outstanding and received seven GOEs of +4 and two of +5. Her three spins were excellent as well as the step sequence, all had a level 4. Her components had an average of 8.4. She said: “I am pleased that I was able to show my maximum, but obviously there is something that can be fixed. Overall it was a good start for my senior competitions.”

The 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova is currently on second position with 74.24 points. The 17-year-old skater has no triple Axel in her repertoire, but began her very expressive flamenco program to "Me Voy“ by Yasmin Levy with a combination of triple Lutz (with an edge call) and an under-rotated triple loop. Her double Axel was very good, her triple flip as well. Two spins were excellent and the change foot combination spin outstanding (five GOEs of +5). She had by far the highest components in the field, which were around 9.2. “I went out on the ice with the thought that I wanted to enjoy my performance and I think this is what I did“, she explained. “Obviously, there is still some work left to do, but overall I am pleased with myself today.”

Mariah Bell of Irvine, California, sits on third place with 70.25 points after performing a faultless program to the two songs ‘Radar’ and ‘Work’ by Britney Spears. The 23-year-old student of Rafael Arutunian began her program with a very good double Axel, followed by a good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop and a good triple Lutz. The spins (level 4) and step sequence (level 3) also were clean. Her components were around 8.1. She explained: “I’m really pleased with my skate today. I had a lot of fun. I think there is obviously some room to improve, but I’m really proud of that skate for my opening Grand Prix of the season.”

Starr Andrews of Lakewood, California is fourth, winning 66.59 points. She had been invited as an alternate for her countrywoman Ting Cui who is injured. In a flawless performance to "You Lost Me“ by Christina Aguilera, her combination of triple toe loop and another triple toe loop was very good. The double Axel and the triple loop had a good quality, like the three spins and the step sequence, all with level 4. Her components were around 7.6. The best of the three Japanese skaters was Wakaba Higuchi who finished on fifth place with 64.78 points. After a good double Axel she under-rotated the triple toe loop in her combination with the triple Lutz. Originally she had planned a triple loop, but in the program she performed a triple flip which had an edge call. Her spins with mixed levels were good, and her step sequence very good. Her components had an average of 8.2.

Kaori Satamoto, also from Japan, is currently sixth, earning 64.08 points. Her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was excellent, but she fell on the double Axel and stepped out of the triple loop. Her change foot combination spin was too short and got a deduction. Her program was choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne and had components of around 8.3. The third Japanese skater Yuna Shirawa sits seventh with 63.12 points. Her combination was a good triple Lutz with a double toe loop wich had been planned triple. Her double Axel and her triple loop were good, but not special.

Lea Serna is the best lady from France on eighth place with 62.43 points. She had changed coaches recently and now trains with Brian Joubert in Poitiers. She performed an almost clean short program with a double Axel, a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop as well as a good triple flip. Mae-Berenice Meite, who trains with John Zimmerman in Florida, began her short program with a very good double Axel, followed by a shaky combination of triple flip and (under-rotated) triple toe loop. Her triple Lutz was under-rotated as well, her spins good.

Nicole Schott from Germany had been nominated as an alternate for the Belgian skater Loena Hendrickx who is injured. She finished on tenth place with 54.43 points after performing a clean combination of triple toe loop and another triple toe loop, a shaky double Axel and a fall on the triple loop which was downgraded. The third Russian skater Maria Sotskova ended up 11th with only 50.38 points after making mistakes on all her three jumping elements. The third French skater Laurine Lecavelier withdrew because she had stretched one of her muscles in her leg in her practice home which is in Egna, Italy, since this September.