The unofficial halfway point of the season has been reached, and the Grand Prix and Junior Grand Prix seasons are over, with the conclusion of the ISU Grand Prix Final. The picture of the season is now starting to look a little clearer, but it is still a long road to Boston in March, and many of the skaters will now have to face the battle on their home fronts as Nationals season gets into full swing.
This year’s Final was held from December 10-13 in Barcelona, Spain, the second year in a row it has been held there and famous for its enthusiastic crowds. They had extra reason to be enthusiastic this year, with Spain’s Javier Fernandez heading in as the reigning World Champion, and the contest between the finalists of the Senior Grand Prix, the Junior Grand Prix, and for the first time, Synchronised Skating.
It was another stunning, record-breaking set of performances from Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, topping a total score of 330 points to win by nearly forty. He landed a total of five quadruple jumps – including two in the short program and three in the free skate – and received positive grades of execution across the board for the sheer quality of his elements. Stunningly, he still made errors: his step sequence in the short program was only a level 3, as was his step sequence in the free skate. If his form continues, he will be impossible to beat.
Local favourite Javier Fernandez took out the silver medal, stringing together his most consistent performances of the season to post a high score. However, he still had issues with the quad in both programs and will need to iron these problems out to have a chance of beating Hanyu in future. He will not face Hanyu again until Worlds. However, Fernandez achieved all level 4s in the short program and also had high grades of execution in the free skate, which will encourage him.
Japanese wonderkid Shoma Uno was third. His short program was marred by an underrotated fall on the quadruple toe, but was otherwise of high quality, which kept him in the mix. His stirring free skate had only one minor error, an incorrect edge on his Lutz takeoff, and drew the crowd to its feet as he finished. In just his first year as a Senior, and in a highly-competitive and sometimes unpredictable Men's field, Uno's bronze medal here will prove that he has what it takes to compete with the big guns.
JUNIOR MEN RESULTS
1. Nathan Chen (USA), 2. Dmitri Aliev (RUS), 3. Sota Yamamoto (JPN)
Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva continued her impressive debut Senior season by taking out the gold here. Her cleverly-choreographed short program, with all three jumping passes in the second half earning the 10% bonus, saw her take a five point lead after the first segment of the competition, and she was never challenged. Her free skate was almost flawless, with an unclear Lutz edge being the only black mark on her protocol, and her personal-best score secured her victory here. Fresh out of Juniors, Medvedeva has proved she belongs on the Senior circuit.
Satoko Miyahara of Japan was second at this event, building on her performance at the NHK Trophy. Miyahara's short program was good enough only for fourth, including a wrong-edged takeoff on her triple flip. Her free skate, however, was much stronger, including all level fours on her spins and steps and positive grades of execution on every jump. As the reigning World silver medallist, this will be a big boost for her going into Japanese Nationals with a much better season result than her compatriot Mao Asada.
Elena Radionova of Russia also showed marked improvement here with a third place finish. Her short program was easily her best short of the season, marred only by a slightly two-footed landing on her triple Lutz, and kept her in second after that segment. Her free skate suffered from an unclear edge on her triple flip and an under-rotated fall on her triple loop but was a generally good performance, and her fourth-placed long program score was enough to retain the bronze medal, a reward for her persistence through the early struggles of the season.
JUNIOR LADIES RESULT
1. Polina Tsurskaya (RUS), 2. Maria Sotskova (RUS), 3. Marin Honda (JPN)
Ksenia Stolbova and Feder Klimov of Russia had been showing continual improvement through the Grand Prix and converted it here into an upset victory. The highlight of their excellent short program was a beautiful throw triple flip that got high grade of execution from every judge. Their free skate was equally superb, including six level four elements and a lovely 3-3-2 side-by-side combination jump. Their victory here firmly establishes them as contenders for the World title in March and will give them a boost ahead of Russian Nationals and their rematch with Olympic Champions Volosozhar and Trankov.
Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were the hot favourites coming into this event, but had to settle for the silver medal after making several mistakes. The major error in their short program was a fall on the throw triple Lutz, while they also had complications on their side-by-side triple Lutzes, dropping them to third. The throw triple Lutz was again a problem in their long program, but the rest of their program was of very good quality and was enough to pull them up to second.
Russian pair Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov continued their strong return this season by winning the bronze medal. Their very clean and precise short program saw them second after that segment, only a point behind their compatriots Stolbova and Klimov. Unfortunately, two falls on their opening jumping passes - the side-by-side jumps - took them out of contention, though they rallied strongly throughout the rest of the program to retain the bronze medal.
JUNIOR PAIRS RESULTS
1. Ekaterina Borisova/Dmitry Sopot (RUS), 2. Anna Duskova/Martin Bidar (CZE), 3. Amina Atakhanova/Ilia Spiridonov (RUS)
Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje continued their dominant form this season with a comfortable victory here. They set the standard straightaway in their short dance, nailing all six keypoints of their Ravensberger Waltz and garnering level fours for their curve lift and twizzles. Their extremely polished free dance had four level four elements with the rest being level threes, and high grades of execution from every judge and making their victory unchallenged.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates of America took home the silver at this event with two solid performances. They opened their short dance by hitting five of the six keypoints on the compulsory pattern and a level four lift and twizzles. Their free dance, while generally very good, did have some small bobbles, including a moment where Chock slipped during their twizzle sequence. The strength of both programs combined, however, was enough for them to secure second place.
Italian couple Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte finished the event in third place, just over a point behind Chock and Bates. The Italians opened their event with a third-placed short dance that included hitting all six keypoints in the Ravensberger Waltz, but received a slightly lower grade of execution on all their elements to finish behind the Americans. Their superb free dance, including five level four elements, garnered the second-highest score of the event, but was not quite enough to overhaul Chock and Bates, and they had to settle for bronze. Nevertheless, their tilt at a World medal is certainly well on track.
A shout-out too, to Maia and Alex Shibutani. Alex came down with severe food poisoning during their time in Barcelona and was in hospital on IV fluids before the free dance. Under the circumstances, it was a stellar performance, and hopefully Alex will make a swift recovery.
JUNIOR ICE DANCE RESULTS
1. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carptenter (USA), 2. Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd (RUS), 3. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA)
SYNCHRONISED SKATING RESULTS
1. Team Paradise (RUS)
2. Team Rockettes (FIN)
3. Team Nexxice (CAN)
4. Team Surprise (SWE)
5. Team Haydenettes (USA)