Kim reclaims Grand Prix Final title

Korea’s Yu-Na Kim reclaimed her title that she lost last year to Japan’s Mao Asada after placing first in the long program (123.22 points). The reigning World Champion delivered a strong performance to Gershwin’s Concerto in F which featured four solid triple jumps, spins and footwork. The only mistake was a two-footed landing on the back half of a  double Axel-triple toeloop. Her overall score was 188.86 points.

Earlier in practice, Kim had problems when her blades hit each other.  “I fixed it but it’s still a little bit not too comfortable to skate with. So I tried to forget about it, but even though my performance was not perfect, it was okay. I didn’t give up and that led to this wonderful result. As I could keep up my strength, I found some self-confidence again.”

Miki Ando of Japan placed second in the long program with a season’s best of 119.74 points. With a total score of 185.94, the former World Champion easily took the silver medal in what was her fifth appearance in the Grand Prix Final.

Ando’s alluring “Cleopatra” routine also featured four good triple jumps, as well as three strong level 4 spins, but she  put a hand down on a triple Salchow.

“I’m happy about medaling and automatically qualifying for the Olympic Games,” Ando commented. “I didn’t make any major mistakes and I skated better that I did at NHK. But I was tired and I know I didn’t skate with enough speed.”

Ando admitted to being nervous about skating in front of her home crowd, but did not feel that was why she was slow. “I have to work on building up my stamina before Nationals. I missed the Salchow, my favorite jump. I know I can do all my jumps if I don’t lose my confidence. Compared to my previous GP wins, I think I was able to skate with more confidence and flow. Now I have to work on skating in competition at the same level as my practice.”

Teammate Akiko Suzuki had a near flawless routine to Westside Story which included seven triple jumps. The only mistake was a call on her triple Lutz for use of the wrong take-off edge. The 24-year-old also delivered solid spins and footwork, placing third in the long program (116.46 points) and overall (174.00 points) to capture the bronze medal.

“Before I started, my coach didn’t tell me anything about my jumps. He told me to dance and just be Maria!” said Suzuki. “And that’s just what I did. I wasn’t thinking about ranking or points while I was skating. The happiest moment was when the audience gave me a standing ovation.”

“I think I was able to skate what I had done in practice,” Suzuki added. “I felt confident and it just felt so good performing. I think I lacked the flow out of some of my jumps, which I need to get high GoEs. After this competition, I will review both my short and free with my coach and do what I need for the Nationals.”

USA’s Ashley Wagner rose two spots from sixth to fourth overall ( 162.07 points) after placing fourth (107.81 points) in the long program. The World Junior bronze medalist had a clean skate with the exception of a call on a triple Lutz (wrong take-off edge) and two-footed the first jump in a triple flip-double Axel sequence.

“I feel great,” said the 18-year-old. “I just let myself get out there and skate. I didn’t even care what place I came in. The points might not be as high as I was hoping for, but I’m just really proud of myself. The whole thing felt really good.”

Canada’s Joannie Rochette and Russia’s Alena Leonova placed fifth and sixth overall, respectively.

“I failed in the program,” said Rochette, “but I felt really relaxed during the warm up. I don’t know what went wrong. After I get back home I’ll analyze what went wrong in this competition. I’m excited to start rebuilding again to prepare for Nationals and Olympics.”

“Alena (Leonova) is a very emotional person,” commented Coach Alla Piatova. “Sometimes she wants it so badly that she can’t hold it together. Her warm-up was not too bad. It was still okay and she had herself under control. She was very confident yesterday. She wanted to skate well to make me happy and she knows that she had a chance for the bronze medal and  wanted to defend that placement. I think she just wanted it too much.”

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