In her Grand Prix debut at NHK, Japan’s Kanako Murakami earned a bronze medal behind Italy’s Carolina Kostner and American Rachael Flatt. In Portland, Ore., in just her second event, she harvested gold, reinforcing the fact that she could be one of the new faces to watch over the next couple of years heading into the Sochi Olympic Games.
“This was the best freeskate that I have ever skated, but even so, I would like to do better for the next competition,” Murakami said ambitiously.
Murakami started off strong, landing a difficult triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination jump, and landed five triples in total on the way to eclipsing her personal best total score by more than fourteen points. The World Junior Champion’s total of 164.93 was a little more than two points better than silver medalist Rachael Flatt’s total.
With the win, Murakami makes the rare leap from Junior Grand Prix Final Champion last season to Grand Prix Finalist this season.
“I wasn’t even expecting to be here at Skate America, and I didn’t expect to make the Final of the Grand Prix,” Murakami said with a wide grin. “I am really surprised and shocked.”
Flatt moved up from fourth place after the short program to clinch her second silver medal of the season, and has also earned a spot in the Grand Prix Final. Though skating with an injured foot, Flatt was able to again win the freeskate just like she did in Japan to open the season a few weeks ago.
“I’m really happy with how things went under the circumstances. It wasn’t the best for me mentally or physically to say the least, but I’m just glad to have skated so well,” Flatt said after her performance.
The American champion also landed five triple jumps, but admitted that just getting through the program was a victory in itself.
“The foot still hurts a lot, but during the program it was just about blocking out the pain and focusing on what I needed to do to get the job done,” she explained. “By the end of the program, the pain was getting worse, and my foot was actually more swollen today than yesterday. I just have to push through it.”
Flatt’s score of 162.86 points is a season’s best, and it was good enough eclipse overnight leader Kostner for the silver medal.
Kostner, skating with less technical content than the rest of the field, plummeted to third place overall with the sixth best free skate of the day. With just three clean triples credited on her score sheet, the European Champion had to depend on her component scores to keep her on the podium.
“Today was a tough one for me,” Kostner admitted. “I felt a little bit right off of my feet. After I fell on the loop, I kind of lost control and was tripping over my skates. I was happy to be finished at the end, and I’m not so pleased with my skating today. I want to go home and rest a little bit then get back to training so I can do better the next time.”
Finishing in fourth place was Sweden’s Joshi Helgesson, with the performance of her young career. Helgesson eclipsed her personal best score by more than ten points, and finished with a new career high score of 146.90 points.
“I am very happy because this is the best long program that I have done ever,” said a jubilant Helgesson. “It was really hard when I got here because I was so tired from traveling from China. I started out slowly, and started getting stronger as the week went by. This morning I wasn’t really awake for the practice, but it all worked out in the end.”
Canada’s Amelie Lacoste finished in fifth place overall, and Helgesson’s sister Viktoria leaped from twelfth place after the short program to sixth overall with the third best free skate of the day. Georgia’s Elene Gedevanishvili finished in seventh place.