Figure Skating News
Germany’s Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot raised the bar when the broke the record for the highest free skate score, winning gold at the 2017-18 Grand Prix Final of Figure Skating. Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China, who previously held that record from 2017 NHK Trophy earned the silver, while Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford rose from fifth to capture the bronze.
The Germans, who stood in first after the short, delivered a flawless routine to “La terre vue du ciel,” which opened with a huge triple twist that earned the team +3 grades of execution (GOE) across the board. The team went on the complete a throw triple Lutz, side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe-double toe and solo triple toes, a throw triple Salchow, and level four lifts and spins. The 2017 World silver medalists earned a new personal best and record-breaking score of 157.25 for first place and overall (236.68).
It was the first time for Massot to compete at the Grand Prix Final, and he was especially happy with the performance as it was a very high-level competition where other teams had “crazy and very good programs.”
“I saw the score of the Chinese team and I knew the level was very high and the program will be difficult,” he said, “but we wanted to give the best, and everything went well except for that tiny little mistake (shaky landing on a throw triple Salchow). We felt it was a big practice for the Olympic Games. The top six pairs were here, and the level was so high. Now we have to calm down and to realize that we got the gold. We have to keep practicing this way and be ready for the Olympic Games.”
“Four years ago, in Japan, I won the Grand Prix Final with Robin Szolkowy,” recalled Savchenko. “It was great to come back to Japan. The audience here is amazing, thank you so much! I take everything from the competition, the atmosphere, the amazing audience in Japan. We had the best support and it is a good feeling.”
“We all do the same elements and I think because we have many elements that we need to do everything step by step to manage the risks,” said Massot, when asked about the risks of pairs elements. “When we do the first elements, then even if it is good or not, we have to open the door for the next element and close the last element. If you keep thinking about the element before, you lose the concentration and cannot focus.”
Sui and Han did not disappoint in their emotion routine to Turandot which was highlighted by a quadruple twist and two solid throw jumps. The only major mistake came when the 2017 World champions had small wobble on the landing of the side-by-side triple Salchows.
“Throughout the Grand Prix and the Final, we learned a lot and found the room for improvement,” said Han. “I felt we need to improve the execution of the on jumps and side-by-side performance once we go back home. After the short program, I was disappointed, but I know where to make changes, so I prepared myself to get ready for free program today. I am satisfied with the performance. Regardless of the points, we wanted to do our best and I knew that we can get our best score when we perform the best. It is fight against ourselves, not against others.”
The team from Harbin, China, also showed solid side-by-side triple toe-double toe-double toe jumps and displayed level four spins and lifts to place second in the long and overall (155.07 / 230.89).
“We are very happy about our program and we could show what we did in the practices,” said Han. “Today, I made two errors which was kind of an unexpected, however, overall, I think we were able to show the level that we have and for that I am very happy.”
“We are less experienced than the other two couples, and we want to learn from their strength and good points one by one to acquire them for ourselves,” he added. “That is the way to keep up our level in a competitive environment. And it is also important to enjoy it.”
“I thought we performed at the best level,” said Sui. “At NHK trophy, we were not prepared well and couldn’t perform in the way we wanted to, but I am happy with the outcome today.”
Duhamel and Radford, who stood in fifth after the short, finished third in the long and overall (138.65 / 210.83). The Canadian champions suffered a fall on a throw quad Salchow and later struggled with the side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe-double toe, underrotating the jump. The team otherwise showed good lifts and spins and landed a throw triple Lutz and side-by-side triple Lutzes in their routine to music by Muse.
“We don’t often fall like that at home,” said Duhamel on the throw quad Salchow, “so it was a bit of a surprise and it actually hurt me a little bit, so I had to recover very fast for the rest of the program. We missed the throw Lutz in the short and didn’t do a clean side by side Lutz, so to do both those elements clean today was a good break-through for us.
“The short program really shook up our confidence,” she added. “The throw quad is always a risk, but we fought through the long program, so when we finished, we feel proud of ourselves because we didn’t give up. We saved the throw Lutz, which is a very difficult element for, for the very end. We don’t get any bonus points for doing it that late, but we think it’s very effective on the music.”
“I am happy and a little surprised that we could end up on the podium,” said Radford. “Each element carries its own risk, a slip in a death spiral or you miss a rotation in a spin and that can decide if you are on the podium. We will do our triple Lutz and if we hit them, then we gain score higher points.”
“As we go forward for the Olympics, I think the most important thing for us is to do a clean short program at the Olympics,” said Duhamel. “It was a bit uncharacteristic to miss the throw in the short program and it shook up our confidence as we came in the long program. Although we had mistakes in our long program, a lot of things improved since Skate America with our levels. In particular, the spin and the death spiral, so there are a lot of positive things to take. We have to clean up the level on the last lift and improve and keep working on the quality of everything that we do and improve our program components.”
Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov also struggled on their side-side combination jump and had a fall on the triple Salchow, but showed a good throw triple Salchow and throw triple Lutz. They finished fifth in the long (136.11) and fourth overall 209.26.
“I made two major mistakes,” acknowledged Stolbova. “Unfortunately, in the short program, I got injured a little and I hoped it will be easier today, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t.”
Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang of China delivered a near-perfect program, but singled the back half of their side-by-side triple toe-double toe combo. The 2017 Skate America silver medalists otherwise landed two throw triple jumps, side-by-side triple Salchows to finish fourth (136.99) in the long and sixth overall (207.14).
“We were not sure if we could make the Grand Prix Final,” said Zhang. “It was great that we got the second place at Skate America and, because Japan is Xiaoyu’s favorite place and it is now mine too. We were so glad to come to Japan and to participate in the Final.”
“There are some disappointments and we need to work on it once we are back in China,” he pointed out. “We have nationals in December and the Olympics in February 2018, so we continue working towards the competitions.”
“I was pretty nervous yesterday,” admitted Yu, “and I wanted to show my best, because we finally made it to the Grand Prix Final. I was fairly satisfied with today’s performance and enjoyed the time out there. Yet I felt the time was very limited between Skate America and the Final, and we couldn’t fix the problems well. We are going back to China to train further for upcoming competition including nationals.”
Defending champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia, who stood in second after the short, finished sixth (129.90) in the long and fifth overall (208.73). The team from Moscow struggled on both their side-by-side jumps and the landing of the throw triple loop.
“What happened, happened,” said Morozov. “It was bad performance and there is nothing to say. Well, it happens sometimes. We will try not to be upset about it and just should make conclusions and work on it. Maybe we just couldn’t cope with our nerves. We didn’t think about our victory in the last Grand Prix Final, so it didn’t influence our performance at all. There wasn’t any pressure because of it.”