Golden Skate

Kostornaia wins second consecutive Grand Prix gold in Sapporo

Alena Kostornaia

Alena Kostornaia of Russia performs her Free Skate at 2019 NHK Trophy.

2019 NHK Trophy

Ladies’ Free Skate

Russia’s Alena Kostornaia maintained her overnight lead in Sapporo, Japan, to win her second consecutive Grand Prix (GP) gold at 2019 NHK Trophy on Saturday. Japan’s Rika Kihira held on to second place for the silver, while 2018 Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia rose to claim the bronze.

Kostornaia put out a good free skate in her routine to music from New Moon and Twilight, landing an impressive triple Axel-double toe, along with six more solid triples. The only mistake came when the 2018 World Junior silver medalist underrotated and fell on the second triple Axel. She also displayed level 4 spins and footwork—all of which received high grades of execution (GOE)—to place first in the free skate (154.96) and overall for new total personal best score of 240.00.

“I am very happy about my program,” said the 16-year-old. “There was a small miss on my triple Axel, but it is something I need to have fixed. My goals will be the same as always, to give a clean performance, make the audience happy and satisfy myself. I didn’t think before this season that I would have these kind of results.”

“Rika is a wonderful and excellent skater,” Kostornaia added. “I think she has wonderful jumps. I admire her triple Axels, and I know she is working on quad jumps, and I have a lot of respect for any skater who can master these types of elements.”

Kihira delivered two solid triple Axels, one in combination with a double toe, in her “International Angel of Peace” routine. The 2019 Four Continents champion also produced four more clean triples, but underrotated the back end of a triple flip-triple toe. Nevertheless, she showed strong level 4 spins and level 3 footwork to place second in the free skate (151.95) and overall (231.84).

“For the short and free program, I was able to concentrate almost fully and do almost a perfect performance,” said the 17-year-old. “I am happy about that, but for the flip and toe loop, it was not perfect, so I want to make sure I can do a perfect and clean skate.”

“For today’s free program, I was able to be close to my personal best,” said the Japanese silver medalist. “There were small mistakes, but it led to my top scores. I believe that the Grand Prix Final is going to be even tougher. Even if I put up the performance I did last year, it is going to be difficult to win it, so this time, I want to make sure I can do my best and be stronger. I need to look into quad jumps and jumps that can get higher scores. I want to aim for what the Russian skaters put up in terms of points at the Grand Prix Final.”

The skater from Nishinomiya went on to acknowledge Kostornaia’s “excellent triple jumps” and noted that she gets extra points for the combinations.

“She is always consistent,” said Kihira. “When I compare myself to Alena, there is a lot of room for improvement for myself.”

“For the Grand Prix Final, I want to clean up my mistakes that I did this time,” she summed up. “For my step, I got a level three this time, so I want to make sure I can do better on this one. I want to do a performance so that I can not stretch further, and it is my goal to get on the podium.”

Zagitova gave a redeeming performance which featured six solid triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple loop. The only mistake came when she underrotated a triple flip in combination with a double toe-double loop. The 2018 Olympic champion also racked up many positive GOEs, especially on the spins and footwork to earn the highest program component score of the group. She finished a close third in the free skate with 151.15 points, and with a total score of 217.99, easily rose to third place overall.

“I am happy about my free program,” said the current World champion. “I was not happy about my short program, so I am quite happy I did better. My coaches gave me a lot of encouragement, so I was able to calm myself down today. I was able to go smoothly from one element to the next element, so that really helped. I want to give a beautiful and flawless performance and give the audience delight. I am sure they will not want to see us suffer, so I want to give a light and happy performance.”

In her second GP event, Yuhana Yokoi was near-clean in her performance to The Phantom of the Opera, landing a total of five clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-double toe. The Japanese junior champion showed level 4 spins and finished a solid fourth in the free skate with a new personal best of 126.87. With a total score of 189.54, she rose from eighth to fourth overall.

Close behind, was teammate Mako Yamashita who finished fifth overall (189.25). The 17-year-old from Nagoya landed a triple Lutz-triple toe, but underroated a triple flip.

Russia’s Sofia Samodurova placed sixth overall (183.27), followed by Eunsoo Lim of South Korea (172.47) and USA’s Starr Andrews (166.72).

USA’s Karen Chen, who stood in third after the short, suffered several underrotations and two falls to finish ninth (165.70).