Alysa Liu skated off with the gold medal at 2021 Nebelhorn Trophy on Saturday and sealed the third spot for the U.S. women for the upcoming 2022 Olympics. The USA now can send three women, men and ice dance teams plus two pair teams to Beijing. Other women that earned a spot for their respective countries were: Ekaterina Kurakova of Poland, Viktoria Safonova from Belarus, Switzerland’s Alexia Paganini, Anastasia Shabotova of Ukraine, and Kailani Craine of Australia.
Liu had a five-point lead following a confident Short Program. The 2020 World Junior bronze medalist went for a triple Axel in her long program to Tchaikovski’s Violin Concerto, but singled it. She quickly recovered to produce six triples, however, the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe was slightly underrotated and she received an edge call on both triple flips. The 2021 Lombardia Trophy gold medalist accumulated 207.40 points to win with nearly 14 points to spare.
“This competition was really fun!” said Liu . “I was very happy with my short program, it felt good. I was not nervous. I was skating for myself out there, and for the US to get the spot. I’m kind of mad that I popped my Axel, but overall I’m happy with how I skated.”
Kurakova stood in sixth place after the Short where she made a mistake on the combination. Performing to a Charlie Chaplin Medley, the Polish Champion opened with a rare triple Lutz-Euler-triple flip combination in which the last jump received an edge call. All the rest of her jumps and elements were clean and she captured the silver with 193.58 points.
“I was not satisfied with my short program, I didn’t push myself, but today I said I will skate with my heart,” the 19-year-old noted. “I will continue to work hard. I’ll skate many times my short (in training), I will push. But for now I’m super happy and grateful for the support. When I was in my final position and saw people standing up, I was like ‘oh my God, thank you so much!'”
Safonova had missed the World Championships last March as she tested positive on Covid-19 on arrival in Stockholm. In Oberstdorf, she secured a spot with two solid performances. The tall skater nailed six clean triples in her Free Skate to “Your Heart Is As Black As Night.” Only a triple Salchow was slightly underrotated. She scored 190.29 points to take the bronze.
“I was a bit nervous, but I am glad that everything worked out well,” said Safonova. “It was good motivation for me to skate well here and to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
Paganini slipped from second to fourth at 180.48 points. She singled a loop and two jumps were slightly underrotated. Nevertheless, her relief and joy was obvious when her score and placement came up.
Shabatova underrotated her triple Lutz-triple toe in the Free Skate, which was clean in the Short Program, and received two edge calls on her triple flips. The two-time Ukrainian Champion placed fifth (177.70 points).
Sweden’s Josefin Taljegard was not competing for an Olympic spot as she had secured it in Stockholm. She placed sixth (166.05 points).
Craine, who struggled with some jumps in her Free Skate, slipped from fourth to seventh, but grabbed the last Olympic quota place (165.35 points).
“It’s crazy! It was not my best skate today and I knew it was going to be really hard to even qualify with a great skate this year,” the Australian shared. “I was really, really excited just to get off and have the score come up and then it turned to results. It mostly was done by my work in the short program.”