2023 Skate America: Women
Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx was the clear winner of the Women’s event at 2023 Skate America on Sunday evening. USA’s Isabeau Levito moved up one spot to second overall to claim the silver, while Estonia’s Niina Petrokina captured her first Grand Prix medal—the bronze. She is also the first skater from Estonia to medal on a Grand Prix.
Hendrickx entertained with her first-place (75.92) short program to “I’m nin’alu” and “Living for Love.” The 2023 World bronze medalist underrotated the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but the triple flip and double Axel were solid. All spins and footwork were rewarded a level four, and she earned many positive grades of execution (GOE) throughout.
“I was pretty excited to show my new short,” said the 23-year-old. “I am very happy with my skate!”
“My main goal this season is Europeans,” Hendrickx admitted. “I came here to just get back into competition. I didn’t feel fully prepared. Not quite sure yet with the triple-triple in the second half. It was a bit risky, and I am very happy I landed it.”
The five-time national champion delivered a charismatic free skate to “Break My Soul” by Beyoncé and Madonna. It was near-solid, with the only minor error a slightly underrotated triple toe off the back end of a triple Lutz. She went on to land four more clean triple jumps and two double Axels. All spins were very good and were graded a level four, as were her steps. She placed first in the free skate and overall (145.36/221.28).
“It means a lot to me to win here tonight,” Hendrickx relayed. “I had a tough preparation going into this event because I started my preparation for the season a bit later. Winning the gold medal is just crazy. I came here wanting to enjoy skating again and getting into competition mode again. I came in here with no expectations. I got the proof that I can do it!”
Hendrickx is hungry for another go at Europeans as she feels confident that she can win and wants to make up for last season. For now, she will prepare for her next event at Cup of China.
“In general, I aim to perform on a high note during the second part of the season,” she said. “I am excited to go home now and train together with my teammates and my choreographer. Hopefully China will be as good!”
Levito was third (70.07) after her short program to “Yearning” by Raul Ferrando. The only mistake she made was and edge call on the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe. The 2022-23 Grand Prix Final silver medalist otherwise produced a solid double Axel and triple flip. All three spins were graded level four.
“I adore Skate America! I love to be here!” said the 16-year-old. “I am a little disappointed with my skate despite having landed the jumps. There were a few minor mistakes that I think took back a bit from how the program could have looked like.”
“My programs have a lot more potential this season,” she added. “I want to make my whole program a highlight. My programs should tell a story so that people don’t want to look away.”
The national champion is also in awe of teammate Amber Glenn.
“Amber inspires me not only as a skater, but also as a person,” said Levito. “She is just so genuinely nice. If anyone one in this world doesn’t like Amber, they should have their brains checked.”
Levito put out a strong free skate to “Nureyev” from The White Crow for a new season’s best of 138.08. The national champion had two small mistakes: she underrotated the back end of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow and slightly underrotated her final jump, a triple loop. All other jumps were solid, including a triple Lutz-triple toe and triple flip. She also showed two level-four spins and footwork. The skater finished second in the free skate and overall (208.15).
“Skate America is a very special event for me as it’s in front of a home crowd,” emphasized Levito. “I am pretty pleased with how it went for me tonight and I am proud to be on the podium again. The main difference to last year is that I have a bit more of an idea what happens at such a big event. I feel more experienced. I am looking forward to going home to work on my programs and be even better at the next event.”
Levito will compete next Grand Prix de France.
Petrokina placed fourth in both the short (65.02) and free skate (129.53). Her total score was 194.55, enough to secure the final spot on the podium and become the first Estonian woman to medal a Grand Prix. Her short program to “Run” was highlighted by a solid double Axel, triple Lutz and level-four spins and steps.
“My choreographer Mark Pillay texted me that I should be proud of myself,” said the four-time Challenger Series medalist. “And I am actually. I was a little nervous because I had quite a bad warm-up, but I trusted in my training, and I am really happy how it went. At Lombardia Trophy, it was just the first competition of the season which is never easy. But now I am feeling much better. I am very happy I got level four on all the elements!”
The two-time national champion made a few mistakes in her free skate to “Dusty Road and Prelude,” which she kept from last season. She had good elevation on her jumps but was a quarter rotation off on a triple loop and underrotated the front end of a triple flip-double toe. The 19-year-old otherwise produced five clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow. Two spins and the steps were graded a level four.
“I was very tired today and I think I didn’t deliver the program the way I could have emotional-wise,” Petrokina shared. “But I feel happy how I fought through. I was very emotional about my skate yesterday because I was able to skate clean despite having a bad warm up. I think I wouldn’t have been able to pull through like that last year.”
The skater decided to keep her free skate from last season as it it “feels like home” to her. “I know exactly how to recover, even if something goes wrong,” she said.
Petrokina, who will compete at Cup of China, set goals with her coaches at the beginning of the season.
“The important part is the road towards them,” she said, not ready to reveal them yet. “I am so proud to be the first Estonian winning a Grand Prix medal. It makes me very, very happy.”
Hana Yoshida of Japan moved up five spots from ninth to fourth overall (190.98). The 2023 Lombardia Trophy silver medalist popped an intended triple Axel in the short but came back with a strong free skate. The 18-year-old attempted it again in her routine to “Shakuhachi” and “La terre vue du ciel” but stepped out the landing. Nevertheless, she laid down a total of seven triple jumps and showed level-four spins and footwork and picked up a season’s best of 131.58 season.
“I am a bit sad about the triple Axel, but I could concentrate well after that, and I am happy about that,” said Yoshida. “In the long term, I aim for an even bigger score.”
The skater from Kyoto later explained that in her program, she represents a Japanese crane.
“Lori Nicol chose this song for me and she said no one else can skate this program but me,” said Yoshida, who will compete at Cup of China. “So, it’s a very special program for me. The left hand is red to represent the head of the crane.”
USA’s Amber Glenn stood in second after a very strong short program for a new personal best of 71.45. She was flawless in her confident routine to “Heads Will Roll,” landing a triple flip-triple toe, double Axel, and triple loop. All elements, including the level-four spins and footwork, were graded a level four.
“It was just like in every day practice,” said the 23-year-old. “It was really good. I am right now not really noticing a huge adrenalin rush as I feel really calm right now.”
“Having everyone here that I grew up with is amazing!” she added. “I have been training so well and so hard and have been really consistent recently. That brings confidence.”
The 2022 Skate America bronze medalist opened her expressive free skate with a solid triple Axel followed by a triple flip-triple toe. Then she stepped out of a triple Salchow and the rest of the jumps went downhill. The U.S. bronze medalist took a fall on both a triple Lutz and triple flip. In the end, she scored 118.18 points for fifth place, slipping to fifth overall (189.63).
“It felt incredible landing that triple Axel in competition in front of my home crowd,” said Glenn. “For me, it felt normal at first, like in everyday in practice, but the crowd was so energized. But my own energy of the excitement killed me. I lost my focus. I never had the adrenalin experience of landing it in competition. It is one thing to visualize it and another to experience it.”
She is scheduled to compete at the Grand Prix in Espoo, Finland.
Rounding out the top 10
Japan’s Mone Chiba placed sixth (177.79) overall. The 2023 Four Continents bronze medalist will compete next at Grand Prix de France.
This was a solo event for Ekaterina Kurakova of Poland who finished seventh (173.75)
Xiangyi An of China placed ninth (165.40) in her debut at this event and will compete next at the Cup of China.
This was a solo event for USA’s Clare Seo (163.77).
Seoyeong Wi of South Korea (156.02) will compete again at NHK Trophy.