2023 Grand Prix de France: Men
Adam Siao Him Fa of France edged out USA’s Ilia Malinin for the gold in the Men’s event in Angers, France, on Saturday. Yuma Kagiyama of Japan comfortably pocketed the bronze with nearly 10 points to spare in this exciting event.
Adam Siao Him Fa
Siao Him Fa delivered a powerful performance with his bluesy short program to “The Prophet” by Gary Moore. The 2023 European champion landed a quad Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe-triple toe while picking up a level four for all spins and footwork. He placed second with a new personal best of 101.07 points, just half a point behind the leader.
The skater was both happy and relieved as he felt the warmup was a bit “shaky.”
“I also felt some pressure because it’s a Grand Prix in my hometown,” Siao Him Fa admitted. “It’s great to have scored over 100 in the Grand Prix. It’s still only the beginning of the season and I have a lot to improve on. I plan to add the quad flip later and also want to work on my artistry. I think the hard work I put in during the summer really pays off this season. I also had a great time at the ice shows where I was training along people like Ilia, and that helped me a lot.”
Siao Him Fa didn’t disappoint the home crowd with his flawless free skate to music by Max Richter. The national champion placed first in this segment and overall, earning two new personal best scores (205.71/306.78). He landed a quad Lutz, quad toe-double toe, quad Salchow, and quad toe, all of which earned positive grades of execution (GOE). The triple jumps were also clean, and he earned a level four on all spins and footwork.
“I enjoyed so much to skate here in front of my home audience!” said Siao Him Fa. “I didn’t really realize what happened. It feels great! It shows I have my place with the greatest skaters. I have to continue on that road! I first landed the quad Lutz during the World Team Trophy in 2019, but now I feel really comfortable on that jump. I hope I can show the same performance in China and qualify for the Final!”
Coming off a win from Skate America, the 2023 World bronze medalist placed first in the short with 101.58 points. He had an uncharacteristic fall during his step sequence, but all jumps were solid. His routine to “Malaguena” featured a quad toe, quad Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel. The footwork and both spins were graded a level four, and all elements, except for the steps, were awarded with many positive grades of execution (GOE).
Malinin said the fall happened as he got too excited and a little ahead of himself.
“Coming here was a bit challenging,” said Malinin. “My blade broke one day before leaving to the competition. But I was feeling really confident in practices here and trusted my training and my muscle memory. A couple of small mistakes, but that happens. Since Skate America, I focused on keeping my condition and my stamina.”
The skater opted not to do the quad Axel in the free skate as he feels the base value is too low and therefore, risky.
Instead, his complex routine to the Succession soundtrack featured a quad Lutz, quad Salchow, quad Lutz in combination with a Euler-triple Salchow, and quad toe in combination with a triple toe. The latter two jumps were a bit tight, but he also showed a very good triple Axel as well as level-four spins and footwork. He finished second in the free skate with 203.10 points, and second overall (304.68).
“It was a bit complicated,” said Malinin. “I was a bit out of the zone today and not sure how it was going to go but I am quite happy with my skate. My main goal here was to qualify to the Final. The quad Axel would have been a huge risk as with negative GOE my score would have been even lower than now. So, it never was an option to put it in in order to beat Adam.”
“I knew that Adam had delivered amazingly, and it did make me a bit nervous, but I think I handled my nerves quite well. It was a great competition with great competitors that have improved so much. It motivates me to push myself to get even better.”
The national champion now has 28 points going into the Grand Prix Final next month in Beijing, China.
Kagiyama delivered a very good short to “Believer,” earning a season’s best of 97.91 for third place. His routine was highlighted by a strong quad Salchow, triple Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel. The spins and footwork were also graded a level four, and the 2022 Olympic silver medalist earned many GOEs, particularly on all his jumps.
“I wasn’t nervous at all today,” said the 20-year-old. “I always have some kind of nervousness, but for me, compared to my feelings from the time at Olympics, it was pretty different. It was a very fresh emotion, in a way. It was just like performing for the first time and I was very excited as I performed my short program.”
Kagiyama feels that he can move forward on his layout, adding a quad toe, as he did this one with no mistakes. He also wants to continue improving and practicing on his spins. However, he also feels this short program is more difficult compared to the ones from the past.
“This program has a lot of acrobatic movements, but I think that’s just another challenge for this season,” he explained. “I hope to work on my expressions even more.”
The said he is coming into this season with a fresh start.
“Last year is last year,” said the skater from Nagoya. “I had a lot of painful memories, but I want to go beyond that and I’m doing it with the feelings of starting over. I performed this program before for the audience before in Lombardia for the second time, however, it’s the first time in Grand Prix. It was really fun, and I think it’s a program that can really hype people up, so I also got caught up in that and was in high spirits.”
Kagiyama gave a dramatic and powerful free skate to “Rain, in Your Black Eyes,” placing fourth with a new season’s best (175.23). The only mistakes were a popped triple Axel and a step out on a triple Lutz. The two-time World silver medalist otherwise landed two quads, a Salchow and toe combination, as well as three clean triple jumps. The spins and footwork were all graded a level four and he was able to maintain third overall with a total score of 273.14.
“I was able to create enough emotion and my condition isn’t bad either,” said Kagiyama. “I think I have to think about what went wrong from now on. I will check my layout a bit more. My combination jump, I actually wanted to add an Axel instead of a Lutz. But because it’s a combination that I don’t usually do, I ended up overthinking and got nervous.”
“I had enough stamina, so I think I was able to give it my all in the final step sequence,” he added. “I think the step sequence is one of the highlights of the program. So even if my legs felt at their limit, I did it with the feeling of ‘Just hold on and do it!'”
Moving into the next competition at NHK Trophy, the skater will think about his layout for the free skate.
“I don’t have anything I can compare to, whether I’ll add more quads, or if I’ll do a flip,” he said. “Since I’m aiming for the Final, there’s a need for stability. So, I want to have a layout in which I can be confident in.”
Switzerland’s Lukas Britschgi had a clean short program, landing a quad toe-double toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz. His spins and footwork were awarded a level four and he finished fourth going into the free skate.
“It was fun out there! I felt a bit too shaky after the quad toe, so I only added a double toe,” the 2023 European bronze medalist explained. “In practices, short programs are usually easy for me, but in competition, not really. I am even more happy to have shown my strongest short of the season yet here where it matters most.”
Britschigi skated to a new personal best of 176.49 after a clean free skate to Africa-themed music. His routine featured a quad toe-triple toe, quad toe, and two triple Axels. The only error was an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow. He finished third in the free skate and maintained fourth overall (263.43). This score would have won at Skate Canada last week.
“I super happy with the two clean skates here!” said the 25-year-old. “I trusted myself and my training. I also had really good practices recently. I promised a lot of people to add the triple toe on the quad toe today, so I had to go for it! Towards the end of the skate, I started feeling a bit tired. But I so happy! I am looking forward to NHK now and I hope to show another set of strong skates there.”
USA’s Camden Pulkinen earned a season’s best 83.44 for sixth after the short program. He took a fall on a quad toe and doubled a loop in the free skate where he finished seventh (147.40). However, his total score of 230.84 was enough to result in a fifth-place finish overall.
“The skate today was so-so,” said Pulkinen. “I feel good. It was a stressful week. I was a little nervous ahead of the free skate, but my nerves were actually good.”
The 23-year-old said he added a little more color to his free skate costume so as not to look “angry all the time” wearing black.
“The black one I wore at Lombardia Trophy was actually a borrowed one of ice dancer Michael Parsons,” he revealed.
He is excited for NHK Trophy and thrilled to go back to Japan. He’s considering visiting a Japanese temple for good luck ahead of the competition in three weeks.
France’s Luc Economides, who stood in ninth after the short, finished fifth (153.75) in the free skate. He placed sixth overall with a new personal best of 230.74 in his second appearance at this event and will compete next at NHK Trophy.
“I feel super happy to show a strong skate again here in Angers,” said the skater from Vaujany. “Of course, my good memories from last season helped me. I was stressed ahead of both programs as we did a lot of changes on both programs. At the previous competition, my levels weren’t good and so we adjusted. But I worked hard on that, and I am super happy.”
Economides is also thrilled to be competing at NHK Trophy and this will be the first time he’s been assigned two Grand Prix events in a season.
“I dreamed for a long time about going to Japan with my brother,” he said. “Now I will go without him unfortunately, but I am so excited!”
Rounding out the top 12
Stephen Gogolev of Canada placed fifth in the short (86.14) and 10th in the free skate (142.60). He slipped to seventh overall with 228.74 points.
China’s Boyang Jin finished eighth overall (226.79) and competes next week at Cup of China.
This was a solo event for France’s Landry Le May who finished ninth overall with a new personal best of 219.04.
Japan’s Koshiro Shimada, who twisted his ankle last week, placed was 10th (217.18).
“During my warmup I fell on the quad toe and I felt like my ankle didn’t like it that much,” he said of the free skate. “So, I was hesitant going into the toe and felt stiff after the Axel. I am a bit regretful because I think I still should have pushed through and should have gone for it. I will get treatment now and hope to heal my ankle for Finland!”
The 2023 Nebelhorn Trophy bronze medalist will compete next at Grand Prix Espoo in Finland alongside Nikolaj Memola of Italy (214.63).
This was a solo event for Takeru Amine Kataise of Japan (212.75) in his Grand Prix debut.