2023 Grand Prix de France: Women
USA’s Isabeau Levito secured her first Grand Prix title in the Women’s event in Angers, France on Saturday. Nina Pinzarrone of Belgium rose from fourth to capture her first Grand Prix medal, the silver. Japan’s Rion Sumiyoshi moved up from fifth place for a bronze medal repeat at this event.
The 2023 Skate America silver medalist received an edge call on the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe in her short program to “Yearning,” but the double Axel and triple flip were solid. All elements were graded a level four and she picked up 71.83 points for first place going into the free skate.
“I was scared I messed up my step sequence, but it luckily didn’t affect my score,” said Levito. “It was much better than at Skate America except for the steps. It was my goal going into this GP season that I wanted to achieve more than last season. If I were to win this event, it would mean that I reached that goal!”
“Being at shows during the off-season showed me a different side of skating and actually changed my mind set on everything,” she added. “I think I can see improvement in my skating because of that.”
Levito finished third in the free skate with 131.39 points. The national champion was off to a good start, landing a triple Lutz-triple toe and two double Axels, but later underrotated and stepped out of the back end of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow. She struggled with the landing of a triple flip in combination with a double toe and also fell out of her final spin. Despite the mistakes, her total score (203.22) was enough to keep her in the first-place position.
The 16-year-old was relieved.
“I felt like I could win this, and I knew I had such a huge chance and that I could do it,” she said. “I am so, so happy that I won. After I messed up the last spin up to the point I had to wait for the points was so long! I want to show to clean performance at the Final. I am proud I was able to improve result-wise from the last Grand Prix season, and it had been my goal to win at least one of my Grand Prixes this year!”
The 2022-23 Grand Prix Final silver medalist now has 28 points going into the Final after taking silver at Skate America.
Pinzarrone of Belgium earned a new personal best for fourth place (65.74) with her short program to “Charms” from the W.E. soundtrack. The only error came when she landed on the quarter of the first jump in her opening triple Lutz-triple toe. The double Axel and triple loop were clean, and the 16-year-old also picked up a level four on all other elements.
“I was very nervous before my skate and also the warm-up was not very good, but I skated up to my abilities and I am very happy!” said Pinzarrone.
The skater from Brussels said the presence of her choreographer, Benoit Richaud, by her side gave her a lot of confidence.
“I am portraying a girl that is kind of caged inside and is standing behind a window and sees other people having fun,” she explained of her short program. “And after all the jumps are done, I am able to be set free.”
The 16-year-old impressed with her solid free skate to music from Spartacus. She landed a total of seven triple jumps, including two Lutzes and a flip. All four spins were graded a level four while the footwork was a level three. She picked up a new personal best of 133.06 points for second place in the free skate, moving up to the second spot on the podium with a score of 198.80.
“It doesn’t feel real,” said Pinzarrone, who will compete next at NHK Trophy. “I am so happy to be standing here today, and I am looking forward to go back to training. I am also happy about improving my personal best by seven points! At Lombardia I really wasn’t myself. So, I forgot about that right away. I am so happy to show everyone what I can do and what I am capable of.”
Sumiyoshi took a fall on her opening double Axel in the short program but landed a clean triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz to finish fifth (61.72).
“The first double axel was a mistake because I wasn’t paying attention to myself,” said the defending bronze medalist. “But aside from that, I was able to focus properly and was able to rebuild. You could see my improvement from last year, so I think that was good.”
While Sumiyoshi wants to improve, she also wants to have fun.
“There was the result of last year, which was third place, so I had some expectations for myself,” she said. “So, I was looking forward to showing my performance, my costume, and so on.”
In her free skate to “Enchantress,” the 20-year-old reeled off a double Axel-triple toe sequence before landing a quad toe. While she landed a triple Lutz on the quarter, all other triple jumps were clean. The only other mistake came when she doubled a Salchow in combination with a double toe-double loop. Two spins were awarded a level four and she placed first with a new personal best of 136.04. With a total personal best score of 197.76, she claimed the third spot on the podium.
“I’m most happy about the quad toe because I’ve been working on it,” said Sumiyoshi “Although there were some small mistakes, I think I showed great growth that I was able to put it all together.”
The skater added that she was still nervous throughout, up to the final pose, as her emotions kept “piling up.” It was the first clean quad toe landed by a women in the senior ranks this season.
“My next competition is in Finland,” she confirmed. “I want to fix the mistakes I did in my short program and have a performance without any regrets at all.”
South Korea’s Haein Lee picked up a new season’s best of 66.30 for her short program to “Seirenes” and “Haktan Gelen Serbeti.” The double Axel was solid, however, she underrotated the backend of a triple Lutz(q)-triple toe and landed a triple flip on the quarter. Her three spins were graded a level four, as was the footwork which earned many high GOEs.
“I tried to keep relaxed and keep smiling during my performance,” said the 2023 World silver medalist. “I felt that my triple-triple was not fully rotated.
The skater added that she had changed up her choreo and step sequence in the free skate.
“That was actually quite hard during the last weeks, but I wanted to make the program more special,” she explained. “I like it more now compared to the previous version.”
The 2023 Four Continents champion made some costly errors in her free skate to music from Notre Dame de Paris. She underrotated and stepped out of the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe and popped another Lutz in a combination (double toe-double loop). The flip also received an edge call. The footwork and final spin were very good, but she finished fifth with 124,55 points. With a total score of 190.96, she slipped to fourth overall.
The 18-year-old was devastated but is currently scheduled to compete at NHK Trophy in three weeks.
Wakaba Higuichi of Japan underrotated the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe and popped an intended triple flip in her short program, placing sixth (60.29)
“My body was able to move well, and I think I did well aside from the flip,” said the 2018 World silver medalist. “I was under the impression that I was a little slow in jumping. I was both nervous and excited, but the competitions in France have a lot of warm cheering, so I was able to skate while having fun. There were some mistakes today but other than that, I think I was able to skate with all I have.”
The 22-year-old struggled a bit in her free skate to music by Coldplay. She underrotated the back end of a triple Lutz-triple toe and put her foot down on a triple loop. She also doubled the first jump in a Lutz combination but managed a clean triple loop and triple flip. She earned many high marks for her level-four footwork and change combination spin, finishing fourth (129.73). Her total score of 190.02 was enough to move her up one spot to fifth place overall.
“I think I was able to skate calmer even more compared to yesterday, so it was very fun,” said Higuchi. “Every time I come to France a lot of people cheer for me. Although it’s been two years before this competition, I received support from many people and was able to skate while having a lot of fun.”
The skater got the idea for the music from watching USA’s Maia and Alex Shibutani perform it at the 2018 Olympics.
“I thought it was a really good song,” said Higuchi. “I think it’s a song that links the many things I felt during my break, and what I feel towards skating right now. I told Shae-Lynn that I want to skate to it and had it mixed.”
The skater noted that she had dropped in levels at this event.
“I hope to fix it before the next competition at NHK Trophy and make it a perfect performance!” she summed up.
Georgia’s Anastasiia Gubanova delivered a solid short program to “Mojo” which featured a triple flip-triple toe, double Azel and triple Lutz. All elements, including two level-four spins, were awarded positive grades of execution (GOE), and she placed second with 66.73 points.
The 2023 European champion said she was pleased with her short program and that the main goal for this season was to skate clean, make herself and her coaches happy, and enjoy her skating.
“The music was suggested by my choreographer Valentin Molotov,” Gubanova revealed. “I really liked it from the beginning, because I thought it was very interesting. I’ve never heard it on the ice. Mounting the program was also fun and I’m very happy that we chose the style and this music.”
Gubanova landed a total of four clean triple jumps in her free skate to Caruso. The backend of her opening triple Lutz-triple toe was landed on the quarter, and she stepped out a triple flip. While the first two spins were graded a level four, she appeared to lose steam at the end and only received a level two on the steps and layback spin. The 2023 Lombardia Trophy champion placed seventh with 120.93 points and slipped to sixth place overall (187.66).
Her next Grand Prix will be at NHK Trophy in Japan.
Rounding out the top 12
Lea Serna of France finished seventh overall with 180.77 points and competes next at NHK Trophy.
“I am in Oberstdorf for two months, it’s such a nice and warm atmosphere there, perfect conditions to train,” said Serna. “I enjoy it a lot and it shows. I learned last night that I had gotten the second spot for NHK Trophy. I was so happy! I was in Osaka once before during Covid and I am so looking forward to exploring it a bit more this time. This season I want to mainly have fun on the ice. To enjoy the atmosphere and every competition!”
Lorine Schild of France placed eighth (179.11) in her Grand Prix debut and competes next in Finland.
“I am so happy!” she said. “For the first time this season I was able to show two good performances. It’s so cool to have such a supportive audience. Also, for the women in France, I feel like that is rare.”