2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final: Women
Japan’s Mao Shimada defended her title at the 2023-24 Junior Grand Prix Final on Friday in Beijing, China. Jia Shin of the Republic of Korea repeated as the silver medalist while Rena Uezono of Japan earned the bronze in her debut at this event.
Shimada produced a strong triple flip-triple toe and double Axel in her Spanish-themed short program to “Americano” and “Composition.” Unfortunately, she stepped out of the triple Lutz, but the level-four spins and footwork were strong, earning many grades of execution (GOE) throughout. The defending champion scored 68.27 points for second place going into the free skate.
“I’m very upset about the mistakes I made in the short program today,” said the 15-year-old. “I made a mistake in the junior nationals with the same level of nervousness. So, I wanted to put it back together which made me nervous this time as well.”
Shimada impressed with her free skate to “Benedictus” in which she opened with a triple Axel and quad toe with positive GOEs. The 2023 World Junior champion went on to land four more clean triple jumps. The only mistakes came when she underrotated the front end of a triple Lutz-triple toe and popped a loop. She also landed the second jump of a triple Salchow-triple toe-double toe on the quarter, but the level-four spins were very good. She placed first in the free skate (138.06) and moved up to first overall with a total score of 206.33.
“I am very happy to win the Junior Grand Prix Final for the second time,” said Shimada. “In the short program I made a mistake and so today I was very nervous for the free skatie. But before the competition, I was able to get my nerves under control and performed well also with my jumps.”
“Today I thought about giving it my all,” she added. “That was the biggest thing. My performance was bad yesterday and the official practice this morning as well. But I thought that I just had to challenge it. So, I’m glad.”
Shimada, who was proud of her quad jump, said the morning practice was “bad” as it was early in the morning.
“So I slept and thought of the morning practice and this competition as two different days,” she offered.
Jia Shin Republic of Korea only had one minor mistake in her short when she turned out the backend of a triple flip-triple toe. Otherwise, here elegant routine to the popular waltz of “Fascination” by Fermo F.D. Marchetti included a very good double Axel and triple Lutz. All footwork and spins were graded a level four and she finished first with 69.08 points.
“I feel a bit pity that I didn’t skate as perfect as I usually do,” said the two-time World Junior silver medalist. “But I want to skate more perfect tomorrow!”
Shin added that she had learned a lot since last season.
“Probably mainly strategies on how to overcome nervousness,” she said. “I also wasn’t really nervous today and just wanted to show what I can do. Winning the ranking competition (domestic event) gave me a lot of confidence for the Final!”
The overnight leader was last to skate in the free but remained focused in her lyrical routine to “Not About Angels” and “Portion of Eternity.” She landed a triple loop on the quarter and received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-double Axel sequence but was otherwise solid. Shin produced five clean triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe and picked up a level four on her flying camel spin. She placed second (131.67) in the free skate, but her total score (200.75) was not enough to keep her in first place.
“I’m not fully satisfied with my performance today,” said the 15-year-old. “I was a bit nervous compared to yesterday. My legs were shaking, and I could feel them losing strength. However, I am really happy to get myself together to put out a clean skate and win my second medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final. I think this season I performed better than at last year’s Final.”
Rena Uezono of Japan scored a new personal best (67.87) for her outstanding short program to “New Moon” and “F For You.” Her routine was solid and featured a double Axel, triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz. The spins and footwork were graded a level four and all elements earned positive GOEs.
“There’s still tomorrow,” noted the 2023 JGP Solidarity Cup champion. ” I want to do my best then too. I was a little nervous today, but was satisfied with my performance, so I’m happy. I wanted to skate with a smile.”
The 13-year-old from Nagoya put out a very good free skate in her mature routine to “Pray” and Mechanisms” that featured six triple jumps. The only mistake was an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-double toe. She also was rewarded a level four on two spins, and placed third in the free skate and overall with two new personal best scores (128.59/196.46).
Uezono said while she was happy with her free skate, she was nervous in both programs.
“But I still believed in myself and was able to perform well,” said the young skater. “I was able to land the jumps and really had fun while skating, so, I think it was good.”
Yuseong Kim of the Republic of Korea landed a double Axel and triple flip-triple to in her delightful short program to “Fly Me to the Moon.” Her short program also featured level-four footwork in spins, and the only minor mistake was an edge call on the triple Lutz. She finished fifth with 62.71 points.
“I feel very good about my skate, but I didn’t feel happy about the score,” said the 14-year-old. “I will have to see the protocols. I worked very hard to make it to the Final. Skating together with a twin sister helps actually a lot as we encourage and support each other. And when something is wrong, we can tell each other.”
Kim, who won silver in both her solo events, gave a wonderful performance to “The Lark Ascending.” She opened with a triple Axel and a triple flip-triple toe. The only glitch was an edge call on the triple Lutz. The skater from Seoul otherwise landed three more triple jumps while displaying two level-four spins.
“I am super happy to have completed all my elements well,” said Kim. “I was feeling great when coming off the ice. I am especially happy I could land my triple Axel. Last year I learned the triple Axel by coincidence. My twin sister and I tried it an exercise, but I actually managed to land it. I didn’t expect that. But now I landed it already five times in competition.”
She will now prepare for Korean Nationals and the Youth Olympics.
Japan’s Ami Nakai, who’s been plagued with a back problem, placed fourth in the short program with 65.04 points. Her delicate routine to “Baby, God Bless You” included a double Axel and solid triple Lutz. She received an edge call on the front end of a triple flip-triple toe but was otherwise clean. The 2023 World Junior bronze medalist also picked up a level four on the two spins.
“I was nervous about performing on such a big stage, but I was able to relax before the music started,” said the 15-year-old.
She went on to explain that she thinks of her program as her “last performance.”
“So, with those feelings, I just wanted to enjoy it a lot,” Nakai explained. “I wanted to bring those feelings out.”
“I think I’ll be a senior during the Olympic season,” added the skater. “I will do my best to experience many things as a junior before I become a senior.”
Nakai, who won both her events this season in Bangkok and Istanbul, gave a beautiful free skate to “Glimmer of Faith” and “Only Hope.” She fell on a triple Axel attempt but quickly recovered to land six triple jumps, including a triple Lutz-triple toe. The only other error was an edge call on the first jump in a triple flip-Euler-double Salchow. She picked up a level four on all three spins and both triple Lutz jumps received mostly +2 GOEs and placed fifth in the free skate and overall (122.00/187.04).
“I thought it would be the last competition of the season, so a part of me was nervous,” explained the skater from Funabashi. “But I’m glad that I was able to challenge it with confidence before it began. Often in practices I can’t recover after an initial mistake, but this time I’m glad that I was able to make a comeback.”
“I was worried what I’d do if I fell on the next jump as well,” she added. “Yesterday, I was thinking that I’d recover and make a comeback in my next jump even if I fell on the Axel. So I’m glad I was able to deliver that.”
“It’s a big competition, so being able to be here gives me confidence as well as experience,” Nakai summed up. “So, I’m happy about that. I next want to work on things like stability of my jumps. I think I’ll have a lot of time to practice when I go back to Japan, so I hope to improve in those aspects.”
Minsol Kwon of the Republic of Korea received an edge call on her triple Lutz but was otherwise solid in her short program to “Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai.” The 14-year-old from Seoul skated with joy in her Indian-themed routine which also featured a triple flip-triple toe and double Axel. All spins were graded a level four and she placed sixth with 62.12 points.
“I am so happy that I have one more chance to skate at the JGP Final,” said Kwon. “I am so happy I could show a clean short program, that was my goal. Since last year I think I mainly worked on and improved my skating skills.”
The 2023 JGP Solidarity Cup silver medalist gave a good performance in her jazzy free skate to “Let Me Be Your Star.” Her routine featured six clean triple jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe. The only error came when she underrotated the front end of a triple Lutz-double toe-double loop. Two spins received a level four, and she placed sixth in the free skate with a new season’s best of 120.94. She finished sixth overall with a total score of 183.06.
“I am happy with my skate today and leave this event with a smile,” said Kwon. “I am glad all my jumps worked out well. This year I felt more pressure and responsibility compared to last year’s Final. As a next step, I want to improve my skating skills and my ice coverage.”
Her English had noticeably improved and when asked, she said it was due to spending two months in Canada working with Lee Barkell.
“We worked there on the triple Axel and my skating skills,” Kwon explained. “The triple Axel was promising, but not yet fully there. There I improved my English.”