by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(23 March 2022) The short program of the 33 women was the first competition of the 2022 World Championships in Montpellier in Southern France. Due to the political reasons for the absence of the top three Russian skaters, the level was not that high, with only about six really good performances. Nobody landed a clean triple Axel.
Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, bronze medal winner at the Olympic Games, took the lead with 80.32 points and had the only world class performance. She skated to the soundtrack of “Gladiator“ by Hans Zimmer and her program was excellently choreographed by Benoit Richaud from France. She performed in a very dynamic style and had components with an average of 9.3, including one 10.0 from the Canadian judge Karen Howard for performance, which made sense.
Sakamoto does not have the triple Axel in her repertoire. Her first element was an outstanding double Axel which got eight GOEs of +5. Her triple Lutz was excellent as well. The combination of triple flip and triple toe loop had mainly GOEs of +4 and was awarded 12.57 points. Her three spins and her outstanding step sequence had a level 4 and also mainly GOEs of +4.
She commented, “I was very speedy today. Attending the Olympics was the biggest dream in my life, so now that I achieved that bronze medal, I was very delighted. But at the same time, I also felt kind of like a burden because I lost sight of my goal. The past three weeks weren't that great, but Worlds is about winning 3 spots for the coming year. I didn't expect to hit that level, so I felt joy and surprise alternating. I wanted to get a good score, so I was delighted.“
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium, eighth at the Olympic Games, placed second with 75.00 points. She had had a groin injury, but her brother and coach Jorik Hendrickx said it was under control. She skated to "Caruso“ and began her program with a good combination of triple Lutz (with both hands over her head, like many Russian skaters do) and triple toe loop, followed by a very good double Axel and an excellent triple flip. Her spins and steps also had a level 4 and mainly GOEs of +3 and +4, the layback spin even three GOEs of +5. Her components were around 8.6.
She said, “I tore my groin almost three weeks ago, so I couldn't train. I trained only four days before I left from home. I just had to trust in myself and I had a good feeling. I didn't do a lot in practice to save my body, and I think my whole team managed it well to train it towards the competition. I couldn't do spins either because it really hurts, but I really fought and I was trying not to think about it. But my condition is really bad. I'm scared for the free because it's harder.“
Mariah Bell, who had been tenth in Beijing, was the best of the three American women and won a small bronze medal, gaining 72.55 points. She skated to “River Flows in You“ by the South Korean piano player Yiruma in a fresh style. In her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, the toe loop got a q for a slight under-rotation. Her double Axel was excellent and her triple Lutz good. Spins and step sequence, all level 4, were stellar and her components around 8.5.
She explained, “I had a really good time and I was really enjoying myself. It’s been such a long season, so I’m happy. Rafael (Arutunian) was just a little too tired to travel. He just came back from winning the Olympics with Nathan (Chen). Adam (Rippon) was never able to come because of his work schedule. I’m so grateful for what Rafael has given me at home and honestly there’s not much that he can do for me at a competition anyways - he gives me everything I need at home. It was just nice to have him on Facetime - it felt like he was here and I could still feel his energy through the phone.“
Young You from South Korea, sixth at the Olympic Games one month ago, finished on fourth place with 72.08 points. Her double Axel was outstanding, her spins and step sequence as well, but in her combination the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz got a q and the triple flip a small edge warning.
The second American skater Alysa Liu, seventh in Beijing, came fifth with 71.91 points after a completely clean program with a good double Axel, a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop as well as a triple flip. The layback spin was her best element with two GOEs of +5. She said, “I thought I was wrong but the coach said nothing was wrong. I took a week off skating after Olympics and when I got back to skating I was doing runthroughs and I had time to work on my programs. I didn’t have the down time after the Olympics like many people said I would.“
Nicole Schott from Germany sits sixth with 67.77 points after the best short program of her whole career with a very good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, a level 4 for all four level elements for the first time and a stylish Tango interpretation. Wakaba Higuchi from Japan is seventh with 67.03 points after almost falling on the double Axel, but then performing a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. The third U.S. skater Karen Chen placed 8th with 66.16 points. The triple toe loop in her combination with the triple Lutz got a q and she popped the triple loop. The other five elements were excellent, however.
Ekaterina Ryabova from Azerbeidzhan finished ninth with 65.52 points, and Madeline Schizas from Canada tenth with 64.20 points. Anastasiia Shabotova from Ukraine, who mostly trains in Moscow, was not nominated by the Ukraine federation because she had liked a Russian-friendly post of Evgeni Plushenko which caused a shitstorm in her country.