by Alexandra Stevenson
Wagner wins; Cesario advances to 4th , Gao, 4th after the SP, falls twice in Free and drops to 8th
(Paris, November 16)
1. Overall 194.37; Ashley Wagner, USA, 1.SP 66.75 (34.53+32.22); 2.FS 127.62 (61.81+65.81).
The 22-year-old’s Free Skate wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was full of spirit, feeling, maturity and grace, and it was more than enough to allow the twice U.S. champion to hold onto first place. Wagner rebuffed the advances of two of Russia’s “wonder kids” to win in the Trophee Bompard by a significant margin of 4.68 points over the silver medalist and by 9.68 points over bronze. Wagner said with a smile after the event, “Tonight was a pretty decent night for me. But I think there's still room for improvement. A clean program will do a lot, but it will not win the Olympic gold. And it most likely will NOT get me on the Olympic podium. I, myself, don’t think I’m talented enough to get on the podium without at least one clean triple-triple. I’m just trying to be as realistic about the triple-triple as I possibly can be.”
Her Short Program was set to “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd, and she wore a black with silver sleeveless number and opened with a triple flip to triple toe loop. The second jump got an arrow for slight under-rotation, and she lost -0.50 from the base value of 8.20. All four of her “level” moves received the maximum “4”. The steps earned a GoE of +1.20 and the three spins received +0.43 for the flying sit, +0.57 for the change foot combination, and +0.50 for the layback. Both her triple loop and double Axel were placed to take advantage of the 10% bonus for jumps in the second half, with her triple loop earning a total of 6.61 and the double Axel getting 4.42. Her components ranged from one 7.00 up to two 9.25s. That gave her a lead of 6.72 points, a very nice cushion. Her components ranged from two 9.25s down to one 7.00.
Wagner explained, “Shae-Lynn Bourne (Canadian 2003 World Ice Dance Champion) choreographed the routine. I explained I wanted a program that would allow me to be strong, yet feminine. If I had to pick one routine that would define who I am in skating, I think this is it. Shae-Lynn created a program that looks seamless, where people tell me I really present and I don’t appear to be rushing from one element to the next. I know that my second jump on the combination got a single arrow, but, honestly, I’m very happy because I went for everything I wanted ”
Her coach, Rafael Arutunian, said when he began working with Wagner earlier this year, he told her that if she wanted to get the triple-triple jumps, he would have to change her entire jumping technique, and that that path is never easy. They started that process at the Lake Arrowhead facility. That rink closed soon after he left. He is now based with her in Michelle Kwan’s “East-West” rink. “Yes, it only has one ice surface,” he explained in Paris, “but we have no complaints. They treat us VERY well there.”
Wagner also talked about the growing emphasis on jumps in women’s skating. “Obviously, the jumps are becoming more and more important, and to do that, you have to sacrifice some of the artistry. But all of the top women are doing the exact same thing and you have to go with the flow if you want to remain competitive. You just have to try to do it all with style, and, that’s not easy.”
She wore a maroon sleeveless outfit with lots of sparkles for her Free, which was set to Prokoviev’s “Romeo & Juliet”, but there was no death scene. She was smiling with joy when she heard her scores at the end. Wagner opened with a triple flip to triple toe loop and lost -0.50 on the move because the first jump was landed a little shakily. The following double Axel had a split jump to jazz up the landing, and earned an extra +0.64. The triple Salchow got +0.70 over its base value. Her steps were Level 3 with +0.86 and her Level 4 flying sit spin earned an extra +0.79. At the halfway mark she got the 10% bonus for her triple loop to double Axel sequence, as well as a +1.30 GoE, which added up to 8.69.
However, her triple Lutz got an “e” for wrong edge take-off and she lost -0.80 from its base value. The following triple loop earned an extra +0.70 with a total of 6.31. But she stepped out of the following triple flip, which was meant to be combined with two triple toe loops, and received only 4.43. She concluded with a Level 3 layback spin (receiving an extra full point), the choreographed section (+1.3) and a Level 4 change foot combination spin which was rewarded with an extra +0.79.
Her components included sixteen 8.50s and went down to one 7.50. Although Wagner scored the highest component score of 65.81, this was only 1.16 above Adelina Sotnikova, and both Russians, Sotnikova (65.15) and Anna Pogorilaya (65.17), outpointed Wagner (61.81) on the Element score.
Wagner said, “Tonight was a pretty decent night for me. I was happy to build upon my scores from Skate America (where she finished second toMao Asada, with a program that wasn’t perfect). I left a couple of points on the table with a three-jump-combination that was non-existent. Other than that, I was very happy with my levels. I have a little bit left to work on, but I think I can improve.”
By the way, Wagner and Gracie Gold, signed a contract earlier this month to be the faces of CoverGirl makeup during the Olympics. Wagner says, “I am a total girly-girl when it comes to makeup and putting together that whole package for the ice.”
2. Overall 189.81; Adelina Sotnikova, Russia, 3. SP 60.01 (29.24+30.77); 1.FS 129.80 (65.15+64.65).
Sotnikova was Russian champion three times in the four seasons 2009-2012, the first when she was only 12 and far too young for senior international championships. This past season, she won silver in the European championship and was ninth in the world championship last March. It’s a heady position for the youngster from Moscow, who turned 17 on July 1. She is trained by Elena Vodorezova Buianova, who was a child skating star herself but was plagued by juvenile arthritis. She was the first Soviet female skater to win a singles medal in the world championship when she claimed bronze in 1983.
This competition began badly for Sotnikova. Skating to the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen, dressed in red, she messed up her first move in the Short Program, a planned combination of triple Lutz to triple loop. The Lutz got an “e” for wrong edge takeoff and the loop, which was landed prematurely on both feet, got two arrows for a downgrade from triple to double. The brunette banked only 5.80 for trying the move. The following triple flip was good and she gained +1.20 and her first spin, a Level 4 change foot combination, received a full point over its base value.
But then, even worse, she singled her double Axel. She said later, “I have no idea what went wrong! I’m mad at myself. I felt great beforehand. I don’t know what happened in my head. I am NOT pleased with my performance. Maybe it’s the worst I EVER skated this year. I was ready for the Axel, but something went wrong. I don’t know what!”
Her layback spin and the steps were both Level 3 and both got +0.86 Grades of Execution. She finished with a Level 4 flying camel spin, which was SO good, four of the judges gave her the maximum +3 GoE, and the other four punched in +2. Her components ranged from a low of six 7.25s (five of which were for Transitions & Linking Footwork) up to one 8.50.
She won the Free Skate, which moved her up to second overall. She used the well-known Camille Saint-Saens’ “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28 for Violin and Orchestra. Her opening move was a triple Lutz to double toe loop. The first jump again received an “e” for wrong edge take-off but she still banked a total of 6.80 points. The following triple flip received +1.30 and her triple loop +0.80 over their respective base values. The Level 4 flying camel spin had some unusual positions of her hands and of her legs. Even the Biellmann pull-up finish was done somewhat to the side, in a novel way.
Starting at the halfway stage, she executed a +1.40 double Axel to triple toe loop, a 0.40 triple flip to double toe loop, a +0.30 triple Salchow and a +0.64 double Axel. She finished with a Level 3, +0.93 layback spin, and Level 3, +0.86 straight line steps. The choreographed section even got one maximum +3 GoE. She finished on a high note with a Level 4 combination spin which received +0.93 GoE. Her components went from one 7.25 up to eight 8.50s. But, although she won first place in this section, she still finished second overall, 4.56 points behind Wagner. Her components went from a low of one 7.25 up to eight 8.50s.
Afterwards, she said, “I am just overwhelmed with emotions now, because, finally, I skated a clean long program for the first time in two years. I am also very happy to make it to the Grand Prix Final.” She was also second in her previous Grand Prix, the Cup of China.”
3. Overall 184.69; Anna Pogorilaya, Russia, 2.SP 60.03 (31.86+28.17); 3.FS 124.66 (65.17+59.49).
The blonde Pogorilaya, who turned 15 on April 10, was so inexperienced at this Level that she (and American Samantha Cesario, who performed first up) were allocated to perform early in the Short Program. The Russian took the ice second up. Skating in red to “El Chocio” (Kiss of Fire), she opened with a good triple Lutz to triple toe loop which earned an extra 1.10 so she banked 11.20. The following triple loop earned a total of 5.8 and her Level 3 flying camel received +0.86 over its base value of 2.80.
But then she aborted her double Axel. She said later, “I don’t know what happened. I was shocked.” She received no marks at all for this jump. But she kept fighting. Her change foot combination spin was Level 4 with +0.57. Her straight line steps and Layback spin were both Level 3. They gained, respectively, an extra 0.64 and +0.79. Her components ranged from a high of one 8.0 down to a low of one 6.25.
For her Free, in which the order of skating was the reverse of the placing in the Short Program, she wore blue with one glove on her right hand. Her music was “Mermaids” from “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The Russians swopped places overall, with Pogorilaya dropping one slot to third overall and Sotnikova climbing a place to second.
After she had skated, even though she dropped a place, Pogotilaya said, “I am very pleased with the beginning of my program. The triple Lutz to triple toe loop was great. So was the (triple) loop (in the opening move in a three jump combination with a single loop and a triple Salchow). I had problems in practice with the flying camel spin, so that was a relief when it turned out well (Level 3 with +0.64)”
Talking about the Axel problem in the SP, but completing two double Axels late in her Free, she said, “I thought so much about not popping them because I popped it in the past three competitions in the Free Skating.”
She posted a new personal best Free score. “I really rate this performance highly, because it was so very hard. There was pressure from all sides. It was such a great performance for me, because doing ideal jumps is so much easier than when you have to fight for each jump in the program and land them in situations where others would NOT be able to hold the edge. That takes a LOT more energy!”
She had positives on 11 of her 12 elements. Only her second move, triple loop to single loop to triple Salchow, got a full point removed from the base value with the single loop being given an arrow for under-rotation. The middle jump in this combination used to be called a half loop, because it really is just there to get to the take-off edge for the Salchow. This new ruling seems to be really nitpicking because the system doesn’t recognize a half loop!
4. Overall 172.70; Samantha Cesario, USA, 5.SP 56.55 (30.52+26.03); 4.FS 116.15 (59.03+57.12).
Last year, Cesario, who turned 20 on August 21, earned a bronze in her first Junior Grand Prix in Austria but was injured and couldn’t do her second assignment. Early this year, she finished eighth at Senior Level in the US and was extremely unlucky not to earn the bronze medal in the World Junior Championship in Milan. She was not expecting to get a Senior Grand Prix, and was delighted when she finished fifth in Detroit at Skate America, and then even more pleased that she was entered for this event.
Skating a sexy number in red to “Fever”, the 5’3” Cesario, who is from the New York area, opened her SP with a combination of two triple loops. The second one was saddled with an arrow for slight under-rotation and she lost -0.80 from the base value of 8.70. Her triple flip gained +0.20 over its base value and her Level 3 layback spin received an extra +0.29. Her double Axel, set at the halfway point where the 10% bonus clicks in lost -0.14 but she still banked 3.49. Her flying sit and change foot combination spins were both Level 4 with, respectively, +0.21 and +0.57. Her Level 3 straight line steps gained an extra +0.36. Her components ranged from one 5.75 up to three 7.50s from the same judge.
Afterwards, she giggled, “Did you notice, I lost my balance right at the start of my program and almost flipped backwards? That woke me up! I got the levels I went for. The routine is getting better each time and I’m happy tonight.”
Cesario’s Free, to Bizet’s music for “Carmen” was rewarded with fourth place and pulled her up a slot to finish fourth overall. She opened with a triple Lutz which lost -0.70 because it received an “e” for wrong edge takeoff, but all the other eleven elements got at least their full base value. The flying sit spin was the only element in a possibility of four, which earned Level 4. The Layback was Level 2, and the other spin and the steps Level 3. The jumps include two triple loops, the second one set at the halfway point and combined in a sequence with a double Axel. A second double Axel was her last jump. She also accomplished a triple flip to double toe loop, a triple Salchow, and a second triple flip to double toe loop to double loop.
5. Overall 166.11; Mae Berenice Meite, France, 6.SP 56.50 (30.25+26.25); 5.FS 109.61 (56.75+52.86).
Meite has been runner-up for the French title four times in the past five seasons and, in the other year, she was the bronze medalist. And she is still only 19-years old. Her approach to skating is strong and can be a little inelegant at times. She skated her SP to “The Question of U” by Prince in the SP, dressed in a purple outfit with one sleeve. She opened with a combination of two triple toe loops earning 9 full points. Her only mistake came on the triple loop on which she lost -0.80 from its base value of 5.10. Her first spin, the flying camel was Level 3 with +0.21. After her +0.14 double Axel, she did a Level 4 change foot combination spin which received +0.21 and Level 3 straight line steps which earned an extra +0.29. She finished on a high note with a Level 4 layback spin which received an extra +0.50.
Her Free was set to “Europa”, “We Will Rock You” and “La Grange”. She wore a black jump suit which made her white boots, peaking out of the outfit, a little disconcerting. She had some moments of uncertainty, on a triple Lutz, a triple loop to double toe loop and her second triple loop, but the routine was attacked with good speed and two of the spins were Level 4.
6. Overall 158.11; Amelie LaCoste, Canada, 7.SP 55.92 (29.97+25.95); 6.FS 102.19 (47.79+54.40).
The 2012 Canadian champion, who will turn 25 on December 17, skated her SP in a red, backless outfit, to Peter Gabriel’s “The Feeling Begins” and her FS in pink to music from the French movie “Amelie”. She advanced a place to almost five points ahead of Helgesson but a chasm of 8 points behind Meite.
7. Overall 153.27; Viktoria Helgesson, Sweden, 8.SP 53.25 (24.62+28.63); 7.FS 100.02 (44.43+55.59).
The 25-year-old, blonde Helgesson, who is delighted the 2015 European championships will be in Stockholm, the capital of her country, performed her SP to Shostakovich’s “Mystery Waltz” and her FS to “Harem Cobra Goddess” by the Harem Silks. Her SP opened with a +0.70 triple toe loop to double toe loop, but her triple loop got an arrow for slight under-rotation. Her Level 3 layback spin earned an extra +0.50. But her double Axel, set at the halfway point, lost -1.00. The flying sit spin was Level 3 with +0.36). The Level 4 change foot combination spin received +0.64, and her Level 3 straight line steps received +0.79.
Her component scores were fourth best, but technically she had the lowest score, which put her eighth going into the FS. She advanced a place after the FS because of Gao’s descent. Helgesson had competed in six world championships with a highest place of 10th in 2012. She has a younger sister and they are both rivals for Sweden’s one place in Sochi.
8. Overall 152.85; Christine Gao, USA, 4.SP 58.81 (29.98+28.83); 8.FS 94.04 (39.41+56.63 -2).
Gao, whose father was a junior national badminton champion in China, completed a full course load at Harvard University while training for last year’s Grand Prix Series, did a decent Short Program, set to “Close Without Touching”, opening with a combination of two triple toe loops which earned an additional +0.30, and a double Axel which made its base value. All three spins were Level 4 with +0.57 for the flying sit, +0.57 for the Layback, and +0.71 for the change foot combination. Her steps were Level 3 with +0.57. However, her triple loop, set for the halfway point when the 10% bonus marks click in, got an arrow for slight under-rotation and she lost -0.70 but still banked 3.26. Her components ranged from two 6.50s up to four 8.00s, three of which were given by the same judge.
The 19-year old Gao said, “I felt pretty good tonight – maybe a little shaky but I am happy because I fought for everything I had. I really want to keep pushing on body movement and expression. This year I think I really reached a new level with that.”
But her Free, for which she wore a white backless but with sleeves lacey number, dropped her four places. Only one other competitor fell in either section and she did so twice in her Free routine set to “Angles and Demons”. She was saddled with negative GoEs for five of her seven jumping passes, including two falls. Her sixth jump turned into a single Salchow. Her only jumping success was her second element, a double Axel which earned +0.29 over its base value. Two of her spins were Level 4 with plus 0.57 and 0.50. The change foot combination spin and her straight line steps were Level 3 with +0.50 and +0.57. Her components ranged up from one 6.25 up to three 7.75s given by one judge, who also punched in 7.50 for the other two categories.
She tweeted, “This was not what I was hoping for. It was very disappointing. I know I have it in me. I will go home, move on, and be ready for Boston nationals.”
9. Overall 136.43; Natalia Popova, Ukraine, 9.SP 50.87 (26.67+24.20); 9.FS 85.56 (39.76+46.80 -1).
Popova, who is trained by Viktor Petrenko, skated her SP to “Concierto de Aranjuez”. Her Free Skate was set to music from the ballet, “La Bayadere”. She fell on her opening element, a triple flip, and had negatives on five other elements.