Sheffield, Great Britain
by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(21 November 2022) For the first time in more than 25 years of Grand Prix history, a Senior Grand Prix took place in the United Kingdom. China had given back its Grand Prix for the third time in four years, this time because of their zero Covid 19 policy. The country does not allow foreign skaters, coaches, officials and spectators into their country because of the risk of bringing the disease back to China (where its origins are). The ISU asked other countries to take it and finally gave it to the British federation. It took place in Sheffield where many British National Championships, some ISU Junior Grand Prix and the European Championships 2012 had been organized. Sheffield is home city of the steel company John Wilson which produces many of the blades of all skaters worldwide. Therefore it was logical that this company became the title sponsor of this Grand Prix.
The women’s competition at the Grand Prix in Sheffield had a relatively good level, but nobody tried a triple Axel nor a quad.
Mai Mihara from Japan, who was fourth at Japanese Nationals one year ago and had won the Four-Continents Championships 2022, took the gold medal in her tenth Grand Prix with 217.43 points, seven of which were fourth places. She had been in hospital for arthritis several times in the 2019/2020 season. The 23-year-old skater opened her short program to the music “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakamoto with a very good double Axel, but had a tight landing on her triple flip. The combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, two spins and the step sequence outstanding and her components around 8.6. She admitted, “I was so nervous, but I was looking forward to skate here. I am thinking about the next Olympics and I'd like to aim for it. Today I skated in front of so many people, I am so grateful for that.”
In her Spanish free program to “El Amor Brujo” by Manuel de Falla, the student of Sonoko Nakano included seven triple jumps, four of them excellent, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, a good loop, and two slightly under-rotated ones. Spins and step sequences were excellent, the components around 8.8 because of her charming style and her elegance. She explained, “I am really happy now, because I finished fourth many times. I thought I can’t make it to the podium, but my coach told me you can get a medal - and you can even be on the top. I couldn’t believe it.” Japan nominated her for the University Games which will take place in mid-January in Lake Placid, NY.
Present Junior World Champion, the 15-year-old Isabeau Levito of Mount Laurel in New Jersey was relatively close to Mihara. After Skate America she won her second silver medal with 215.74 points. Therefore she has very probably qualified for the Grand Prix Final. For her young age, the student of Yulia Kuznetsova and choreographer Evgeni Platov, the ice dance Olympic Gold medal winner of 1994 and 1998, she has a very elegant style and reminds of a ballet dancer. She just has the complete package which is needed for big successes in the future. She began her short program to a kind of flamenco called “Una Noche Mas” by Israeli singer Jasmin Levy with a triple flip which got a small edge warning, followed by an impressive double Axel and a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Her spins and the step sequence were excellent and her components around 8.5. She remarked, “I have a mental vision of how I wanted so skate and I feel like I've yet to see it, but I felt very happy with how I did. I don't think there is any additional pressure. I'm just very excited to come here and compete, and so far everything has been so wonderful.”
The first element in her divine free program to the romantical Russian folk music “My Sweet and Tender Beast” in a vocal version was a clean combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, which is rare. Five other triples followed, three of which were excellent. The two triple flips had a small edge warning. Her spins and step sequences were outstanding and even had a few GOEs of +5. Her components had an average of 8.7. She remained self-critical, “It was pretty good, but it was definitely short of perfection. I was slightly disappointed in my triple Lutz-triple loop combination. I know I can do it better and I was a little upset when it wasn’t absolutely perfect. I am very happy to go to the final. That was my goal. My idols are Evgenia Medvedeva and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva.”
Anastasiia Gubanova from Georgia, sixth at Worlds 2022, was born in Russia and competed for this country until some years ago. After switching to Georgia she had more chances to get international competitions. In Sheffield she took bronze, earning 193.11 points. She stills trains in Russia with Evgeni Rukavitsin and doesn’t have to be afraid of being drafted to the Russian army because Russia does not have female soldiers. But Rukavitsin could not travel to Sheffield, therefore only the Georgian team leader was with her. Her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop in the short program was excellent, like her step sequence. Her double Axel, the triple Lutz and two spins were good. The 19-year-old skater explained her program, “I really like it when the program has a storyline, I'm skating a girl who, at the beginning of the program, is just living a happy life. In the second half there is an accident, the girl is in a coma. She is between life and death, strives towards the light, and in the end there is the sound of a deep breath and I am alive.”
In her free program, she interprets Indian music pieces called “Latika’s Theme” and “Historiette”. She had five good triple jumps, and two which got a q for a slight under-rotation. Spins and steps were good, her components around 7.8. She was fifth in the free, but remained third overall. She said, “This was my first senior-level Grand Prix event and I am glad that I won this medal for my country, Georgia.”
Young You from South Korea finished on fourth position, earning 191.36 points. She mainly trains in Colorado Springs now and coach Viktor Pfeifer came with her. In her short program to the Tango “Oteno Porteno”, her double Axel was good, but her triple Lutz under-rotated. In her combination, the triple flip before the triple toe loop got a small edge warning. Her spins were good, the step sequence excellent. With the third best free program, she moved up from sixth to fourth place. Six triple jumps were at least good, only her triple flip got another small edge warning and was nearly under-rotated (q). Spins and steps were good, her components around 7.9. She said, “Ahead of the competition I was sick. I had quite a high fever. I thought about withdrawing but I had already travelled here. I am better now, but not fully recovered. I had a rough time during the Olympics because my father passed away, which prevented me from participating in the Gala. Especially the support of my fans helps me to overcome all that and I am happy that I am on the right track again.”
Ekaterina Kurakova from Poland, who trains in Italy under Lorenzo Magri, placed fifth with 190.44 points. Skating to the two Elvis Presley songs “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” and “A Little Less Conversation”, she under-rotated the triple Lutz of her combination a bit (q) and added a double toe loop. The triple loop and the five other elements were very good. She said, “The support is incredible. I feel like no matter what I do, I am already a winner of the hearts.” In the entertaining free program to the soundtrack of “Up” she got three q on her three first triples, but added four clean ones and good steps and spins.
Nicole Schott from Germany moved up from seventh in the short to sixth place with 181.41 points. She had been sick with Long Covid 19 for several months and in Sheffield did her first good competition of the season. In the short program to “Despedida” by Shakira, the longtime student of Michael Huth tried a triple-triple combination, but after a clean flip she under-rotated the triple toe loop. The triple loop and the other elements were good. In her free program to two versions of the “Bohemian Rhapsody”, her opening triple flip and a second flip with a double toe loop and a double loop were good. Her triple loop was under-rotated, but three more triples good. She commented, “I am very pleased. I actually thought for a long time I would quit after the 22 Olympics. But I realized I just love it still so much. I will keep doing this as long as I enjoy it.”
Gabriella Izzo of Norwood near Boston placed seventh, earning 174.10 points. She is a fulltime student of Harvard University. Her short program to “Punga” arranged by Cedric Tour was faultless with a combination of triple flip and double toe loop, a triple Lutz and three level 4 spins. In her free program to three music pieces of Max Richter, four triple jumps were good, but she popped the flip and the second Lutz and therefore dropped from fifth to seventh place. Gabrielle Daleman from Canada is eighth with 163.77 points. She started her short program with her excellent trademark combination of two triple toe loops, but fell on the triple Lutz. In her free program, this combination did not work, but she skated a bit better than at Skate Canada. She fell on the triple toe loop, but had two good other triples.
Alexia Paganini from Switzerland finished on ninth position with 156.89 points. She changed coaches several times and now now trains with Michael Huth in Germany. In her short program combination of two triple toe loops, she stepped out of the second one. The triple loop was good, but one of her three spins had not enough revolutions. In her free, only two triple jumps were correct, but three more under-rotated. Her step sequences and her transitions were a bit easy. Julia Sauter (25) lives in Germany but competes for Romania, home country of her parents. She was 18th at Worlds 2022 and Sheffield was her first Grand Prix. In the short program, she could not add a second jump to her triple toe loop. Later she added a double toe loop to the triple Salchow. With five clean triple jumps in the free, she moved up from 12th to 10th place with 156.46 points.
Natasha McKay from Britain, longtime student of Simon Briggs in Dundee, is 11th with 155.20 points. Her short program was clean with a combination of triple loop and double toe loop and a triple Salchow. In her free, she performed three clean triples, but popped the Lutz and dropped from 9th to 11th position. The 2018 and 2021 U.S. champion Bradie Tennell ended up 12th and last with 153.19 points. She had to sit out the whole Olympic season due to a longtime foot injury. In this summer, she moved to Nice in France, where her choreographer Benoit Richaud now works with her also as coach. The John Wilson Trophy was her first competition since her injury. In the short to “Restrictus” arranged by Cedric Tour, she fell on the under-rotated triple toe loop in her combination with the triple Lutz and went down again on the under-rotated triple loop. The five other elements were very good. In her free to a Four Seasons medley, she fell three times and had only two good triples. She said, “I think I never skated a program as badly as I did today but I am happy because I was able to come back, I didn’t give up.”
The men’s competition of the John Wilson Trophy in Sheffield had a mixed level. The best five skaters had a really high level, but the second half a low one. Daniel Grassl from Italy won the gold medal with 264.35 points in his second Grand Prix of this season after being fourth at Skate America. He has to wait and see if this is enough for reaching the Grand Prix Final. It was the first gold medal for an Italian man in the Grand Prix history. After training for almost three months in Norwood, Massachusetts with Alexei Letov, he had returned to his hometown of Merano in Italy after Skate America. Skating to “Silhouette” by the British music duo Aquilo, in Sheffield he was second in the short program which he opened with a quad Lutz which he landed on one foot, but a bit tight. His triple Axel was very good, but in his combination he stepped out of the almost under-rotated triple toe loop after the triple Lutz. His spins, especially his body positions were excellent and innovative, had difficult edge changes and his components around 8.2. He commented, “I needed to go back to Italy to see my friends and family, because I really missed them. It was nice that my mum cooked for me again. I'm happy with how I've worked because I really wanted to come here and be prepared.”
His first element in his free program to four music pieces arranged by Frenchman Cedric Tour was a good quad Lutz, but then came his only mistake when he went down on his quad flip. Later he performed seven good triple jumps, among them two Axels and again had unusual body positions in his spins which require a great body flexibility. He admitted, “After the six minutes warm-up I felt very bad. It was a very important competition for me, but I tried not to think about it. I planned to do three quads in my program, but after the six minutes I said, ‘You go with two because I don't feel good right now’. I tried to do my job and to concentrate. I thought, focus, you have to fight again.” In the kiss and cry corner he seemed astonished that he had beaten all others who had competed before him.
Deniss Vasiljevs from Latvia took the silver medal with 254,56 points after being only tenth at Skate Canada. In the short program in Sheffield, he fell on the quad Salchow which was under-rotated, but the triple Axel and the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Two spins, among them his trademark sit spin and the step sequence were outstanding and his entertaining interpretation of the music “Englishman in New York” as well. His components were around 8.3. Later he commented, “I think I have slightly reformed my approach to my work. My work became a little more fun. I started to enjoy skating in itself more.”
His only mistake in his free program to Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony (“From the New World”) came in his first element, a quad Salchow which he landed on two feet and got a q for nearly being under-rotated. Then he delivered seven good triples, among them two Axels, excellent level 4 spins and step sequences. His components had an average of 8.7. He got a standing ovation for this performance. He explained, “I am here for the thrill of performance. Performing like today, connecting with the people and getting such a warm reception is one of those things I really cherish about our sport. That is something that warms my heart and really motivates and inspires me to continue. I am very happy that today I have the first Latvian Grand Prix medal, but that's not focus. It's the feeling, the standing ovation, people cheering, the clapping. This energy is something way above, beyond what you get just by achieving something, it is something to live for, to strive for.”
Shun Sato was the best of the three Japanese skaters and won the bronze medal with 249.03 points. In February he had to undergo shoulder surgery and missed the Olympic Games, but now he is fit again. He began his short program to “Carol of the Bells” by Californian violinist Lindsey Stirling with a clean quad Lutz, then he stepped out of a quad toe loop, almost fell and made a step before the double toe loop, which is not allowed in a short program combination. The other elements were good. In the free program he moved up from fourth to third place. He fell on the opining quad Lutz. But he added a good combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, another excellent quad toe loop, four very good triples and stepped out of the triple loop. His components were around 8.1. He mainly trains in the practice rink in Saitama where numerous event had been held and the next world championships in March will be again.
Koshiro Shimada is also from Japan, but trains in Switzerland with Stephane Lambiel. He finished on fourth position, earning 247.17 points. In the short program to “Sing, sing, sing” by Louis Prima, none of his three jumping elements were clean. The quad Salchow and the quad toe loop, combined with a triple toe loop, both got a q for a small under-rotation and he stepped out of the triple Axel. The other elements were good. In the free to a Charles Chaplin medley, he performed an outstanding quad toe loop and six very good triples, but stepped out of two more. His teammate Tatsuya Tsuboi came fifth with 226.13 points in his Grand Prix debut. His quad Salchow in the short program to “Stairway to Heaven” had a q, his combination consisted of a triple flip, a step in-between and only a double toe loop, but his triple Axel was excellent. In the free to the soundtrack of “High Strung” he went down on his opening quad Salchow, but made no other mistakes and landed seven good triples.
Roman Sadovsky from Canada had won the short program (like several times before) with an excellent quad Salchow, a very good triple Axel and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop both of which got a q. His spins and his step sequence were first class and his expression and speed strong. During his performance, some lights in the rink dimmed down, but he did not even notice it. He said, “I'm pleased with my performance, and I'm improving over Skate America. I improved my confidence and my ability to put repetitive strong short programs.” But in the free program he struggled again under pressure, having little consistency, and dropped to sixth place with 219.35 points. He fell three times on the first quad Salchow and both triple Axels, both of which were downgraded. He made two more mistakes and only two triple jumps were clean. Excellent spins and steps could not help his placement much.
Jimmy Ma of Norwood, Massachusetts, is on seventh position, earning 214.47 points. The first element in the short program was a tight quad toe loop, followed by a combination of triple Lutz and only double toe loop. His triple Axel was overturned and nearly under-rotated. In the free, he stepped out of a quad toe loop and touched down his hand, then he doubled his second toe loop. Four triples were good, but he stepped out of the triple Lutz. Spins and steps were good. Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia, fourth at Worlds 2022 and doing many shows organized by Tatiana Navka in springtime, has left Russia in the summer - like all other Georgian skaters – because flying from Russia to other countries has become complicated and those with double nationality feared to be drafted to the Russian army. He now trains with Lorenzo Magri in Italy, but sends his Russian coaches videos of practice. He finished eighth after performing a disastrous short program in which he was last, There he performed a single Axel, a double toe loop and a combination of double Salchow and triple toe loop. He even made small mistakes on two spins. His free was better, therefore he could move up to eighth place with 195.25 points. He had a clean combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop and five triples, only fell on the quad toe loop, but doubled a second attempt of quad toe loop and generally skated not very inspired.
U.S. skater Tomoki Hiwatashi of Colorado Springs came as an alternate for the injured Azerbaijan skater Vladimir Litvintsev. He finished on ninth place with 190.88 points, far from his best. He had dislocated his shoulder in September at the Lombardia Trophy and obvious has not yet recovered completely. His quad toe loop in the short was nearly under-rotated, then he popped the Axel, his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was soso. His three spins had small mistakes. In the free, he missed the two planned quads and popped the second triple Axel and a triple loop. Only two triples were good. Corey Circelli of Toronto began his short program with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but his triple Axel was downgraded and he popped the flip. In the free, he was inspired by Toller Cranston, used one of his free program music and tried to imitate the legendary Canadian of the 1970ies who died in 2015. But Circelli fell twice, popped an Axel and had only two clean triples.
The two British men participated were nominated as local skaters. Three time British champion Graham Newberry finished 11th, earning 180.42 points. He singled the Axel in the short. The combination of triple loop and triple toe loop was soso, the triple Lutz and the spins good. He began his free program with a very good triple Axel, but then battled his way through the program, made mistakes on the next five jump elements, fell twice, doubled jumps and had finally no more clean triples. 17-year-old Edward Appleby, the youngest male competitor of the whole event, had been 20th at Junior Worlds seven months ago, but was given the chance to compete in front of a big crowd. In the short, he stepped out of the triple Axel, performed a clean combination of double Lutz and triple toe loop and a good triple flip. In the free, four triple jumps were o.k.. He made two mistakes, but did not fall. Being 11th in both competition parts, he ended up 12th with 180.13 points, very close to his teammate.
The pairs competition of the Grand Prix in Sheffield had a better level than those of the first three Grand Prix, but still not very high due to the lack of available good pairs worldwide because Russia is still excluded, Chinese pairs cannot travel abroad and six good North American pairs have finished their career in the summer. An exception were the reigning World Champions Alexa Scimeca & Brandon Frazier who won their second event easily with 205.85 points, four more than at Skate America. They had taken the lead in the short program to the music of “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”, but they do not go separate ways at all. The U.S. federation had encouraged the 31-year-old Scimeca and her pairs partner Frazier (who is one year younger), perhaps also financially to continue their career after winning the World title, which they happily did. Their triple twist was good, but had only Level 1. Her triple toe loop was a bit tight, but landed on one foot. The triple throw flip and the four other elements (all with level 4) were excellent and their components around 8.7.
Frazier commented, “Alexa and I feel very proud that we were able to put on another strong performance. We had a few technical things that we didn’t execute as well as we normally can, so we’re disappointed about that, but overall we’re happy with our performance and the fight tonight.” Knierim added, “When we finished Skate America we were very eager and motivated to work even harder. We weren’t comfortable and ready at Skate America. We felt we made a lot of progress when we arrived here. Not specifically about the program itself, but being here with our mental game and confidence is what I feel has grown and become stronger since Skate America. With that, throughout the season, the performances will become stronger and stronger. I am proud of us for stepping up and coming here with a different mindset.”
They opened their free program with a good triple twist again (like usual, all pairs start with the twist), this time with level 2. Scimeca stumbled on the triple toe loop and stepped out and touched down on her triple Salchow later, but all other elements were at least good, the lifts and spin even excellent. Their music pieces were “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles and “Healed Broken Wings” by Karl Hugo and their components had an average of 8.5. Frazier explained, “I am very proud of how Alexa and I fought this weekend. It was a fight on some of our elements today. But I feel like we are progressing each time we go out from short to long, from Skate America till where we are this week.”
The Italian team of Sara Conti & Niccolo Macii, third at Skate Canada and coached in Bergamo by Barbara Luoni, won the silver medal with 184.19 points. In their short program, using the Tango “Oblivion”, the twist was a bit wobbly, the other six elements at least good, including a triple Salchow and a triple throw loop. 68.69 points in the short was the best they ever had. Macii said, “We are improving with every competition and we had two points more than in our last short program at Skate Canada. Coming home from Canada we realized where we could improve in our skating, giving more to the spectators. We tried to skate faster, give more pathos to the audience and we enjoyed it more. The audience saw it.”
In their free program to the soundtrack of “Cinema Paradiso”, after the triple twist they had a good combination of triple Salchow, Euler and double Salchow and a triple toe loop on which he touched down his hand a bit. The triple throw loop was very good, but she stepped out and touched down on the triple throw Salchow. Two lifts were good, but he aborted the third one (zero points) and was very frustrated at the end because he feared they would lose a place. But they did not because their components were high enough (7.6). Macii said, “The last lift angers us because we can do it so easily. It is a timing entrance - that is where the problem came. We know where we missed and where to work. We have a good chance to get to the Final. We tried our best. We never thought about having one medal and we even got two. If we go to the Final, it will be even more amazing.” But he admitted, “We don’t like competing in Italy so much, with so many friends and family around.”
Letizia Roscher (18) and Luis Schuster (21) from Germany, fifth at Junior Worlds in April 2022, won a surprising bronze medal with 167.37 points in their first Grand Prix season. At Skate America they had a good short and were third, but a bad long program and finished only seventh. This time both programs were relatively good. They are coached by Ingo Steuer and Robin Szolkowy, both of them former pairs World Champions and Olympic medalists. For the first time in their life, they had more than 60 points in the short program (60.24), competing to “In the Air Tonight” by Joseph William Morgan. The twist and the lift were good, the double Axel a bit shaky and she landed the triple throw Salchow on two feet. Roscher, who still goes to high school fulltime, commented, “I am happy we could reach a new personal best. I felt a little bit shaky in the beginning of the program, but after the first two elements I enjoyed it and had a lot of fun.” Schuster added, “We enjoyed it more than our first Grand Prix. We looked at the levels and thought about why some things were not like we wanted them to be. At our second Grand Prix now, we had less pressure.”
In their elegant free program to “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi and to “Every Ending Is a Chance” by Claire Marigold Wyndham, most elements were relatively clean, including the jump combination double Axel - single Axel - double toe loop as well as the double Salchow and the difficult carry lift with a change of direction, but Roscher landed both triple throws on two feet. Schuster explained, “At Skate America, it was a shock for us that we could reach a medal and we lacked the mental focus. Now it was also a bit shaky, but we held our focus in the free skating. It helped us a lot that we had the same situation.” Roscher agreed, “We learned a lot from Skate America. We had a lot of motivation for training to get better - to make the elements cleaner. It still feels kind of unreal and we are super happy to win a medal here. Before the competition our legs were really shaky but during the skate we were o.k.”
Anastasiia Metelkina & Daniil Parkman from Georgia, both born in Russia, finished fourth with 165.60 points. Like many other Georgian skaters they quickly left Russia and their coaches in the summer where they had trained. The pair now stays in Berlin, Germany and is trained by Alexander Koenig, the coach of the 2018 Olympic Gold medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot who the German federation had fired in 2021. Metelkina & Parkman had missed Europeans and Worlds 2022 due to injury. They began their short program in their first Grand Prix with an excellent twist, but Metelkina fell on the triple toe loop. The other five elements, including a triple throw flip, were clean. In the free program, their combination of triple Salchow and double toe loop and the three lifts were good, the twist very good again, but she stepped out of both triple throws. Parkman said, “We could have done a lot of things much better. Our goals are just to skate clean and bring the emotions through to the audience.”
he second Italian pair of Irma Caldara & Riccardo Maglio placed fifth, earning 160.23 points. Their opening twist was very good, but Maglio stepped out of the double Axel. Their triple throw loop was shaky, but they had the courage to try it although Caldara had two bad falls in the six minute warm-up. The other elements were o.k. In the free, they moved up from sixth to fifth place. Most elements were clean, but Caldara landed the triple throw Lutz on two feet and stepped out. The double Axel was a bit shaky, and the triple throw loop was almost clean, one of the best of the whole week.
U.S. skaters Katie McBeath & her new partner Nathan Bartholomay are sixth with 147.29 points in their Grand Prix Debut. They had withdrawn from their first Grand Prix in Canada because they were not ready yet. He had had elbow surgery in August and they had blade problems the week before Skate Canada. They train with Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in California. McBeath had been a single skater until 2018 when she was 18th at women’s Nationals. Bartholomay is an experienced pair skater with several partners. Their double Axel in the short program was very good, the other elements including a triple throw flip were more or less clean. They had said they had made only four run-throughs before Sheffield. In the free, they made mistakes on five elements, among them an aborted lift and her fall on the death spiral and they dropped from fifth to sixth place.
The British champions Anastasia Vaipan-Law & Luke Digby were first the first to compete overall and were overwhelmed by the many British flags. They ended up seventh and last with 143.81 points. Digby had been a little flower boy when the Europeans took place in Sheffield in 2012, now he came in a different role. In the twist she had her arm around his neck in the landing which is not allowed. The double Axel was good, but the other elements had some little slips and mainly GOEs of -1 to -3. In their free program, the twist was shaky, she missed the triple toe loop and he the triple Salchow and they made some more mistakes, only their double throw loop was good. The Canadians Lori Ann Matte & Thierry Ferland were injured and withdrew from the competition. No other pair could be found as alternates.
The ice dance event at the Grand Prix in Sheffield, Britain had a very good level, there was no weak couple at all. Six of the ten teams are training in the Ice Academy of Montreal with its four main coaches Patrice Lauzon, Marie-France Dubreuil, Romain Haguenauer and Scott Moir.
Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri from Italy won the gold medal with 213.74 points and are qualified for the Grand Prix Final in their home country after being first in France the week before. They had travel problems on their way to Sheffield. Fabbri said, “Our flight from Milan to Manchester had two hours delay, which was not so bad. We had to take a taxi, the driver put in the address and there were two results. When we arrived, we were close to Birmingham, which was about two hours away!” So they arrived in Sheffield even much later, but they did not miss anything important. Guignard remembered the year 2012, when they competed in Sheffield and finished 11th, “This was our first Europeans here 10 years ago, it was our first big competition. There were a lot of nice memories.”
In the Latin Rhythm dance to the Samba “This Is”, the Rhumba “I’m Crying”, both by Grace Jones, and the Samba “Panters en Libertad” by Monica Naranjo, they excelled with an outstanding performance. The twizzles, the Straight Line Lift and the Pattern Dance Type Step Sequence had a level 4, the Midline Step Sequence a level 3 and the Choreographic Rhythm Sequence is a non-level element. These elements had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4 and the components were around 9.3. Fabbri commented, “Compared to the Rhythm Dance last week, it was much better. Even last week, we felt quite good on the ice, but there were some small mistakes. Today we felt good, the crowd was warm, it was pretty easy to skate. We didn’t have time to change anything from the last Grand Prix. We just tried to have a different attitude when we stepped on the ice. Last week it was our second competition, but it was the first important competition of the season and Lombardia Trophy was in September, so it was a long time ago. So we were a little bit more stressed last week, even though the performance was not bad.”
In their emotional free dance they used “My Love Will Never Die” by Australian-American singer Claire Wyndham, “Mephisto’s Lullaby” by Israeli-born Yair Albeg Wein and “Eden” by Spanish-Mexican singer Belinda. The levels were better than in France. Five of the seven level elements (the lift combination is counted as two elements here) had a level 4. For the One Foot Turns Sequence, she had a level 3 and he a level 4 and for the Circular Step Sequence both had a level 3. The three non-level elements were a Choreo Character Step Sequence, a Choreo Sliding Movement and a Choreo Spinning Movement. All elements had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4 and even a few +5. Their step sequences were very intricate. It did not disturb them to skate right after the British home crowd favorites. Fabbri said, “Now we are an experienced couple and we don’t really let everything around disturb us. We try to create our own bubble and focus on our performance. It’s not been that hard. The crowd was supportive as well with the other skaters.”
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson, perhaps the best British ice dance couple since Torvill & Dean, won the silver medal with 205.56 points. In their entertaining Rhythm Dance using three music pieces by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, they were just .93 points behind the Italians and got a huge applause. They had almost the same levels, more GOEs of +3 than +4, but their choreographic Rhythm Sequence had four GOEs of +5 out of the nine judges. Their components had an average of 9.1. Fear explained, “The crowd was amazing; I think all of the skaters had so much fun out there. It was electric energy. I just feel like we are building with each competition and it is really exciting.” Gibson added, “After Skate Canada, we worked a lot on our step sequences and turns, trying to clean all that up. Generally we just worked to make everything sharper and stronger.”
In their free dance to the songs “Born This Way” and “Million Reasons,” both by Lady Gaga, they once more entertained the public brilliantly and also pleased the judges. The lifts were spectacular, but their levels on the steps were a bit lower and Gibson stumbled for a second on the choreographic twizzles, which counted as a fall. Therefore the distance to the Italians became much bigger although the British have the better presentation. Their components were around 9.1. Gibson said, “We are very proud of what we did here. We are just so excited to come here and skate in front of our home crowd. The energy was electric. It lived up to and surpassed our expectations. Of course, I would have liked not to have that little mistake, but it is what it is.” Fear added, “It was a memory and experience that we will not forget. We are just so appreciative to have had the opportunity to skate at the Grand Prix in Great Britain. The mistake doesn’t affect us too much, because we will just learn from it, it was a different kind of performance, so much noise from the start.” With the two silver medals they are almost certainly qualified for the Grand Prix Final as well, it would be their first Final. Gibson said, “We’re both very excited about the opportunity and it’s another goal achieved for us.”
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha from Canada won their second bronze medal after the first at Skate Canada. They have to wait and see if they also qualified for the Final, but it is not very likely. They used for their Rhythm Dance “Let’s Cha Cha” and two Sambas by the German pop group Bellini which was named after a Brazilian football player. They danced in high speed, had mixed levels, mainly GOEs of +3 and components of around 8.8. Lajoie commented, “We were able to be present in the moment, even though we were very stressed. I think the crowd helped.” Lagha added, “When you have such a short period of time between every competition, and you want to improve, you have to very strategic which part of the program you want to improve. After Skate Canada we had a problem with the twizzle, because it was level three, so we needed to add another twizzle - the rest was just about performing.”
In their free dance to “Nurejev” from the soundtrack of “The White Crow” they paid tribute to the famous Russian ballet dancer. They had very good levels, many GOE of +3, but also many +2. Lajoie commented, “It was very good for us. There were very little mistakes, but we are very happy with the performance we did. We are happy to have made it through the GP season with four performances that we are pleased of. Now we are really looking forward to take some time off.”
U.S. dancers Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko finished fourth with 187.42 points. They have improved much since last season although Ponomarenko had to undergo ankle surgery in February and could not train. During this time Carreira trained and danced with their coach Scott Moir and she learnt much of him. Moir works in London, Ontario, and is head coach of the Ontario branch of the Ice Academy of Montreal. Other coaches in London are Madison Hubbell and Adrian Diaz. In the Rhythm Dance to two Sambas and a new Rhumba version of the famous soundtrack of “Love Story”, they had good levels and mainly GOEs of +2. In their smooth free dance to two music pieces of the soundtrack of “Backbone” and two versions of “Summertime”, all elements were very good and their components around 8.4. Carreira explained, “We are very happy about our first competition. It was a great start. Madi (Hubbell) and Scott (Moir) both themselves wanted to skate to “Summertime” during their careers but neither managed in the end. So it’s a group project and we are so happy to be the ones to perform to it in the end. We feel like this program portrays ourselves very well which makes it easier to execute it.”
Nathalie Taschlerova & Filip Taschler from the Czech Republic train with Matteo Zanni in Italy and are fifth with 177.89 points. Taschler slipped a bit during the midline step sequence, but everything else was very good. In their free dance, they want to emphasize the necessity to keep nature healthy for the next generations. Taschlerova stumbled a bit on the twizzles, all other elments were good. They skated both programs with high speed. Maria Kazakova & Georgy Reviya from Georgia came sixth, earning 176.71 points. Reviya suffered from a back injury in the summer. They quickly left Russia and now train in Italy with Matteo Zanni, like the Czech couple. They had good elements with high levels in the Rhythm Dance. In their free dance, there were some small slips, but GOEs of +2 dominated. Reviya said, “We aren’t as pleased today, but the performance level was good.”
Oona Brown and brother Gage Brown, the present Junior World Champions, placed seventh with 173.74 points. In the Rhythm Dance to the Cha Cha “Bones” by Imagine Dragons, they had mixed levels, but GOEs of mainly +2. Their free dance with mainly GOEs of +1 and +2 was faultless. Alicia Fabbri & Paul Ayer from Canada train in Montreal and placed eighth, earning 165.78 points. Ayer had shoulder surgery in the summer. In the Rhythm Dance she made one more rotation in the twizzles than he did. Their free dance music was “Big Sky” by Annie Lennox and “No Good Place For the Lonely” by Joe Bonamasse. Their free dance music had to be started twice because of a technical problem, but it was no problem for the skaters. Their choreographic steps in the free dance did not receive any points.
Haley Sales & Nikolas Wamsteeker from Canada, also students of Scott Moir, are ninth with 163.69 points. Their free dance music was “Phantom of the Opera”. The Ukrainian couple of Mariia Holubtsova & Kyryl Bielobrov, who were allowed to train in the Montreal school as a gesture of solidarity, ended up 10th with 156.04 points. The British ice dancer Olivia Smart had offered them free accommodation.