by Alexandra Stevenson
Lipnitskaia Completely Dominates the Event, while Veteran Suzuki Wins Silver and Reveals for the First Time: This is her Last Season in Competition; Nagasu & Lam Place Fourth & Fifth
1. Overall 191.31; 1.SP 65.49 (36.37+29.12); 1.FS 125.82 (66.54+59.28). Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia, who won this event last year when she competed in her first senior international, was in a class by herself. However, she turned 15 on June 5, and may find herself struggling as was her teammate here, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who turned 16 last December. Even with slightly flawed presentations, Lipnitskaia won overall by 10.77 points, a huge margin. Her next competition is the Skate Canada Grand Prix.
Lipnitskaia zoomed into the international skating world’s awareness, when the then Russian Junior Champion won the Junior Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championship in the 2011-12 season. However, this past season she was only fifth in the Russian Jr. nationals and had to settle for second place in the World Jr. championship. She had had to pull out of the Grand Prix Final after suffering a concussion a short time before the event. There were no remnants of that injury in Espoo, and the youngster won by well over ten points.
Lipnitskaia was born in started out in Ekaterinburg. At four, she discovered rhythmic gymnastics, but then discovered skating and, in 2009, transferred to Moscow, where she is trained by Eteri Tutberidze. Like Sasha Cohen, she has brought an incredible flexibility to skating, which puts her in a league by herself. She has amazing split and layback positions in her spins. After her win in Espoo, she explained that her parents were in no way as flexible as she is, but that comes at a price. “I have to stretch and do exercises every day. I can feel it disappear if I stop doing them even for just a couple of days.” Tutberidze said her pupil was, “very goal oriented. She doesn’t let distraction interfere with her concentration. Her showing here was about 90% of what she can do.”
Lipnitskaia skated 11th of the 14 competitors, immediately following the ice resurfacing. Her SP is set to “Don’t Give Up on Love” by Alla Pugacheva, which seems a little too adult for her. She was dressed totally in black, including gloves and tights, with some sparkles. Her opening move, a triple Lutz to triple toe loop got -0.70 removed from its base value of 10.10 because the Technical Panel gave the first jump an “e” for wrong edge take-off. And her second element, a double Axel, was not that impressive. The seven judges split their vote. The majority of four gave 0, which means satisfactory in every aspect, but the other three saw something wrong and punched in -1. That resulted in -0.20 taken off the base value of 3.30.
Her triple flip, set when the 10% bonus marks click in, earned an extra +0.56. However, it was the other four elements which pushed the audience in the very efficiently run Barona Areena into a frenzy of applause. (Areena is not a mis-spelling. The Finns appear to have an obsession with extra vowels.)
Lipnitskaya performed her three spins and footwork extremely well. They all earned the maximum Level of 4 with significant Grades of Execution. At times she appeared in amazingly contorted positions. Yet, she still appeared graceful. Her layback spin inspired four judges to punch in the maximum +3, while the other three officials gave +2. The combination spin, with which she finished, received five +3s and two +2s. She said, “I was pretty pleased. It was my first competition of the season and I was a little nervous. It is my second time at Finlandia. I like the ice rink and the enthusiastic audience. And it fit in with my schedule.”
In the FS she performed tenth, which was first in the last group of five. She appeared in a red, long-sleeved “coat” with a small skirt peeking out of the hem. The outfit fitted her music, “Schindler’s List”. It’s very poignant music which, her coach said, was the skater’s choice. “Julia has seen the film, and she is playing the girl who has a significant role. People have said that it’s too adult for a youngster to skate to, but those tragedies also happened to children.
Her opening move was the same as in the SP, with the same identical “e” take-off on the triple Lutz and a very strained landing on the triple toe loop. But she was forced to step out of the second jump. It was bad enough for two judges to punch in their lowest GoE, -3, and the rest of the panel to sanction with -2. Certainly it was worse than in the flawed version in the SP.
But the next seven moves all made their full base value or better. Her double Axel-triple toe loop-double toe loop was rewarded with an extra +0.28 over its 8.70 base value. Her Level 4 Flying Camel earned an extra +0.80, as did her Level 3 Straight Line steps. The triple flip, set at the halfway point when the 10% bonus clicks in, earned a total of 6.39. Her second double Axel got its base value but nothing more. A triple loop earned an extra +0.70 as did the following triple Salchow.
Her second triple Lutz, however, joined with a double toe loop, got another “e” for wrong edge take-off, and had -0.84 taken off the base value plus 10%.
But then came two superb Level 4 spins, sandwiched around her choreographed section. She earned +1.40 GoE for her layback spin with five of the seven judges punching in the maximum +3, and the other two giving +2. The choreographed moves, which has only Level 1, was given one +3, four +2s, and two +1s. Her final move, the change foot combination spin was rewarded with three +3s, three +2s, and a +1. Her components ranged from a low of one 6.50 for Transitions up to highs of two +8.00 for Performance. Her choreography was done by former world ice dance champion and 2002 Olympic silver medalist, Ilya Averbuch.
Lipnitskaia later readily admitted, “There was an issue with the “e”s, but today I was almost completely satisfied. My (ultimate goal) is to skate clean. About the flexibility, I am constantly stretching, even when I’m waiting in the street, whenever I’m not specifically doing something else.” She has skated in the Sochi Olympic Arena and reports, “It is huge, and just wonderful. The ice is very good and the backstage facilities are much bigger than normal. We (the Russians) did a practice skate there which I think was very helpful. But first, to get into the Olympics, I have to get onto the team. That will be very hard, but I’ll be trying as hard as I can.”
2. Overall 180.54; 2.SP 64.57 (33.05+31.52); 3.FS 115.97 (53.33+62.64), Akiko Suzuki, Japan, 28, was the oldest competitor. When asked at a press conference, because of her long stay in the sport, whether she had any advice for the youngsters who lay first and third, she thought for a few moments, and said, “No. Actually, I would appreciate some advice, myself!” That caused some laughter. She later explained to this reporter that this is going to be her final season and she wanted to relax and just savor each moment. “I will definitely keep skating. It is my life. But, it will be as a professional, not a competitor.”
She performed her SP to “Hymne a L’Amour” and her FS to “The Phantom of the Opera”, both choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo and Massimo Scali. Six of the seven elements in her SP gained positive Grades of Execution, including her initial combination of two triple toe loops. But her triple flip lost -1.68 points from its base value of 5.30. She finished her SP on a high note with her combination spin, which earned Level 4 with two of the judges giving the maximum +3 GoE and the rest of the panel punching in +2. Her straight line steps were also Level 4, with the panel giving unanimous +2s. The other two spins were Level 3 and her double Axel got an extra +0.40 over its base level. Her components ranged from a high of one 9.0 for Skating Skills down to a low of one 7.0 for Transitions.
Although she claimed silver overall, by a margin of 7.09 points over the bronze medalist, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Suzuki was only third in the FS, 8.55 points behind both Russians.
For the FS, Suzuki was dressed in a sleeveless creation with a white top and blue bottom. She had a rather strange reaction to her beginning element in which she received an arrow for slight under-rotation on her middle jump in the triple flip-loop-double Salchow. For generations, the skating world has called this middle jump, a “half” loop, which was used as a means to get from the landing back outside edge of the first jump into the back inside take-off edge for the Salchow. For some reason, the ISU power mongers seem to have decided that this is now subject to the possibility of under-rotation call from the Tech panel. What will they think of next? (The Technical Panel was Specialist Igor Bich and his Assistant was Anna Burwall. Diana Barbacci Levy was the Technical Controller.) Anyway, Suzuki lost -0.70, which didn’t make too much difference to her in this event, but could have if the competition had been closer.
Her second move, a double Axel to triple toe loop received +0.70 over its base value. Then, as did Lipnitskaya, Suzuki also got an “e” for wrong edge takeoff on her triple Lutz and lost -0.70. All three of her spins were Level 4 with the Flying Camel earning an extra +0.50; the change foot combination receiving +0.60 and the final flying change foot combo being rewarded with +0.80. Her steps received Level 3 with six of the judges giving +2s and one +1, which resulted in a whole point added to the base value.
At the half way point she executed a double flip which had -0.60 removed from its paltry base value plus 10% of 1.98. A triple loop to double toe loop gained +0.28 but then she singled her triple loop attempt and received a total of only 0.51. Her choreographed sequence was very good and earned six +2s and one +1. Her final jump, a triple Salchow, earned its base value. Her components included a high of one 8.75 down to one 7.0. Suzuki admitted, “My skating was only so-so. I have learned my weaknesses and know what I must correct. But this event was very well run, similar to the high level of organization shown in Japan.” Suzuki’s component score was the best, 3.36 points above that given to Lipnitskaya. But her elements’ score was only fourth best.
3. Overall 173.45; 6.SP 52.13 (24.73+28.40 -1); 2.FS 121.32 (61.88+59.44). The western skating fraternity first became aware of Elizaveta Tuktamsheva when she unexpectedly won the 2011 Skate Canada Grand Prix. She is the current Russian champion, won bronze in the European championship and was 10th in the World Senior Championship earlier this year. She will turn 17 in December and is now being coached by Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg. But, the brunette has definitely grown both up and out and she is struggling to cope with those changes.
Skating to a Latin Medley including Gopher Mambo, her first element was a single Lutz to triple toe loop which earned only 2.60. Then she fell on the triple loop and got only 3.00 points, less one point for the fall. However, her flying sit spin was Level 4 with +0.50, and her step sequence Level 3 with +0.70. Her double Axel, timed for when the 10% bonus marks click in earned a total of 4.13. She ended with two Level 4 spins. The layback earned an extra +0.40 and the Change Foot Combination received +0.90 over its base. Her components started at two 6.25 and went up to eight 7.50. She was a massive 13.36 points behind her teammate, who was lying first.
The FS was much better. Skating to “Malaguena”, she earned the second highest marks, 4.50 lower than her teammate, who was in the lead, but 5.35 ahead of Suzuki. She pulled up to win the bronze. Overall she was 17.96 points behind Lipnitskaia. She said, “I was so relieved I skated better than yesterday. I’m so happy to have a medal. The skaters inside Russia are very strong. The Olympic team will be selected on the basis of both the Russian and the European championships.”
4. Overall 164.51; 4.SP 54.01 (25.81+28.20); 4 FS 110.50 (53.46+57.04); Mirai Nagasu, the 2008 U.S. champion, who was fourth in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, has been plagued by under-rotation calls and this event was no exception. “I work so hard on trying to eliminate that, so this was disappointing,” said the 20-year-old from Arcadia, CA, who is trained by Amy Evidente. (She was trained by Frank Carroll but the two hour drive each way to his rink in Palm Springs proved too exhausting.)
Skating her SP early, third of the 14 competitors, to the classic, “The Man I Love”, dressed in blue, she planned to open with a triple flip to triple toe loop but got an arrow for slight under-rotation on the first jump and a double arrow for a downgrade to double on the second. That produced a score of only 3.46 for this element.
Her Level 4 Change Foot Combination spin was wonderful, and gained +0.80 over its base value of 3.50. Her flying Camel spin, which followed, was Level 3 with +0.50, but the triple loop which came at the halfway point also was saddled with an arrow which lost her -0.84 from the base value of 3.96. Her steps were Level 3 with +0.30. She executed a lovely outside spread eagle into her double Axel, which was good and gained an extra +0.60. She ended on a high note with her Level 4 layback spin which earned two +3s, the maximum Grade of Execution, while the rest of the judging panel punched in +2. Her components ranged from nine 7.50s down to two 6.0s for Transitions. That put the 2008 U.S. champion in fourth place, 2.30 points behind her teammate, Vanessa Lam.
Nagasu skated her FS last, dressed in black with a silver design on the back, something like an exploding missile. It was set to a fun piece of music from James Bond movies. She said the music came from the more recent productions, including “Skyfall”. Her opening move, a triple flip to two double toe loops gained +0.42 over its base, a promising start. But then the double Axel to triple toe loop got an arrow on the second jump for slight under-rotation and she lost -0.40 off the combination’s base value of 6.20. The triple Lutz which followed also got an arrow and had -0.70 removed from its base value of 4.20.
Her straight lines steps received +0.60 added to its base value for Level 3 of 3.30. At the halfway point, where the 10% bonus marks for jumps clicks in, she brought off a triple loop to double toe loop but the second jump got an arrow and -0.56 was taken off for slight under-rotation. That left the score for that element as 6.04. Her change foot combination spin was Level 4 with +0.60.
Her second triple flip followed and got a double arrow for a downgrade and she banked only 1.38. But her second triple loop was good and was rewarded with an extra 0.70. Her flying camel was Level 3 with +0.20. Her Flying Camel spin was Level 3 with +0.20. That was followed by her choreographed sequence which received an extra half point over the only Level it is given, which is 1 which has a value of two points. Her last jump, a double Axel, gained an extra +0.50 and she finished on a gloriously high note with a Level 4 layback spin, which includes a “pearl” position, in which her head, placed way back, is framed by her arms forming the “shell”. Four of the judges punched in the maximum +3 Grade of Execution, while the other three gave +2. Her components ranged from one 6.50 up to two 7.75s.
“I could tell the Tech panel was reviewing everything,” a downcast Nagasu said afterwards, “Because my marks took so long to come up. I know I have a history of this problem, but they didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt. In gymnastics, you can call for a review, if you disagree with the call. But they don’t do that in skating.”
5. Overall 152.28; 3.SP 56.31 (30.59+25.72); 6. FS 95.97 (95.97+45.73 -2). Vanessa Lam is an 18-year old from Bellflower, CA, of Chinese and Cambodian descent. She explained, when she was five, “I tagged onto my older sister, Nina, when she went skating and I loved it. It felt like a gravity-defying action.”
She won her first international Junior Grand Prix event in 2010 in Ostrava, in the Czech Republic. With a gold and bronze the following season in this series, she finished fifth in the JrGP Final in Quebec City. But she was forced to withdraw from the last U.S. nationals because of knee and hip injuries. She had placed 7th and 9th at senior level in the previous two U.S. nationals. She is taught by Tammy Gambill and her choreography created by Justin Dillon.
Lam drew to skate her SP, set to “Illumination” by Secret Garden, last, and placed third in this section. Her first element, a triple Lutz, got an “e” call for wrong edge take-off and had -0.98 removed from its base value of 6.0. The following triple flip to double toe loop had -0.56 taken off its base value of 6.60. However, her flying sit spin, the step sequence and the combination spin, all received Level 4 with +0.40, +0.70 and +0.50 added to their respective base values. Her double Axel was rewarded with an extra 0.40, and her final move, the Level 4 layback spin earned an extra +0.80. Her components ranged from three 6.00s up to one 7.25 for Interpretation. Asked what she liked about Finland, she showed a clear social awareness. “I like how well organized the Finns are and that they have a really clean country. I like how everyone has adopted recycling.”
Lam’s FS, which she performed 11th, immediately after the winner’s great showing, dressed in black with silver, suffered in comparison. She used pieces from the movie, “The Artist”. Sixth place in this section pulled her down behind both Tuktamysheva and Nagasu. Her overall score was just 1.83 ahead of Isabelle Olson of Sweden, who was fifth in both sections, but sixth overall.
Lam fell on her first jump a triple Lutz which got an “e” for wrong edge takeoff. However, because she accomplished the full three rotations, she earned 3.90 points. Her second move was meant to be a triple flip to two double toe loops, but she did only one double toe loop and the combination received merely its base value of 6.60. The following triple loop also received only its base value of 5.10.
Her second triple flip gained +0.50 over its base value, but, she fell a second time, on a triple toe loop. Her last two jumping passes were flawed. The triple Lutz was saddled with an “e” for wrong edge take-off and had only a single toe loop attached to it, and an Axel attempt was completely botched and received no marks at all.
However, all three spins, the change foot combination, the layback and the flying sit spin earned Level 4 with, respectively, +0.50, +0.70 (with one judge, possibly the American Lorrie Parker, punching in +3) and +0.20. Her steps were only Level 2 but with +0.60. Her ‘Elements’ score was sixth best but her components were ranked fifth. Her highest component marks were two 7.25s from one judge, while another judge gave the three lowest scores of one 5.50 and two 5.75.
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