by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(26 November 2019) Like at the five other Grand Prix of this season, a teenager from the school of Eteri Tutberidze won the ladies competition of the NHK Trophy. Russian ladies or girls between 15 and 16 years therefore did not allow skaters from any other country to be first. This time it was Alena Kostornaia who amassed 240.00 points. She began the short program to the two music pieces of “Departure“ and “November“ by Max Richter with an excellent triple Axel, followed by a triple Lutz with the same quality and an outstanding combination of triple flip and triple toe loop which had five GOEs of +5 and four of +4. The exquisite spins and steps also received mainly GOEs of +4, and the components had an average of 8.9. She had 85.04 points for this short program which is a new ladies world record.
She explained: “I'm very happy that I was able to do everything as planned. The triple Axel is an opportunity to get more points in the short program as quads are forbidden. But it's also a risk because if it doesn't work you get less points than for a good double Axel.”
The first element of her free program was an excellent combination of triple Axel and double toe loop, but then came her only mistake when she stepped out of the second triple Axel, which was under-rotated. Six excellent triple jumps followed, plus outstanding spins and steps. Her components were around 9.0 and she has the best style of the teenagers. “I am very happy to have done a good program. There were mistakes, but overall it was still good,” she said. “I’m pleased to have achieved a record score in the short program and I would like to set records also in the free skating and total score, but so far this is just a dream. For the Grand Prix Final, my goal is as always to skate clean and to improve my technical score and my second mark.”
Rika Kihira from Japan won the silver medal with 231.84 points. Like Kostornaia, she opened her short program with a very good triple Axel, followed by a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop in the same quality. Skating to the oriental song with guitar named “Breakfast in Baghdad“, her triple loop was a bit shaky, spins and steps however, dynamic and excellent. She commented: “In today's program I was able to land all jumps, and I was able to gain high points, so I think it was a good step towards tomorrow's free program. “I believe today's triple Axel was a one of the best ones I've done even compared to my practices here. I might try a quadruple Salchow in tomorrow‘s free program.”
But this jump did not work well in the morning practice, therefore she did not try it in the free to a medley of five different music pieces which she called “International Angel of Peace“. Instead, she started with an excellent triple Salchow, followed by two very good triple Axels, the first one with a double toe loop. Three good triple jumps came next, only the triple toe loop after the second flip was under-rotated. Everything else was excellent, but because of pain in her foot she did not try any triple Lutz. She said: “I was able to concentrate almost fully and I was able to give a close to perfect performance, so I'm happy about that. But there were small mistakes. It was a tough competition and I believe that for the Grand Prix Final it's going to be even tougher.“
The 2018 Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova claimed the bronze medal, accumulating 217.99 points. She has neither a triple Axel nor any quad in her repertoire, but she got the highest components because she can interpret better and more convincingly although if she is only one or two years older than her teammates in the Grand Prix. In the short program to “Me Voy“ by Jasmin Levy, her triple Lutz was a bit shaky, her double Axel very good, but in her combination, she could add only an invalid single loop to the triple flip. Although everything else was excellent, she had around 18 points less in the short than Kostornaia.
In the free skate she moved up from fourth to third place because she made no big mistake at all. Skating in the role of Cleopatra to three music pieces with Middle Eastern flair, six triple jumps were excellent, including the combination of triple Lutz and triple loop which had not worked in the short program. Only a triple flip was under-rotated. Everything else was excellent, and her interpretation even outstanding. Therefore the highest components with an average of 9.2 were justified, only a 10.0 was missing. She said: “After the short program I was upset of course, but I pulled myself together for the free skating thanks to my coaches that found the right words. In the program, I was just thinking from one element to the next what I need to do.” All three medalists qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Torino, Italy.
Yuhana Yokoi from Japan finished on fourth position with 189.54 points. In the short program to the Japanese TV series „Ten Dark Women“ she almost fell on the triple flip. The double Axel was good, but for the triple Lutz of her combination with a triple toe loop she got a small edge warning. In her free program to „The Phantom of the Opera“ by Andrew Lloyd Webber, all of her performed five triple jumps were good and therefore she moved up from eighth to fourth position, but she doubled the first Lutz and a toe loop.
The third Japanese skater Mako Yamashita came fifth with 189.25 points. In her short program the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was safe and good, the double Axel as well and the triple loop a bit tight. In the free program five triple jumps got plus points, among them another combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. The triple flip had a small edge warning and she doubled a toe loop which was planned triple. Her components were only around 7.5 because her style is not world class.
The third Russian lady Sofia Samodurova placed sixth, earning 183.27 points. She was in a better shape than in the early fall. In her short program, the triple toe loop after the triple flip was under-rotated, the triple loop and the double Axel good however. In her free program, three triple jumps were good but three others under-rotated and the triple Lutz had a small edge warning, but at least she did not fall. Coach Alexei Mishin complained about the Technical Jury but videos in slow motion revealed that the jury was right. Eunsoo Lim from South Korea is seventh with 172.47 points. She fell hard on the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz, and both jumps were under-rotated. In the free program, she went down hard on both triple Lutzes and made some more smaller mistakes.
Starr Andrews of Lakewood in California finished on eighth position, winning 166.72 points. In the short program, she skated to “You Lost Me“ by Christina Aguilera. Her opening combination of two triple toe loops was very good, the double Axel as well, but she popped the loop which was planned triple. Her music in the free dance was “Salome’s Dance of the Seven Veils“ by Richard Strauss. Only three triple jumps were good, but she went down twice, made two other mistakes and three jumps were under-rotated.
Karen Chen of Colorado Springs placed ninth with 165.70 points. It was a surprise that she was third in the elegant short program to “You Say“ by Lauren Daigle after making no real mistake. Her combination of triple Lutz and double toe loop (a triple was planned) was good, the double Axel and the triple loop excellent as well as the three spins and the step sequence. Her components were around 7.9. She commented: “I put out a really solid performance. Definitely the first jump (combination) hasn't gone the way I hoped it would, but I'm really happy with my scores,” But in the free she dropped to ninth place in spite of a good triple Lutz in the beginning. But later she fell twice and made three other serious mistakes. Kailani Craine from Australia is 10th with 165.45 points. She mainly trains in El Segundo near the airport of Los Angeles, but came without any coach. Her short program combination of triple loop and double toe loop was clean, but she almost fell on the triple Lutz. In the free program, the two loops were the only clean triple jumps. Mae-Berenice Meite from France finished 11th with 159.98 points. In the short she missed her two triple elements, in the long she had four clean triple jumps, but made mistakes on two more. Megan Wessenberg of Revere near Boston ended up last on 12th place, earning only 131.79 points. She fell on her two triple jumps in the short, landed only one triple jump in the free and seemed not to have the Grand Prix standard with components of only 6.4.
Beside the three medalists of the NHK Trophy, Alexandra Trusova, Anna Shcherbakova and Bradie Tennell qualified for the Grand Prix Final. First alternate is Satako Miyahara.