by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(9 December 2017) The overall level of the Senior Ladies Short Program was very high. All six ladies scored over 70 points, and no one fell or even fully stepped out of any jump, maybe because no ladies tried a triple Axel, and quad jumps are not allowed in a ladies short program . All 18 spins in the competition and all 6 step sequences received a level 4 from the technical panel with the Italian coach Franca Bianconi as Technical Specialist and the Austrian coach Evelyn Rossoukhi-Schneider as Assistant Technical Specialist.
World silver medalists Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada is currently in the lead with 77.04 points after an almost flawless performance to two songs of well-known late French singer Edith Piaf. She always excels with jumps as high as many men’s jumps. She underlined that opinion in her combination of triple flip and triple toe-loop as well as in her triple Lutz which had a small edge call, which means that she would almost have jumped from the wrong edge. The double Axel was very good and the spins and the step sequence excellent and were skated in high speed. Her components were around 9.1, with some 9.5 as highest ones.
Osmond later said: "I'm feeling really good. I felt really controlled and I felt the program was really myself. I really wanted to get another clean program done, because not having a clean program in France really upset me. The crowd was phenomenal, I've never had a bad experience here with the crowd. My long program is my favorite, hopefully I can show a clean one and the crowd enjoys it. Telling myself to be calm was the way to keep myself calm. I just really wanted to enjoy my performance so I told myself to be calm and do what I do in practice, to have fun and enjoy it. That is exactly what I did. When I was younger I had a harder time controlling the elements but this is something that I learnt last year, how to still enjoy myself on the ice but still be in control of what my body was doing.“
15-year-old reigning Junior World Champion Alina Zagitova from the school of Eteri Tutberidze in Russia sits second, earning 76.27 points. After an introductory sequence, her first element was an excellent combination spin, followed by a long and elegant step sequence. Then the first half of the short program was over and she put her three jumps into the second half in order to get more points. But this is no longer a well-balanced program. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple loop (which hardly any other lady in the world can perform correctly) was excellent, then she wobbled a bit on the triple flip, but her double Axel was very good again, as well as the two other spins. She skated in a very friendly style and had components of around 8.8.
She commented: "I am pleased that I was able to deal with my nerves and to finally do my combination jump in the short program. On the flip, I think I relaxed, because I was happy to have done the combination. But the flip itself was not bad. I was more confident than in previous competitions. I skated the short program a lot in practice and with my coaches we discussed many details. We also cut my skirt a bit shorter and it feels better.“
Satoko Miyahara from Japan came as an alternate for World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva who suffers from a stress fracture in her right ankle and cannot train at the moment. She had pain in her leg even before her first Grand Prix in Russia, but did not tell any doctors. Only when some negative articles came up after her second Grand Prix where she made mistakes, she reveiled the secret and let her ankle examine. She will probably also miss Russian Nationals which are between December 20 and 24 in order to get fit perhaps for Europeans in Moscow in mid-January and perhaps for the Olympic Games. She was a member of the Russian delegation which travelled to Lausanne some days ago to the IOC council to make a speech there.
Miyahara is on third position with 74.61 points. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple toe-loop was good, the triple loop and the double Axel as well, but all her jumps have little height and look tiny even if they are correctly landed. Her spins and steps, however, were excellent. She skated to the soundtrack of "Memoirs of a Geisha“ by John Williams and had components with an average of 8.8.
"Since I was the first skater,“ she said, "I was prepared to feel very nervous but I was very calm when I started to skate. This season, I didn't have the Grand Prix Final in my mind, but now that I am here I didn't want to waste this amazing chance that I got. I thought my jumps were better than Skate America and my scores were better as well. I knew if I skated a clean program I will go over 70 points, and I had a clean skate so I was very satisfied. My condition is still not 100%, I still feel I need to practice many things. But as of now, I think I skated the best I can right now. This season I was just focused on bringing my condition back little by little, and I never thought I would make it to the Final. But now that I am here I am very happy and I want to do my very best in both programs.“
Maria Sotskova from Russia is on fourth place with 74.00 points. Skating to Swan Lake by Peter Tchaikovsky, she opened her program with a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Her triple flip and all other elements were very good as well and received mainly GOEs of +2. Her components had an average of 8.5. Spins and steps were fast and had many GOEs of +2. Later she explained: "I am very pleased with my performance today, but we have the free skating tomorrow and I am going to fight there. Today I was nervous and it's quite unusual because usually I am very calm in the Grand Prix Final, you don't have to qualify anywhere, you are already here.“
Wakaba Higuchi from Japan finished on fifth position, winning 73.26 points. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple toe-loop, as well as the double Axel were excellent, whereas the triple flip had a small edge issue. The other elements had a high quality. She said: "I was very nervous before the performance today and felt like I couldn't get my energy into my body. But I was able to skate in the way I wanted, so I enjoyed it today. Today's performance was good, so I will try keeping my emotion and I would like to do my best in the Free Skating how I have practiced so far. At practice both yesterday and today, I felt very differently for my jump because this is my first Grand Prix Final. I made more mistakes and I just focused myself hard to lose my tension in the program and not have the feeling for the jumps that I had in practice.“
The 2012 World Champion Carolina Kostner from Italy is currently sixth with 72.82 points, which is only 4.18 less than the winner. The only reason why she is last is that the jump combination she performed was only triple toe loop and double toe-loop iinstead of two triple jumps, which cost her about three points. Her triple loop and the other elements were very good and her step combination was even outstanding and received eight GOEs of +3.
She skated to the French song "Ne me quitte pas“ (Don’t leave me alone) in a very expressive way and her components were around 9.4 which were the highest components of the whole field. There have never been so many French vocal songs among top skaters and dancers as in this year and never been so few American songs. Does this have political reasons? Some skaters tell us so but do not want to be quoted.
Kostner commented: "I feel a lot of joy even though I did a little mistake that was unnecessary. The rest felt very smooth. In the moment of silence actually you can hear the blade. This is for me figure skating. I could feel the emotion and the connection with the people and this is such a great joy. It’s not only about coming here and do all my jumps, but actually more than that. I was nervous quite a bit. It’s not always the same, sometimes you feel nervous and sometimes not at all.“