by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(7 December 2018) The short program of the six senior ladies had an excellent level. 16-year-old Rika Kihira from Japan took the lead with 82.51 points, which is a kind of world record. She had won her Grand Prix in Japan and France and combines an excellent style and elegance with very high technical qualities. If she can keep her nerves as well under control as in the short program in Vancouver, she might become the next big Japanese star who can beat all other ladies in the world. Before beginning her short program, she and her coach Mie Hamada put their forehead against each other’s in order to get the mental strength of the coach to the skater’s brain. Skating to “Clair de Lune” by Claude Debussy, she opened her short program with an excellent triple Axel, which still is very rare among ladies. This element brought her 10.51 points, almost six more than an excellent double Axel. Her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was very good as well, and the triple Lutz with two arms over her head even outstanding. Two of her three spins and the step sequence were excellent as well, one spin a bit weaker. For three elements she got one or the other GOE of +5. The components were around 8.8.
She commented: “I was extremely surprised when I saw that score of 82.51 because it was not a score that I would have imagined would ever come up. Right now I’m just really happy. I was able to perform very calmly. When I first got on the ice today, I was not really too conscious about being on this team at the Grand Prix Final. I was really focused on doing my own performance and really keeping my jumps. So I was not really tense and not in a very good state. The score was much higher than I had imagined, but I will go back and look at the judges’ scores to see where there is room for improvement. I started jumping the triple Axel earlier last year in practice. I got used to having that practice and was able to land the jump successfully in competition.”
Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova also skated a faultless short program to “The Phantom of the Opera” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and finished second with 77.93 points. But she did not look as relaxed and self-confident as usually. She could not sleep much the night before because of the jetlag of 11 hours, she had fallen asleep in the hotel after her morning practice and woke up only five or ten minutes before her bus to the rink was supposed to leave. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple loop was very good, the double Axel good and the triple flip excellent. Spins and steps were very good but not as sovereign as Kihira’s elements. Her components were around 9.0 which was a bit too high due to her reputation as Olympic Champion.
“Today I felt a little tense, very focused and I was nervous”, she explained. “It’s the reason I was not able to show the maximum, but I am glad I was able to pull myself together. I guess I was just nervous, it all comes from the head. All these thoughts are on your mind how to do well, but you just have to go and do it. I try not to pay attention to other skaters’ performances so I did not watch Rika. I knew she does the triple Axel, we’ve competed against other back in juniors and I congratulate her. I didn’t skate so cleanly and I can skate better.”
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia, the 2015 World Champion, is ranked third in the short program with 70.65 points. Performing to “Assassin’s Tango”, she tried the triple Axel, but overturned the jump which was under-rotated. Her combination of triple toe loop and triple toe loop was high and good, the triple Lutz, spins and step sequence as well. She was a bit slow and had components of around 8.1.
She explained: “I am happy that I did the combination and the triple Lutz after not so good triple Axel and I am so happy that I landed the triple Axel. I am not as fresh because of the jetlag as I was during previous performances. Despite being tired, I fought and this was probably one of the most difficult performances for me in this season. I am very happy to be back in the Final, this is a big accomplishment. But the biggest competition will be Russian Championships.”
Kaori Sakamoto from Japan is on fourth position, earning 70.23 points after a faultless program. Her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, her triple loop and her double Axel were excellent. She said: “A place like this in the Final challenges me to overcome my problems. If I successfully compete in a competition like this, I will be able to gain confidence for the Nationals that is coming up soon.”
Sofia Samodurova from Russia sits fifth with 68,24 points after a flawless performance with seven good elements. “This is the best result in this season’s short program, therefore I am happy”, she said.
Satoko Miyahara from Japan ended up sixth with 67.52 points. Her small triple Lutz was shaky and under-rotated, therefore she could not add a second jump. After her triple loop she added a double toe loop, but her spins were as excellent as usual. She explained: “It was not a good performance at all. Since I came here, I wasn’t able to land my jumps successfully.”