by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(10 December 2018) The Senior Ladies Free Program had a good level. All six ladies mainly did not have problems, and landed the five triple jumps and triple-triple combinations which they usually perform. Only the triple Axels were a problem for the two who tried them.
The result is nevertheless a bit unexpected because Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova from Russia was only second. The winner with 233.12 points is 16-year-old Rika Kihira from Japan. Competing to “Beautiful Storm“ by American pianist and composer Jennifer Thomas, Kihira twice tried the triple Axel which had helped her to win the short program. But she stepped out of the first Axel which was landed forward and therefore downgraded. Her second Axel, however, was good and combined with a double toe loop, which brought her 11.36 points. Six more high triple jumps were excellent and got mainly GOEs of +4. Her spins and step sequences were very impressive as well, and her components around 9.1.
She said: “On my first Axel I had a mistake, but I was able to regroup after that. I was able to change from being in a state of nervousness to a state of concentration, so I was glad I was able to do that today. I think the reason I'm able to have good results this season is because the past two seasons, I had many failures. I promised myself that I would remember them and never repeat those mistakes again. I was able to have good practices throughout, so I was trying to replicate what I did in practices in competition.“
Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova of the Tutberidze school won the silver medal with 216.03 overall points. After warming up for six minutes she walked back to wait for her turn. She stumbled over a TV cable backstage and folded her foot. But she did not want to give up, cooled it with ice and came back to compete to Carmen. After a double Axel she did the first triple Lutz, but could add only a single toe loop instead of a triple one. She clenched her teeth and showed the rest of the program without any mistakes, including with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple loop and three more triple jumps. Her spins and steps were excellent and her components around 9.1.
“I was happy that I was able to pull myself together after the mistake and skate the rest of the program clean”, she explained. “The first senior season is easier than the second one because there are no expectations. Now there are more expectations and I have to deal with my nerves. I am not too happy about my performance because my goal is to skate clean. I also felt that I was tense. After reading the comments in different social media, I want to try not to read them any more, but it doesn’t necessarily work. Sometimes you come across them unintentionally. Some of them make me angry and this is what makes me try harder.”
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, a student of Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg in Russia, won the bronze medal with 215.32 points, close to Zagitova. She overturned the triple Axel, but all other elements were clean, including seven other good triple jumps. Her components had an average of 8.3.
She said: “I'm really happy today because I skated really good for myself. We increased the program’s difficulty level and I was able to keep up with those changes. I am glad that the audience enjoyed my skate. My Axel showed me that I am in good form because it turned out to be very strong and high. But because of that it was a bit harder coming out of it. The rest of the program, however, went very smoothly. I will now be more confident at Russian Nationals. My goal is to perform there well and get selected to the World and the European Championships. Eight years ago, my first Final all seemed easy for me, I wasn't really thinking about anything. It was a new life and I just enjoyed it. I'm in good condition now, because I’ve been going through many ups and downs. I realized that I should not compete against others but just enjoy competing.“
Kaori Sakamoto from Japan finished on fourth position, earning 211.68 points. Skating to the soundtrack of „The Piano“, she performed a free program with six very good triple jumps, but had a fall on the third jump of her combination of double Axel, triple toe loop and double toe loop. In regard of her smooth style, her components were around 8.5. She commented: "While I made a mistake, the fact that I got such a score is very good. I went into the first flip and toe loop with as much enthusiasm, so it was landed really cleanly. For the Salchow, my knee couldn’t support it very well, so I’m glad that I did it and it’s over. I’ve been in the Final before when I was in Juniors. At that time, I lost to my nerves. I ended up crying before the competition. I learned from that experience and was able to focus myself. So I think I’ve grown a bit.”
Sofia Samodurova, like Tutkamysheva from Russia and a student of Alexei Mishin, is fifth with 204.33 points. She had a clean free program with seven good triples, two double axel and three combinations. She has a less elegant, but more extroverted style and signalized the spectators with her hands to clap to the rhythm of the soundtrack of “Burlesque”. She said: “My achievements are the result of my coaches and the work that we have done. I am happy I was able to collect myself during the performance. Today I did everything to the maximum.”
World bronze medalist Satoko Miyahara from Japan ended up sixth and last with 201.31 points. She always excels by her elegant style, but some mistakes prevented a higher placement. Her first triple Lutz was under-rotated and her second one downgraded. Although she jumps a bit higher than last season, her jumps still look tiny and therefore do not get high GOEs. Her spins and steps, however, were excellent. The layback spin at the end even got GOEs of +5 from all nine judges and her components were around 8.7. She explained: “Compared to the short, there were parts that weren’t the best, but I think I did well in recovering after the mistake(s). But overall, it was a frustrating competition for me.”