by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(11 December 2019) Four teenage ladies from the Russian school of Eteri Tutberidze qualified for the Grand Prix Final 2019 in the Olympic rink from 2006 in Torino, plus one Japanese and one American lady.
The domination of young Russian teenagers in the six Grand Prix also continued at the Final because there was a medal sweep. The three skaters who were first at all six Grand Prix, also won the three medals in Italy. But it turned that it is not only a question of who does most quads. The jury took good decisions and made Alena Kostornaia the winner with 247.59 points, which is a new world record. She had no quads in her program at all, but she is a complete skater, has a very elegant style, lands most of her triple jumps with good flow after the landing and performed two clean programs with three triple axels.
The 16-year-old skater performed to “Departure“ from the soundtrack of “The Leftovers“ and to “November“, both by Max Richter. Opening her program with an outstanding triple Axel which brought her 10.97 points and had one GOE of +5, she continued with a very good triple Lutz and a stellar combination of triple flip and triple toe loop (two arms above her head on the toe loop, two GOEs of +5). Her three spins and her step sequence were also excellent and her components had an average of 9.0. This would even be a bit higher if she had not drawn to skate first. 85.45 points for the short program were another world record. She commented: “I’m very happy because I did my best, I tried to skate my program clean and I enjoyed it. When I step out on the ice I don’t think about numbers, I just do what I do and after that the judges decide. In our team, we skate together every day so it’s nothing new. We know exactly how each other train and it really makes the whole atmosphere feel like home. Each coach in our team finds the right words to motivate us for success.“
Being almost six points ahead, Kostornaia started her free program with a good combination of triple Axel and double toe loop, followed by an excellent triple Axel. Her six other triple jumps and a double Axel were outstanding, especially the elegant landings. Several of them had some GOEs of +5. Her spins and the step sequences also got high GOEs and her components were around 9.2. Her music choice was “The Meadow“ from the soundtrack of “New Moon“, “Eyes on Fire“ from the soundtrack of “Twilight“ and “Supermassive Black Hole“ by Muse. “First I am very happy that everything worked out as I planned and I managed to skate clean again“, she said. “Of course having so many people in the ice rink helped me to do this. This whole season has been very unexpected for me, I was able to learn a new element and include it right away and I didn’t really expect that. I don’t think there’s any big difference if it’s with lyrics or without. Sometimes it’s easier with lyrics because I know which element to do on which word.“
15-year-old Anna Shcherbakova, who was Russian Champion last year, won the silver medal with 240.92 points. After an outstanding double Axel and a convincing triple flip she performed a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple loop. Two spins were absolutely stellar, the third one very good and the step sequence as well. She skated to the soundtrack of “The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer“ and her components were around 8.6 (in both programs). She explained: “I am in a very good mood after that skate, I felt very happy doing everything today. All practices had been really good so I could go into the program very calm and I am completely happy with everything I did today. They say you can’t win a competition on the short program but you can lose it, so this is a good starting point. My short program has had some problems so we have worked a lot on it to clean it up and get the most points we can for it. We wanted to make sure we had no problem with the combination.“
In her free program, which had .51 more points than Kostornaia’s free program, Shcherbakova used Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne No 1“ and Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird. She had a costume change from Blue to Red at the moment when the main theme of the Firdbird started. She opened her program with a very good combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop, but fell on the quad flip. The second quad Lutz was under-rotated. In the second half she did two triple-triple combinations and a triple Lutz, all of them in excellent quality. Her two spins near the end and the step sequence were other highlights. She said: “Overall I’m happy with my skate and result today. There’s a little sadness I didn’t get to do my quad flip, I tried it for the first time. I really wanted to do it and I hope I can next time. I wasn’t thinking about placements but just what I could show and what I could do, but of course getting as high placement as possible is nice and also important.“
Alexandra Trusova won the bronze medal, earning 233.18 points. She was the first girl in her school to land quads. People who request a raise of the age limit for seniors mainly think of her. She has no elegant style and mainly runs from jump to jump. But those observers forget that Oksana Baiul, Tara Lipinski and Sarah Hughes were also only 15 or 16 years old when they won the Olympic Games. Shcherbakova, and especially Alena Kostornaia have an excellent style. When Evgenia Medvedeva and Alena Zagitova came on the big stage, they were also criticized. Two years later they have the best style. Who knows if they had not finished their career after being blocked? In the USA, many people changed their mind after U.S. skater Alysa Liu performed a triple Axel and a quad Lutz and will be eligible fort he Olympic Games of 2022.
For the first time in a competition, Trusova tried a triple Axel, but she fell in the short program on an under-rotated version. Her triple flip was excellent and the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop as well. The other elemens were very good, but the music from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt seemed independent from her skating. She should have received lower components than 8.2. She explained: “I’ve been landing the triple Axel more or less consistently for the last week and we decided to put it into the program at this competition. You have to start doing new elements somewhere, so we decided to do it here. In general I’m pleased with my performance, I managed to rotate this jump. The fall is not that awful because it’s my first attempt. I like to risk and without risking I wouldn’t achieve what I have by this moment.“
She opened her free program with a very good quad flip. Therefore she is the first woman to land this jump in a competition ever. Then she popped the Salchow, landed a very good quad Lutz and a combination of double Axel and triple toe loop. Later she performed a good sequence of quad toe loop, Euler and triple Salchow plus two more triples, but fell on the second quad toe loop. “The quad flip was one of the main goals for this event and I’m glad that I did it and I’m also happy with bronze“, she said.
Rika Kihira from Japan, Grand Prix Final winner a year ago, is fourth with 216.47 points. In the short, she landed the triple Axel on two feet and fell on the triple toe loop after the triple flip. In the free program, she tried the quad Salchow for the first time, but went down. The first triple Axel was under-rotated, but six other triples were very good.
Bradie Tennell of the Chicago area finished on fifth place with 212.18 points. She began her short program a bit slow with a combination of triple Lutz and an under-rotated triple toe loop. The other six elements were excellent and had mainly GOEs of +3 and +4. The components were around 8.6, but she lacked a bit of emotions. She commented: “Overall I’m a bit disappointed. I was a little hesitant going into the Lutz combo and I think that’s why it was under-rotated. But then I settled in and there was good energy and I’m proud of it.“
In her free, there was no obvious mistake at all. Five triples were very clean, but two under-rotated. She said: “It really feels good, I feel like I went out there and I put everything I had on the line and I’m really proud of that skate. For my first Grand Prix Final I think it was very good.“
Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova from the Tutberidze school had a stellar Spanish short program with seven excellent elements, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, winning 79.60 points. But in the free she dropped from second to sixth place after making several mistakes. She refused to comment on her program.