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Grand Prix Final Junior Ladies

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany





(19 December 2022) Three Japanese and three South Korean skaters competed in the Women’s Junior Final 2022 in Turin. The general level was very good, there were no falls at all among the top five of the six skaters. Mao Shimada from Japan won the event with 205.54 points. Skating her short program to the soundtrack of “Lion King”, she performed an excellent triple loop, followed by an impressive double Axel. In her combination, the triple Lutz before the triple toe loop got a q for a small under-rotation. Two of the three spins were outstanding, the Change Foot Combination Spin even had five GOEs of +5. The step sequence was very good and her components were around 7.7. She said, “Right after the performance I thought I skated well, but after checking the protocol the marks were low and the steps were level 3. So I regret it and want to do better next time. I might go over 70 points. I heard the support from the crowd and saw the Japanese flags and it made me happy.”

Her first element in her free program was a triple Axel, but she stepped out and touched down. Next was a quad toe loop, which she landed on one foot, but under-rotated it. Seven more triples followed, five of which were at least good and two had a q. Her three spins and the choreo step sequence were excellent. Her components had an average of 7.8.

She explained, “My goal was to nail the first two jumps and I can’t say it was the best performance. But I think I skated pretty good, so I’m quite happy. I am too young to participate in the 2026 Games, so my goal is 2030. The age really is not an issue, what I need to do will not change no matter how old I am. So there will be some years till I am a senior, I can do some consecutive competitions.” She also talked about Mao Asada, “Asada has always been my inspiration and idol. I want to skate like Mao, her skating brings smile to everyone’s faces and her amazing achievements at the Olympic Games - I want to be a skater like her.”

Jia Shin from South Korea had been second at Junior Worlds 2022 and won the silver medal with 200.32 points. Skating to “The Giving” by Michael W. Smith, she performed a clean short program with an excellent combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, a very good double Axel and a convincing (required) triple loop. Everything else was very good as well and her components were around 7.6. She explained, “My goal was to skate two clean programs. I did it, so I am happy. I don’t count points. I was brave and had a new experience. Competing is fun for me.”

Shin’s free program to “Tree of Life” by Italian composer Roberto Cacciapaglia was also more or less clean. It contained two double Axel, six very good triple jumps and a flip with a small edge warning. Spins and choreo step sequence were remarkable as well and her components around 7.4. She said, “Before the start I was really nervous. But at the time I started the nervousness was released and then step by step I performed and then finished well. Before coming here I had a national competition in Korea, just several days ago, so I was really tired but it's OK. I performed well there.”

Shin’s teammate Chaeyeon Kim is third with 190.36 points. She had the same elements as the winner and also a q on the triple Lutz. Her steps and spins in the short program to “Everybody Knows” by Norwegian singer Sigrid were excellent and her components around 7.6. She said, “It wasn’t perfect. I feel so-so about it.” In her free program to “Poeta” by Vincent Amigo her first four triples were good, but the three last triples not a hundred per cent correct. She commented, “It was not a hundred per cent clean for me. But overall I brought a clean program and I was grateful for being able to come to this final Grand Prix stage. This morning my condition was bad, so I was worried. I got a stomach ache. I feel better now. Like Jia I also did not integrate the triple Axel nor a quad in my programs this season, but I am trying in the future. Olympic Champion Yuna Kim was the very first reason I started skating and she had the textbook technique. So I often watch her programs to learn and she is my role model. I want to follow her path.”

Ami Nakai from Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, sits on fourth position with 189.23 points. In her short program to “I Got Rhythm” by George Gershwin, she had the same elements as the winner, but her GOEs were lower, mainly +1 and +2. Spins and step sequence were very good and all had level 4. Her components were around 7.3. She explained, “I was nervous about performing on such a big venue. But I think it was good that I was able to complete all three jumps. This time I planned to jump the triple Axel once. With my chances getting considerably higher, I want to land it at tomorrow’s free skate.”

The next day, she kept her promise and began her free program to the musical “Miss Saigon” with a triple Axel, but under-rotated it a bit. Five good triples followed and two more who were not clean. Everything else was at least good. Her components were around 6.7. She explained, “It was very good that I was able to land all my jumps and in terms of how it looked, it was great too. I was confident in my triple Axel since I was able to land it in practice, but I had a q mark, so that was most disappointing. Overall, while I had some small mistakes, I was able to land all my jumps. So now I think I had a satisfying performance.”

The third South Korean skater Minsol Kwon placed fifth with 175.43 points. In her short program to the “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saens, her triple loop was under-rotated and one spin a bit shaky, but everything else good, including a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. Her components were around 6.8. She said, “I was a little nervous, it was not my best, but it was good. The highlight was the step sequence.”

In her free program to the musical “Cats”, five of the seven triples were clean and two not totally. Spins and steps were O.K. She commented, “I’m really satisfied with today’s performance and I’m really pleased. I really liked choreographies and I feel I presented them all well. I’m happy for that.”

Hana Yoshida from Kyoto in Japan ended up sixth with 158.30 points. In her short program to “Dog Days Are Over” by Florence and the Machine, the double Axel and the triple loop were impressive, the spins and steps good. But she fell on the triple Lutz of her combination and could not add the triple toe loop which she had planned. Her components had an average of 7.5. She commented, “Although I made a mistake I tried to enjoy the performance today. I’m a bit sad, but tomorrow I will do all I can to go back. Concerning the triple Lutz, I was a bit quick and my axis was off. The coach said right before the competition not to rush into anything and to believe in myself.”

She opened her free skate to “Uranus” and to “Mercury” by Gustav Holst and to “Princess Leia’s Theme” by John Williams with a triple Axel, but it was under-rotated and she went down. Three triple jumps were good, but the triple flip got an edge call, she popped the Lutz and in her last combination, the triple Salchow and the triple toe loop had a q. She stated, “To be honest, it was very disappointing, but I didn't give up until the end, so it was good. I did it with strong feelings until the end, but the fact that I made one mistake where I couldn't land is very painful. You definitely can't win if both short and free isn't up there, and the other junior athletes really don't make mistakes. I also thought I want to be strong to be able to show what I have practiced at the competition. To skate at the Grand Prix Final with joy was a dream to me, so I’m very happy that I skated here. I wasn't really nervous and wanted to enjoy this event from the bottom of my heart. It was a good kind of excitement. But I felt my weakness. There’s less than two weeks until Nationals. So I want to show everything I can do there and do my best to win against myself.”