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Grand Prix Final Senior Ladies Free Skate

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



(12 December 2022) The womenís free skating at the Grand Prix Final had an unusually low level. All six participants made more than one mistake, which normally happens more often in menís competitions.

Mai Mihara from Japan, who has never participated in World Championships and never been to a Grand Prix Final, won this event with 208.17 points. Skating to ďEl Amor BrujoĒ by Manuel de Falla, she began with a very good double Axel, followed by a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, a good triple Salchow and a triple flip which got a small edge warning. Later she performed a combination of double Axel and triple toe loop, but under-rotated the toe loop. Her combination of triple flip, double toe loop and double loop was good, but then she fell on a loop which was planned triple but executed only double and under-rotated. Her spins and her step sequences were excellent and her components around 8.4. Like the world champion Sakamoto, she is coached by Sonoko Nakano.

She said, ďItís surprising for me, itís unbelievable and Iím so happy to be here after the skate here and Iím so grateful to the audience. I didnít have that much confidence, but my coach said that Iím the one who came with 30 points from two Grand Prix victories. My feeling was how I couldnít make it to the podium till now and I suffered with the situation so I really practiced hard. Kaori (Sakamoto) and I, we have been practicing together since we were novice skaters and I have been watching her all through very closely for all her practices and I love her dynamic jumps and the power she brings to skating. Towards the end my right leg felt heavy and this is why I missed the loop. The program was not perfect and there are parts I could do better.Ē

U.S. skater Isabeau Levito of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, won the silver medal with 197.23 points after being fifth in the short program. Therefore she is the first U.S. woman to be on the podium of a Grand Prix Final since Ashley Wagner did in 2014. Interpreting the Russian folk Waltz ďMy Sweet and Tender BeastĒ by Eugen Doha, Levito started with a shaky combination of triple Lutz and triple loop which got GOEs between -1 and -5. Her triple toe loop and her triple flip were as good as the two double Axels. After a combination of triple Lutz, Euler and triple Salchow, she fell on the second triple flip and could not add a combination. Her spins and steps were excellent and she has a very elegant style in spite of her young age of only 15. Her components were around 8.1. World champion Kaori Sakamoto is one of her idols and Levito was shocked to beat her.            

She admitted, ďIím very shocked when I was done with my program. I didnít expect to be in the placement I am now. Not exactly happy with myself I made some obvious mistakes and Iím not happy with how I skated today. Iím still not realizing it yet. Itís so amazing and Iím so proud. The tension is very high and everyone was understandably nervous. The one mistake takes points away. But the stuff that is easy or might feel easy compared to the hard things together adds up points and thatís what makes the overall main score. I have to keep that in mind itís the small things that I can do well. Itís the best of the best here. For me itís my first Grand Prix Final and my first season as a senior.Ē

Loena Hendrickx from Belgium, second at Worlds 2022, won the bronze medal with 196.35 points, but she skated far from her best. Performing to ďHeavenĒ and to ďFallen AngelĒ, both by Karl Hugo, she began her routine with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but she stepped out on the toe loop which was downgraded. Her double Axel was good, but she went down on the triple flip. Later the second triple Lutz and the triple Salchow were under-rotated, but spins and step sequences outstanding. For her layback spin with a Biellmann part, she even had two GOEs of +5. Her components were around 8.4. 

She commented, ďIím shocked about the results today and also Iím really disappointed about my skate today. I know I can do better and of course Iím happy I am still in third place. I think this morning practice gave me too much confidence and I felt ready for the competition tonight and I have no idea on for my skate tonight. Maybe the nerves were too high. I wanted to skate both programs clean but it didn't happen and it really sucks and I'm really sad about this, a bit angry as well.Ē

20-year-old Rinka Watanabe from Chiba in Japan finished fourth with 196.01 points. She had been tenth at Junior Worlds 2022, but has never been at ISU senior championships and this was her first Grand Prix season. She was the only skater to try a triple Axel, but stepped out and it was under-rotated. Four triples were clean, but she fell on the triple Lutz which was downgraded. Her second triple loop was underrotated and her second triple Lutz shaky. She said, ďYesterday it was my first time getting over 70 points for my short program. My short programs always gets a low place. So this was a time where everything was a first time for me. I was kind of nervous today but I think I still did pretty good. I can learn from today and after Nationals.Ē

Reigning World champion Kaori Sakamoto from Japan is only fifth with 192.56 points although she had won the short program. After an outstanding double Axel, which got three GOEs of +5, she stepped out of the triple Lutz. She doubled the toe loop after the triple flip. Her second flip was only double and shaky and near the end she popped the triple loop. Her second double toe loop in a combination had no points because she had performed two double toe loop before, and more than two are not allowed. Her components were around 8.3. She admitted, ďI made mistakes at the part I already didn't succeed in my practice. With only six skaters competing, it's very close and you cannot allow yourself to do mistakes, but I did. That's very frustrating and led to this result.Ē

Yelim Kim from South Korea ended up sixth with 180.58 points. She went down on her first element, a triple Lutz, and could not add a combination. The next three triple jumps were good, but later all three jumps of her combination triple Lutz, double toe loop and double loop were not correctly landed and her last jump, the triple Salchow was under-rotated. She said, ďIíve made a mistake on the triple Lutz. But I think it was okay. My first Grand Prix Final experience was pretty. A long time ago my dream was to join the senior Grand Prix Final. Iíve made it so Iím really happy about that.Ē