by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(11 December 2022) The Women’s short program at the Grand Prix Final in Turin had an excellent level.
World Champion Kaori Sakamoto from Japan, who had not been very good in the competitions this season, took the lead with 75.86 points. She is mainly coached by Sonoko Nakano, her chorographer in this season was Rohene Ward. All her seven elements to Janet Jackson’s songs “Rock With U” and “Feedback” were excellent, including a double Axel, a triple flip and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Her step sequence had a level 4 and GOEs of mainly +4. Her components had an average of 8.9 because of her high speed and her elegance. She commented, “I’m quite glad that I was able to perform my best this season. I really didn’t think Janet Jackson would ever even notice me, it was a panic for me. Going through my daily life, I end up thinking a lot in the negative, such as when my practices don’t go well.”
Mai Mihara, also from Japan, sits second with 74.58 points. In her short program to the music of “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” by Ryuichi Sakamoto, she had the same very good elements as Sakamoto, GOEs of +3 dominated as well and her components were around 8.7. She is also coached by Sonoko Nakano and said, “I was so nervous, but I was able to skate to the end I’m very happy to be here. Today I didn’t realize until right before my performance that I was going to skate last in this event. When I saw that I was quite surprised and suddenly became nervous. I skated while thinking that a lot of people are watching and that the banners are wonderful. Although there were some dangerous parts with my jumps, I was able to not lose my focus until the end. I want to be on the podium with Kaori and she is also always working hard and it made me want to work harder a lot of times as well.”
Loena Hendrickx from Belgium is on third position with 74.24 points with less than two points to the first place. Her double Axel and her triple flip were excellent, but in her jump combination, the triple Lutz like the triple toe loop got a q for being nearly under-rotated, therefore the elements had GOEs of -2 and -3. Her three spins were absolutely outstanding, her step sequence as well and even had a few GOEs of +5. She is coached by her brother Jorik Hendrickx and her music was “Si Mama” by Romanian singer Inna and “Mi Gente” by Beyonce.
She explained, “It’s nice to be here again, I have good memories of this rink. It wasn’t perfect, the combination wasn’t clean, but the rest was good. Last year I won the short program on my birthday in this very rink and then became third overall and it was my first real big medal ISU medal. It meant so much to me and that’s when my career really started with medals. I think it gave me so much confidence and it’s super to be here again and skate again. I know I have to work on my triple-triple in the second half, it’s the first year I’m doing it. My short is a totally different style and I’m happy that the judges like it. The music, I wanted to do something different, that is not used to skated to in the ladies event and that’s why we came with the Latin we were searching for weeks. We sent it to my composer, he mixed it with another song and that’s how it became this song and I’m very happy with that.”
The third Japanese skater Rinka Watanabe placed fourth with 72.58 points. She trains in Chiba, a suburb of Tokyo, is coached by Kensuke Nakaniwa and skated to the famous “Tango de Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge. She was the only skater to try and land a triple Axel in the short program which got a q for nearly being under-rotated. But she collected 7.43 points with this element, almost three more than those women with an excellent double Axel. Her combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was good, her triple loop very good. Like Mihara and Hendrickx, she had four level 4 spins and steps in excellent quality, but her components were lower and had an average of 7.9.
She commented, “At first I didn't know what is it like the Final. Before Skate Canada I went without any expectation and got the result. I happen to win that competition. Going into the NHK Trophy was a lot of pressure. I just try to forget everything and just coming here and skate like myself. I thought the scoring was pretty strict. I was thinking it would be good as long as I had the points, going over the score of 66. But to get 72 points was so unexpected. I also think it was really good to be able to successfully land the triple Axel, maybe for the first time in this competition. I came here as the sixth skater in this competition so I really had nothing to lose and didn’t have any pressure. I was able to skate comfortably and show a performance that’s like myself.”
Reigning Junior World Champion Isabeau Levito of Mount Laurel in New Jersey finished on fifth place with 69.26 points. The most promising U.S. woman skated to “Una noche mas” (One More Night) by Israeli singer Yasmin Levy. Her triple flip and her double Axel were very good, but in her combination the triple Lutz got a small edge warning and her triple toe loop got a q. She pleases the judges and spectators with her balletic style, is only 15 years old at the moment, but lucky to be 16 before July 1 in 2023. Therefore she can continue to compete in seniors. She is mainly coached by Yulia Kuznetsova and her components were around 8.2.
She said, “It's really fun experiencing all this for the first time and especially the fact that it’s in Italy is so cool. My mom was born in Italy, she grew up here and she speaks Italian at home and it's nice to see Italy, it's so beautiful. I speak Italian not perfectly fluent but for the most part yes. I feel emotionally satisfied with how I skated. I know that it definitely could have been somewhat better, but I feel happy. My goal for this is honestly just to absorb the entire experience, to just soak up the experience and to be able to look back and think “wow, I had so much fun at this event, I learned so much from this event, I did well under the circumstances I was in.”
Yelim Kim from South Korea ended up sixth with 61.55 points. She popped her Axel and both jumps of her combination were not completely clean. Her triple flip and her step sequence were very good. She said, “It was not a clean program today, so I am a little sad about this. For my Axel, I think it was my balance at the counter so that’s why I didn’t jump the double Axel today.”