by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(12 December 2022) Men’s programs are often full of mistakes because of many quads. But this was no problem at the free program of the Grand Prix Final in Turin, on the contrary. The general level was very high because five of the six skaters made no big mistakes at all. There was only one fall in the whole competition.
No surprise that reigning world champion Shoma Uno won the event with 304.46 total points. Skating to modern versions of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air” and other Christian music pieces. He opened his free program with three excellent quads, a loop, a Salchow and a flip. His triple Axel was a bit deeply landed and later his combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop was very good. But he landed his second quad toe loop a bit on two feet. His last jumping element was a very good combination of triple Axel and double Axel. His spins were excellent and his two step sequences outstanding with several GOEs of +5. His components were around 9.3 with two 9.75 as highest ones.
He commented, “I'm happy about winning and just looking at the people who have been supporting me in explosive joy that made me feel very lucky. And I think everything that I trained for I was able to crystallized in a competition here today. But at the same time I feel that there is a lot of room to grow. So going into my next competition I want to make sure that I can increase the level of my performance. My skates fit very well right now. It's almost two years I have been wearing them. So it's about time I have to change my skates, maybe after Nationals I'll take enough time to break into my new skates. But to be honest that's a little bit of a concern for me. I don’t know how emotional I will be at Nationals, but all four Japanese skaters who took part in this Final will be at Nationals. It will be very tough in terms of how we have a better condition because it’s such a short time from this competition.”
Sota Yamamoto, also from Japan, won the silver medal with 274.35 points. He had been eighth of last year’s Japanese Nationals and never taken part in any ISU championships. In Turin, he began his free program with a very good quad Salchow, followed by a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by an excellent second quad toe loop. His combination of triple Axel, Euler and triple Salchow was good as well. The second triple Axel got a q for being nearly under-rotated, his triple Lutz had a small edge warning and his combination of triple flip and double Axel was good again. His spins and step sequences were excellent and his components around 7.5.
He said, “This time I was able to put exactly what I've been training for at the competition. So I'm really happy about that. Being on the podium was also one of my goals, so achieving that also made me feel very happy. For me at this Grand Prix Final I was not in a position of challenging Shoma, so I wasn’t really felling nervous. I just wanted to put out everything I could and that’s exactly what I did.”
The new 18-year-old U.S. star Ilia Malinin of Reston, Virginia, moved up from fifth place to the bronze position, earning 271.94 total points with the second best free program. Competing to the soundtrack of “Euphoria”, he started with a good quad Axel, the fourth time he landed it in competition. His quad flip and his first quad toe loop were excellent, his quad Salchow good and his three combinations in the second half good again, including one with quad toe loop, Euler and triple Salchow (with a q) and his last jumping element with triple flip and triple Axel. His spins all had level 3, his step sequences good, but he had no Lutz and no level 4 spin.
He explained, “I'm just very glad that I'm here after all these years. I really wanted to go to the Grand Prix Final and now that I'm here I definitely work my way hopefully trying to see a lot of growth and developing of my skating. I think that for me the quad Axel, the most difficult part is just being confident, being brave enough to really attempt the jump. I think that I feel that I was physically ready for the jump for a long time that I think I couldn't get it over that mental barrier. Once I got over that fence I really started feeling more confident in myself and started being able to go for it and really rotate it. I think that overtime I get used to landing it a lot and I think that I'll get the muscle memory and hopefully I'll be landing it a lot more consistently. It was a great experience here competing with all the other athletes and I just had a really fun time here and enjoyed watching. They inspire me and I hope inspire them, too. I took out all the Lutzes because it hurt when I was doing Lutzes. I think it helped, because I'm not putting so much force on this leg and I think that with now that this is over I have a little bit of time before the next competition, I can take a little bit of a break.”
18-year-old Shun Sato from Japan finished fourth with 250.16 points. He performed a clean program with a good quad Lutz, two excellent quad toe loops and five good triple jumps. Spins and steps were good, but his components lower (around 7.3) because he does not interpret so much. He said, “I was able to skate calmly and bring out a performance of what I can do. I had a day off after the short program, so I was able to relax. I will continue to improve and work on my skating abilities.”
17-year-old Kao Miura from Japan came fifth with 245.74 points. He tripled the loop which was planned quadruple. His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was excellent, but he landed the quad Salchow a bit deep. Later he popped a toe loop, which was planned quadruple. After a very good triple Axel he repeated the quad toe loop, but fell. Spins and steps were good, his components around 7.9. He commented, “I didn't nail the jumps, I wasn't good in expressing my program. I learned about my weaknesses, so I want to train more and give it all. I never want to make this experience again.”
Daniel Grassl from Italy ended up sixth, earning 244.97 points. He skated with less speed than usually because he was sick. Nevertheless he landed a quad Lutz, a quad flip and a quad loop, a triple Axel, and five other triple jumps. But he got three small edge warning for his Lutzes and two quads got a q. He said, “I had a very strong fever and also I was very sick so this competition was very difficult for me. Most of it, I really cried before the program because I really didn’t want to do it because I was feeling too bad. Now I am very happy about how I fought.”