By Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(21 November 2017) Contrary to the short program, the ladies free program at the French Grand Prix in Grenoble had a high level with many very good and even flawless programs. The best example is the winner Alina Zagitova from the Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze.
After making two mistakes in the short the 2017 Junior World Champion moved up from fifth place to a clear victory with 213.80 points. All her seven triples were excellent, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop which brought 13.51 points and had mainly GOEs of +2. The three level 4 spins even had some GOEs of +3. The 15-year-old teenager skated to the ballet piece Don Quixote by Leon Minkus in a very friendly, elegant and extroverted style and had components of around 8.7 with one 9.5 as highest one. If she skates two clean programs she is a medal candidate at the Olympic Games.
There is just one points of criticism: She does all her jumps in the second half of the program because this brings her ten per cent higher marks. In the first two minutes she just performs her two excellent and long step sequences and one spin. Therefore the program is not "well balanced“ which the rule requires. The judges could have given her lower components for composition, but only one of the nine seemed to have done that a little bit. And there is no other rule which forbids to perform all jumps in the second half, on the contrary. By introducing this rule, the ISU promotes it even if the rule makers did not think that somebody would take 100 per cent advantage of it.
Later she commented: "I am not very pleased with my Short Program because not everything worked out, but I am pleased with the Free Skating because I did everything to the maximum. The Short Program was on a different day, today was a new day, I started from scratch and tried to go out with a cool head.”
Two years older and a bit less smiling is Maria Sotskova from the other Moscow school of Elena Buianova who had been eighth at the World Championships 2017. She finished in second position with 208.78 points. It is a bit boring for the spectators that she puts one hand over her head during almost every jump. But she takes advantage of another ISU rule which says that this might be a feature for higher GOEs because it is certainly more difficult. Like Zagitova, she made no mistake at all in the free program but performed the usual seven triple jumps plus two double Axels in good or very good quality.
Sotskova skated to "Clair de lune“ by Claude Debussy and because of her size tries to skate a bit like Carolina Kostner. She commented: “Today I am pleased to have skated a clean long program and that I was able to cope with my nerves. It was not the maximum of what I can do, but it was a consistent performance and from there I just want to improve,“ With two second places in Canada and France, she should have reached the Grand Prix Final together with Zagitova who can be sure after two first places.
Kaetlyn Osmond from Canada could not keep the first position she had after the short program and dropped to third place, earning 206.77 points. She looked a bit pale and seemed to skate under big pressure to the soundtrack of "Black Swan“.
After an outstandingly high combination of triple flip and triple toe loop she stepped out of the second triple toe loop which she performed in combination with the double Axel. The triple Lutz was very good again, but then she fell on the triple loop, did two more good triple jumps, but singled the second Axel at the end. Her components were around 8.7. She later commented, "It wasn’t great. I made a few mistakes, but overall I felt like I skated a strong program and the things that I’ve done I’ve done at the best I could do. In the Grand Prix Final, I mainly want to improve on my performances here, skate a clean short and to improve my long program, make it cleaner.” Because of a first place in Canada and third in France, she can be sure to be in the Grand Prix Final.
Mai Mihara from Japan finished on fourth place with 202.12 points. Like the two Russians, she skated a clean and elegant long program with seven triple jumps, but a bit less impressive elements than the Europeans. Her best element was the flying camel combination spin at the end of her program. She interpreted the soundtrack of "The Mission“ by Ennio Morricone and got a huge applause.
Elizabet Tursynbaeva from Kazakhstan placed fifth with 200.98 points. She does not have the sparkle of most other top skaters, but thanks to technically excellent jumps, among them also seven triples, she had the third best free program. The second Japanese skater Yuna Shiraiwa was sixth, earning 193.18 points after a free program with six good triple jumps and two double Axels, but a fall on the triple loop just seconds before the end of her program.
Nicole Schott from Germany was an alternate for Gracie Gold who meanwhile announced that she will also not skate at U.S. Nationals in early January because of her longtime treatment against depression and eating disorder. Skating to the soundtrack of Schindler’s List, Schott performed the best free program of her career up to now and jumped from tenth to seventh place, winning 172.39 points. She had six clean triple jumps, two double Axels, three level 4 spins and an excellent step sequence in her program. She skates in a very elegant and balletic style, but a bit slow to have higher components than 7.1. Four German girls fight in different international competitions for the one Olympic spot which German ladies have. But with this performance in Grenoble, Schott is quite ahead.
Maé-Bérénice Méité from France was the better of the two French ladies, which is also important for the one Olympic ladies‘ spot which France has. She finished eighth with 171.40 points. Six triple jumps were relatively clean, but her style is not very elegant. She beat Laurine Lecavelier who finished only eleventh and last with 154.35 point after making several mistakes.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia, World Champion in 2015, has no longer the shape from three years ago and finished ninth with 167,65 points. She was the only lady to try a triple Axel and it was not under-rotated or downgraded. But she fell and doubled two other jumps later which were planned triple. "I was mentally not yet prepared to perform a triple Axel in competition even if it often works in practice,“ she said. The same shape is true for American Polina Edmunds who has not reached yet the competitive level she had before her longtime injuries and when she was ninth at the Olympic Games 2014. She ended up tenth with 157.77 points, lacking speed and with five of her jumps not clean, two of them ending with a fall.