by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(1 December 2018) The ladies competition at the 2018 Grand Prix "Les Internationaux de France“ in Grenoble had a good level, at least among the top six.
16-year-old Rika Kihara won the second gold medal after the NHK Trophy, this time with 205.92 points. In Grenoble she opened her dynamic short program to the music "Clair de Lune“ by Claude Debussy with a single Axel instead of the planned triple one. This is why she was only second in this part of the competition, but only 0.31 behind the winner. The rest of the program was excellent, including the combination of triple flip and triple toe loop as well as the triple Lutz for which she even had one GOE of +5. For her layback spin she got two GOEs of +5 and the components had an average of 8.0. She commented: “I regret the (popped) triple Axel a lot, but I landed the triple flip-triple toe and the triple Lutz cleanly. Tomorrow in practice I’ll check on my triple Axel again. I don’t think much about my score, I just want to leave my mistakes behind.“
In her free program to "Beautiful Storm“ by Jennifer Thomas, her first element was a triple Axel, but it was under-rotated. Unless at the NHK Trophy, her second Axel in France in combination with a triple toe loop was only double, but it had a very good quality. Five more triple jumps in the powerful program were excellent, a triple toe loop was under-rotated, but the three level 4 spins, the two step sequences excellent and her components around 8.3. “Considering that I couldn’t condition my body well, I did what I could do. I’m happy about my victory, but I’m not satisfied with my performance and my score, and I hope to do better in the Grand Prix Final,” the student of Mie Hamada said.
Mai Mihara, fifth at the World Championships 2017, had taken a narrow lead in the short program, but finally won the silver medal with 202.81 points. The 19-year-old skater from Japan began her short program with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but the toe loop was under-rotated. Her double Axel was excellent, her triple flip good, the three spins very good and her components were around 8.1. She explained: “I’m a little surprised to be sitting here right now (on first place). I was lacking a little speed from the beginning. After the NHK Trophy I was practicing my triple-triple (combination) very hard and I put a lot of energy in it. I am disappointed that it didn’t happen today, but my motivation goes up.”
Performing her free program to a medley of the soundtrack "The Mission“, she began with a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by four more good triple jumps and an under-rotated second triple toe loop. But near the end she doubled the Salchow, which cost her the first place. She skated with a lot of elegance and all other elements were very good. “Today I am not satisfied with my free skating. Before I skated I almost burst into tears, but my coach told me, ‘don’t worry, I’m here with you’ and that was a relief. Overall it was a good experience for me and I will continue to practice to gain more confidence,” she said.
U.S. champion Bradie Tennell won the bronze medal with 197.78 points after being only sixth in the short program with a distance of six points to the medal positions. There he performed the triple Lutz with a turn and under-rotation. The double Axel was good but then she under-rotated both jumps in her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. Two spins were good and the third one, a camel combination spin, even outstanding and got two GOEs of +5 and three GOEs of +4. With the second best free program to Prokoviev's "Romeo and Juliet“ she could move up three spots. Five triple jumps were very good, two under-rotated, the spins and steps excellent and her components went up to an average of 8.1. She commented: “I’m pretty happy with how today’s performance went. To come to an event like this and skate like I have been practicing is really rewarding. Obviously, I still want to improve on things in the program and yesterday’s performance can be much improved as well.” She tries to add flair, expression and maturity to her programs and is much better than two years ago, but still not excellent.
The 2016 and 2017 World Champion and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva came only fourth with192.81 points and therefore missed the qualification for the Grand Prix Final. She had said before that she absolutely wanted to win in Grenoble in order to be sure to qualify. But therefore she was a bit stiff. In the short program her triple Lutz had no ideal landing. In her combination she added only a double toe loop to the shaky triple flip. The other elements were very good, the step sequence even outstanding.
Later she said: “The short program was better than at Skate Canada, but I am still disappointed with the performance.“ In the Tango free program, she was quite nervous. She fell on the opening double Axel which was supposed to be a combination with a triple loop, and the first triple Lutz was not perfectly landed. The next elements were good, but in her last combination she would almost have fallen again after adding only a wobbly double toe loop to the triple flip. Her components were lower than in previous years because she does not show any more the excellent mimicry and facial expression to the music which she had in 2016 and 2017.
The second Russian skater Stanislava Konstantinova finished on fifth position with 189.67 points. She was nervous as well after winning silver in the Finnish Grand Prix and therefore having a chance to qualify for the Final. In the short program she popped the triple Lutz (which was supposed to be her combination) and added only a shaky double toe loop to the under-rotated triple loop. With the fourth best free program she could move up from tenth place to fifth. This program was faultless and had seven triple jumps, but she lacks a bit of elegance to move up more.
Marin Honda from Japan placed sixth, earning 188.61 points. In her short program, the triple loop as well as the triple toe loop of her combination were under-rotated, all other elements, however, very good. In the free program she dropped from fourth to sixth place because only three triple jumps were clean. She doubled three more jumps which were planned triple and two jumps were under-rotated.
Maria Sotskova from Russia came seventh with 177.59 points. Both the triple Lutz and the triple toe loop of her combination in her otherwise good short program were under-rotated. In the free program only three triple jumps were clean, but two more under-rotated and her spins soso.
Mae-Berenice Meite landed on eighth place, earning 168.02 points. She switched coaches this summer and is now trained by Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman in Florida, but she is a bit too tall to skate in an elegant way. Her short program was faultless with a triple toe loop - triple toe loop combination and a triple Lutz. But in the free she made several mistakes.
The second French skater Laurine Lecavelier, who trains with Kori Ade in Colorado, is ninth with 157.24 points. She was not in very good shape and missed several jumps.
Alexia Paganini from Switzerland, who trains in Hackensack, New Jersey, had been invited as an alternate for Carolina Kostner who still suffers from a longtime hip injury and also withdrew from Italian Nationals in mid-December. But she told the Italian press that she plans to come back next year. She new trains with Tomas Verner in the Czech Republic. Paganini finished tenth with 156.51 points and could not confirm her good impression from the Russian Grand Prix the week before.
Lea Serna is the only of all 17 French skaters or couples of this Grand Prix who still trains in France. She finished 11th with 149.49 points. Matilda Algotsson from Sweden ended up 12th with 146.35 points.
French federation president Didier Gailhaguet said that after the successful competitions in 2017 and 2018 the French Grand Prix will be held in 2019 in Grenoble again, this time from November 1 to 3.
Three Russian and three Japanese ladies are qualified for the Grand Prix Final. Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova from Russia had the highest number of points in her two Grand Prix. Rika Kihara had the second highest one. The other two Japanese ladies qualified for Vancouver are Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto. The two other Russian ladies are the 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Sofia Samodurova. First alternate is Mai Mihara, second Stanislava Konstantinova and only third Evgenia Medvedeva.