by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(26 November 2021) The women’s competition of the French Grand Prix in Grenoble, called “Les Internationaux de France“ had a very good level. Reigning World champion Anna Shcherbakova from the school of Eteri Tutberidze in Moscow won the gold medal with 229.69 points and therefore is qualified for the Grand Prix Final after also having won the Grand Prix in Italy two weeks earlier. She came with a new short program after skating to a different music two weeks earlier.
In Grenoble she skated to the Spanish-American TV soap opera “Dangerous affairs“ by Inon Zur and to “Total View“. She opened her program with an excellent double Axel, followed by an outstanding triple flip with two arms over her head and a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Her spins were stellar, the step sequence as well (all Level 4). Her components had an average of 9.1. She said, “Today I was nervous, because I skated my new short program for the first time in competition. My coaches decided to change the program. They said the new program will be better for me.”
In her free program, she used again “Ruska” by the group Apocalyptica, the soundtrack of “The Master and Margarita” by Igor Korneliuk and “Lacrimosa” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which is a strange mixture. The first element went wrong: When jumping off for the quad Lutz, she fell before turning in the air. But she recovered quickly and landed a good quad flip, six very good triple jumps and one with an edge warning, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop. The spins and steps were excellent as well and her components were around 9.0 because of her very elegant style. “I was shocked after the performance – I didn’t understand what happened on my first jump and after the program I was still not realizing what happened,” she commented.
Alena Kostornaia from the same school in Russia won the silver medal with 221.85 points. The European Champion of 2020 skated to two versions of “New York, New York“: one by Carey Mulligan and the other one by Liza Minelli. She had planned a triple Axel in the short, but started with a very good double Axel, followed by an very good triple Lutz and an outstanding combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. She explained, “I am happy with what I did today. My coaches told me to do a double Axel because I need to skate clean.”
She started her free program to “Lovely“ by Billie Eilish with a triple Axel, but fell because of under-rotation. Seven other triple jumps were excellent, however, and got mainly GOEs of +3, like her spins and step sequences. Her components had an average of 8.8. “I made a mistake on my triple Axel, a big mistake,” she said, “I was shocked because I did it in the practices in Moscow and we hoped I'd do two triple Axels, but I couldn’t and it was sad. But I did the other jumps and I'm happy about it.” After being third at Skate Canada and second in Grenoble, she has to wait until the result of the Cup of Russia to see if she has qualified for the Grand Prix Final, planned in Osaka, Japan.
Wakaba Higuchi from Japan, World silver medalist in 2018, took the bronze medal with 204.91points just one week after having won the Challenger event called Ice Challenge in Graz, Austria. In her short program, she singled the Axel, which was planned triple and therefore was only sixth, although she performed a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop as well as a triple flip, though not perfect. She opened her free program to the soundtrack of “Lion King“ with a triple Axel, which was slightly under-rotated (q), but brought her 7.77 points. Seven other triple jumps followed, two of which were not clean. But she could move up from sixth to third place. She commented, “Today was the best performance of the season and I am satisfied. I made some little mistakes, but it is a good learning curve and I can improve going into Nationals.”
Ksenia Sinitsyna from Russia finished in fourth position with 198.76 points after being fifth at Skate America 2021. Her short program to “Lullaby” by Petr Tchaikovski was flawless and she was third. She said, “We have worked a lot on the program. Vera Arutiunian choreographed it and we have done video calls to polish everything.“ But in her free program, she under-rotated three jumps a bit, had no triple Axel and therefore dropped to fourth position.
U.S. skater Karen Chen of Colorado Springs came fifth with 194.00 points. In her short program to “La Califfa“ by Ennio Morricone, the student of Tammy Gambill performed a combination of triple Lutz (slightly under-rotated) and double toe loop plus a triple loop (also under-rotated). In her free program, four triple jumps were very good, but she fell on the triple flip and two other jumps were not clean. In both programs she excelled by her elegant style.
Mariah Bell of Irvine, California, placed sixth, earning 190.79 points. Coached by Rafael Arutiunian and Adam Rippon (who was with her in Grenoble), she went down on the triple toe loop after the triple flip in the short program where she was only tenth. In her free, five triples were good, the two Lutzes got edge calls and she could move up four spots.
Ekaterina Ryabova from Azerbaidzhan ended in seventh place with 186.55 points. She is Russian and said she has no chance to get internationals competitions for Russia, therefore she decided to compete for Azerbaidzhan. She had a clean short program with a combination of triple Lutz (with an edge warning) and triple toe loop plus five good triples in the free, but three jumps got a q. Newcomer Yeonjeong Park from South Korea was an alternate for French skater Maia Mazzara who is injured. Park finished in eighth place with 186.11 points. She had the same clean elements in her short as Ryabova, but fell twice in the free program.
Yuhana Yokoi from Japan came as an alternate for French skater Mae Berenice Meite who is not fit yet after tearing her Achilles tendon during the short program of the World Championships in Stockholm in March 2021. Yokoi placed ninth winning 176.93 points. She missed the two triples in the short program, but five of her six triple jumps in the free were good.
The second South Korean skater Haein Lee placed tenth with 171.32 points. In her short, the flying camel spin was shaky and in the free five jumps were not clean and she popped a Lutz. French skater Lea Serna ended up eleventh with 170.33 points in spite of a clean short program. But in the free she made three mistakes and was choreographically not very strong.
Starr Andrews of Los Angeles, coached by Derrick Delmore, withdrew during the short program saying she did not feel well. Later it turned out that her problems were not Covid-related. She had started her short with a good combination of two triple toe loops and a double Axel, but then she popped the planned triple loop. She skated to the French referee Philippe Meriguet to tell him that she wouldn’t continue. She used the instrumental version of the song “At Last“ by Etta James, but she had taped it singing on her own, like she had done before to other music pieces.