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2022 Grand Prix de France, Women

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



(7 November 2022)  The women’s competition at the French Grand Prix 2022 in Angers in Western France had a relatively good level. World Silver medalist Loena Hendrickx from Belgium celebrated a run-away victory with 216.34 points. It was her first Grand Prix gold medal, although she did not try a triple Axel nor any quad. But she has improved her stability, the flow of her other triples, her presentation and everything else. She is coached by her brother Jorik Hendrickx who was a top skater about six to ten years ago and by choreographer Adam Solya, a former Hungarian ice dancer who now lives in Belgium.

In the short program to “Si Mama” by Romanian singer Inna and to “Mi Gente” by the Columbian singer Jose Balvin, by Willy William & Beyonce, her first element was an excellent triple flip, followed by a very good double Axel. In her combination, her triple Lutz got a small edge warning, but her triple toe loop was clean. The three spins were stellar and her step sequence as well, which even had two GOEs of +5. Her components had an average of 8.7. She stated, “It was an early morning today. I really enjoyed skating in France again and I’m satisfied with my performance. It was not the best, I can do better and I’ll save it for later. It is good for your confidence to have a good competition before the first Grand Prix. I had a really strong Short Program at the Nebelhorn Trophy, but a so so free program and I hope I learnt from it.”

Her free program in Angers, which she performed on her 23rd birthday, was almost flawless as well. After Nebelhorn, she had changed some parts of the music to make it more peppy and less monotonous. Skating to “Poeta” by Italian musician Roby Facchinetti and to “Fallen Angel” by Karl Hugo, she began with a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by an excellent double Axel with a long flow after landing and a stellar triple flip. Three triples, two of them in combination, came later. Her spins were outstanding and her step sequences very good and dynamic as well. Her components were around 9.0. She commende, “Of course it feels amazing. I was a bit nervous because the program was pretty new. The changes we’ve made were kind of last minute and it was hard mentally for the free skating. I felt confident after my practice this morning. It’s crazy, I just won gold at a Grand Prix and I am proud I could do it for Belgium and the sport in my country. It is also crazy that so many people wished me a happy birthday after my free program.”

Yelim Kim from South Korea, ninth at the Olympic Games in February 2022, won the silver medal with 194.76 points. She had started skating as a little girl in 2010 after Yuna Kim won the Olympic Gold medal in Vancouver. Yelim Kim had the same elements as the winner, also got a small edge warning, but had mainly GOEs of +2 and +3 and her components were around 8.1. She skated to “Mercy” by German-born and now British composer Max Richter and explained, “I trained my steps, spins and jumps after Finlandia Trophy and more parts of my program to become better. I want to do what trained in this competition.”

In her free program to the soundtrack of “Summer of 42”, she fell on the opening triple Lutz and later on the triple Salchow. Four other triples were good, however, as well as the three spins and two step sequences. Her components were around 8.1. In spite of being only fourth in the free program, she remained in second place overall. She said, “I am quite disappointed with my performance, but I am happy and grateful I got second place. I’m going to work hard for my second Grand Prix in Japan to be better. This is my third season on the Grand Prix circuit and my first medal. I am very happy about that and I’m going to practice more.”

Rion Sumiyoshi from Japan took the bronze medal with 194.34 points. In her short program to “White Flowers Take Their Bath”, her double Axel and her combination of triple flip and triple toe loop were excellent, but she landed her triple Lutz forward, which was downgraded. Her spins and steps were excellent. She opened the free program to “Enchantress – Two Steps From Hell” by Norwegian composer Thomas Bergersen with a quad toe loop, but went down. Five triples were good, but two other not clean. Spins and steps were excellent, and her components had an average of 8.0. Later she admitted, “The skating wasn’t my best. But I was able to enjoy this competition and I am happy I got third place. I started practicing the 4T last summer, my success rate is about 50% that I can at least land it, but not always clean.”

The second South Korean skate Haein Lee took fourth place with 193.49 points. In the short program to the piano piece “Storm” by Canadian pairs World Champion and composer Eric Radford she performed an excellent double axel and a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but fell before taking off for the triple loop. Spins and steps were very good. In the free program to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” she moved up from sixth to fourth place with the second best free skate. Five triples were good, she only went down on the triple flip. Spins and steps were very good. She did not try a triple Axel which she had tried at Skate America. She commented, “I was pretty sick during Skate America and didn’t do good there and I think my stamina is still not good. But regarding these circumstances, I think I did well today.”

U.S. skater Audrey Shin of Colorado Springs finished on fifth place, earning 183.93 points. The student of Tammy Gambill began her short program to “Yo Soy Maria” by Astor Piazzolla with a very good combination of two triple toe loops and a good double Axel, but her triple loop was under-rotated. Spins and steps were very good as well. She commented, “I felt really good out there today. I always wanted to skate a tango program and it was really fun for me to create this character with my coach and choreographer.“ In her free skate to “The Offering, The Giving and Heroes” by U.S. Christian-oriented songwriter Michael W. Smith, she had only three clean triples. But she popped the flip, under-rotated the triple toe loop after the first triple Lutz a bit and fell on the second triple Lutz.

Mana Kawabe from Japan is sixth with 182.50 points. In her short program to three songs by Billie EIlish, she was third after performing an almost clean program with a combination of triple Lutz (with small edge warning) and triple toe loop as well as a triple flip, very good spins and steps. She explained, “I was really nervous, but I was able to do in the performance everything I practiced and I am satisfied about that. Regarding the success rate of my triple Axel, it is not yet good enough to put into my program.” In her free program to “Drowning” by French singer Anne Sila, she made mistakes on six of her seven triple jumps and dropped from third position to sixth with only the eighth best free program.

The third Japanese skater Rino Matsuike of Nagoya is seventh with 176.52 points. In the short program to “Papa, Can You Hear Me”, she went down twice, but her spins were excellent. In the free to “Nella Fantasia” by Ennio Morricone, she could move up a bit performing four triples, but popping a loop and a toe loop.

At her fourth competition of this season, Mae-Berenice Meite from France placed eighth with 175.68 points. She gets more and more into the shape which she had before tearing her Achilles tendon during the competition of the World Championships 2021. She was the best of the three French women who will be rivals for the one spot which France has at the European and World Championships. In her long career she has proved again and again that she is able to fight. She works part-time in an enterprise in Florida, trains there with John Zimmerman and with Lorenzo Magri when she is in Europe. In her short, a combination of two triple toe loops and a double Axel were good, but the triple loop a bit under-rotated. In her free program to “I surrender” by Quebec singer Celine Dion, four triple jumps were clean, but two others a bit shaky. She explained, “This competition definitely gave me a lot of confidence, it shows that I am on the right track. My free skate has a lot of personal meaning for me, it is about my personal relationship with god and is also dedicated to my mom who loves Celine Dion.”

The second French skater Lea Serna is coached by Brian Joubert and placed ninth with 67.89 points. Principally she masters five different triples, but her nerves are often weak. She opened her short program with a good double Axel, but in her combination of two triple toe loops, she stepped out of the second one. In her free program, she made four mistakes. Olga Mikutina from Austria placed tenth with 159.99 points. Her combination in the short program was double Lutz and triple toe loop. Later she went down on the triple flip. In her free program, three triples were o.k., but she doubled and singled two more, missed a triple Salchow and had even problems with her two double Axels. She has never skated again as well as at the World Championships 2021 where she placed eighth. Lindsay van Zundert from the Netherlands skated less successfully than at Skate Canada the week before and came 11th with 154.09 points. Maia Mazzara from France made two big and two small mistakes in the short program and five in the free program and ended up 12th and last with 140.85 points.