by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
In a surprise finish to the Ladies event, it was not Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who was the favorite, but Elena Radionova from Russia who won the ladies, winning with 195.47 points. The 15-year-old reigning Junior World Champion started her free program to a medley of Rakhmaninov music pieces with a combination of triple Lutz (a bit wobbly) and triple toe loop. Four other triples were very good, but her second Lutz a bit shaky as well. Her other elements were at least good, her layback spin at the end outstanding. Seven of the nine judges awarded a GEO of +3 for it.
She commented as lively as always: "I am very happy because this is the first Grand Prix that I was able to win. It's a completely different emotion than being in second or third place. It's even hard to speak now because I'm overwhelmed by all of my emotions. I'm just excited that I was able to do everything I can do."
She also talked about her feelings on being invited to perform in the exhibition of the Olympic Games in Sochi: "The fact that I was invited there was a very big experience for me. I felt really special because I really felt the Olympic atmosphere. I was nervous. I wasn't even competing, but I was still nervous because I wanted to go out and skate my best and represent my country very well. I was very glad to have this opportunity and it was a great experience for me."
Tuktamysheva won the silver medal with 189.62 points. Skating to the oriental music pieces “Batwannis Beek” by the REG Project and “Sandstorm” by La Bionda, she began with a good combination of triple Lutz, double toe loop and single loop (instead of double loop). Four other good triple jumps followed, but she doubled two other jumps in the second half of the program, which were planned triple. The spins were good, but at the end she looked a bit exhausted.
She commented: “First of all, I am pleased that I was able to finish this marathon of competition. This is my fourth competition in a row. Today I was not in the same shape as I was in Finland or Germany, and I'm a little upset that I made some silly errors for me in this performance today. Overall it wasn't bad. There's room to grow and improve, and I hope to do that in Shanghai. It is difficult to compete against all of the good Russian girls, but that is what pushes the development of ladies skating in Russia. I am not competing against the other girls, I am just competing against myself. That's it." Coach Alexei Mishin added: “Maybe she did not win today, because she did one competition too many, but she wanted to do it.”
Gracie Gold of El Segundo, California won the bronze medal, earning 179.38 points. The student of Frank Carroll began her free program to several pieces of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” with a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. But then she performed a combination of double axel and double (instead of triple) toe loop. As you are allowed to do each jump only once or twice in a program, her later combination of a (double) Salchow and two double toe loops was illegal and got not points, because now she had three double toe loops in her program. A triple loop was very good, a triple flip got an edge call and her spins and steps were very good. It is obvious that she does a stupid mistake in each of her program, but this time it was not costly.
She said: “It was ok. It had a lot of point left on the table. I had to fight through it and think on my feet but I was still able to put out a solid performance. I was able to get the bronze medal at this Grand Prix, which I'm happy with. There were some mistakes in this program, which of course, I need to improve on for NHK and the competitions to come. In previous seasons I've also started with a silver or bronze medal on the Grand Prix circuit, so I'm looking forward to another metal at NHK before I take on 2015. “It was exciting and intimidating to compete in front of a home crowd. I feel like I knew like 70 percent of the audience. I love being back here in Chicago. Overall, it was a fun experience.”
Samantha Cesario of Monsey, New York, was fourth with 174.58 points. She does not have the image of a star skater and therefore was a bit under-marked. Her presentation is stronger and the public saw that and gave her a stronger standing ovation than Gracie Gold. Six of her triple jumps were good, only a Salchow was under-rotated and her step sequences excellent. “I had a little spin trouble”, she later said. “I was still suffering a little bit with that ankle and it was bothering me a little in practice but tried to fight through it. The jumps were pretty good. I felt pretty confident going out. It is definitely a good start for the season and I’m happy with it overall.”
So Youn Park from South Korea finished on fifth position, earning 170.43 points. Six of her triple jumps in her elegant program, her only mistakes was a fall on a triple loop, which was downgraded.
The third U.S. skater Mirai Nagasu from Colorado Springs had a good-looking free program with no falls and seven triple jumps, but four of them were under-rotated. She moved up from tenth place after the short program to sixth place and won 158.21 points. “I know I under-rotated a lot of those jumps out there today”, she said. “But this was a very stressful week because I was expecting so much more out of myself.”