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2018 Skate America Ladies

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany

(22 October 2018)  There were two outstanding performances in the ladies competition, both from Japanese skaters. Satoko Miyahara had won Skate America last year and repeated her success, this time winning both segments with 219.71 total points.

The bronze medal winner of Worlds 2018 took the lead in the short program. Her jumps are not very high, but mainly clean and elegantly landed. You do not hear any noise when she cuts her blades in the ice, she sometimes seems to fly over the ice. The combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, the double Axel good and the triple flip clean. During the warm-up she also had tried a triple loop, but after stepping out of it she decided to perform the flip.

The spins and the step sequence were stellar and she got several GOEs of +5 for them. She skated to the “Song for the Little Sparrow” by Abel Korzeniowski, sung by Patricia Kaas. Her components had an average of 8.6 with three 9.5 from the Japanese judge as highest ones and she got a standing ovation. Later she commented: “Until I finished my three jumps, I was very nervous, because I could not show my best performance at the Japan Open and U.S. International (competition). But after I landed the triple flip, I was really relieved and skated for myself.”

Her free program to the Tango Invierno by Astor Piazzola was also faultless and contained the usual seven triples, an excellent step sequence and three outstanding spins. Her layback spin at the end even had six GOEs of +5 and three of +4. As one of very few skaters in the world she also performed a combination spin with a change of direction, from anti-clockwise to clockwise after the change of foot. Her components were around 8.8. She explained: “I am very happy to skate very clean today. I was very nervous until the very end of the program, because I have jumps until the end. I hope I’ll have more confidence in my next competition.”.

Teammate Kaori Sakamoto captured the silver medal, winning 213.90 points. Her short program to “From My First Moment” by Charlotte Church was flawless as well, but in her combination she “only” combined a triple flip with the triple toe loop. Her other triple jump was a loop, but she performed it without any preparation and out of steps, which is no longer required but may bring higher GOEs. Her jumps are generally higher than Miyahara’s, but a bit less elegantly landed.

Her free program to the soundtrack of “The Piano” by Michael Nyman also had seven triples and very good spins. Her component score, however, only had an average of 8.4. “I am very satisfied with my performance today and I hope it will encourage me for my future competitions. I will keep working hard towards my next Grand Prix in Finland,” she said.

Russia’s Sofia Samodurova claimed the bronze medal with 198.70 points in her first senior Grand Prix. Like many other Russian girls she raises one hand during many jumps over her head, which brings higher GOEs. Her short program to the soundtrack of Nyah (from Mission Impossible 2) was clean and had a combination of triple flip and triple toe loop. The seven elements mainly had GOEs of +2 and the components were around 7.1. After the short program she returned to her hotel because she did not expect to be in the top three who have to appear at the press conference. Coach Alexei Mishin called her and she ran back the half mile from the hotel to the rink in five minutes.

“I am very surprised, it is very unexpected. I am very happy with my performance, I did a good job with all my elements and I got a good score,” she said.

In the faultless free program, which she skated to the soundtrack of “Burlesque”, Samodurova landed the usual seven triples, which is the maximum if you do not include a triple Axel or a quad. She skated with a lot of confidence and in an extroverted way. Her component scores had an average of 7.8. She commented “I am very happy to skate clean. I hoped that I would be in third place after the free skating today, but I think nothing changed in my approach."

The reigning U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was the best of the three Americans, but she finished only in fourth position, earning 192.89 points.

In the official practice in Everett, her very difficult combination of triple Lutz and triple loop mostly worked well. But in the competition short program, she could only add a shaky single loop to the Lutz. This cost her around nine or ten points. The rest of the program was good, the spins even very good. She said: “I’m a little disappointed. Obviously, the combination is something I don’t ever miss so it was a little bit of a shock for me. But I’m human and I’m dealing with that and I’m ready to come back tomorrow. It's like a new chapter of a book. The crowd is great, the fans are great and I’m super happy to be here.”

In the free program Tennell interpreted two musical versions of Romeo and Juliet: the classical piece by Sergei Prokoviev and the soundtrack of a 1990ies film. If you watch her program superficially, almost everything looked fine and there were seven triples. But she stepped out of the Salchow and four other triples were a bit under-rotated. She has improved her artistry with the help of French choreographer Benoit Richaud, but still is not world class in this feature. Right after the performance she commented: "I really fought for everything in that program and I'm very happy with my fight, my attack, and I'm very proud of how I did. I feel great. I just want to be able to have the audience captivated by the program and really feel the story.”

Laurine Lecavelier from France splits her training time between coach Kori Ade in Colorado and former ice dancer Fabian Bourzat in Paris. She finished on fifth position with 172.41 points. In an oriental dance of her short program she began with a good triple toe loop, but the second toe loop was downgraded. The triple Lutz was good, the other elements clean. She did not fall in her free program, but three jumps were not clearly landed backwards.

Megan Wessenberg of Boston is a relative newcomer in international senior competitions. She finished on sixth position, winning 170.33 points. In Everett she excelled by sparkle, self confidence and pep, which many other Americans do not have today.

In the short program, she put down her hand on the triple Lutz, but did not fall. The combination of triple toe loop – triple toe loop was good, the other elements as well. She explained: “I am happy that I was able to move on from the little mistake at the beginning and I think the best part of the program was my performance. I felt like I really sold my program as best as I could. The crowd was really amazing and they helped me to get into character and put on a great show.”

In her free program to the music, "The Friends of Mr. Cairo“ by Jon and Vangelis, she doubled the Lutz at the beginning, then did four good triple jumps, but at the end stepped out of the triple Salchow and the double Axel. "I had some mistakes sprinkled throughout the program“, she commented, "but I've paced myself really well and I stayed focused and in the moment. I think overall it was a pretty good effort for me. I feel like this whole season I've been riding a wave of confidence. I’ve been happy with my season and this was definitely a big milestone for me.”

Polina Tsurskaia from Russia finished seventh, earning 159.45 points. In her combination the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz was under-rotated, the double axel very good and the triple flip again under-rotated. The rest was clean. In the long program, only one triple jump (Salchow) was clean, two more under-rotated and she doubled three more jumps which were planned triple.

Marin Honda from Japan ended up eighth with 158.04 points. She had been fourth in a relatively strong short program with a combination of triple loop and triple toe loop, but this toe loop was under-rotated as well as the triple flip. Her presentation, speed and energy were excellent and her components had an average of 8.1. But her free program had no less than seven mistakes on the seven jumps. Alaine Chartrand from Canada missed her two triple jumps in the short program. But in the free, three triples were clean, one flip got an edge call, two were under-rotated and the Lutz downgraded. This was enough to move up to the ninth overall place, winning 155.49 points.

Starr Andrews of Lakewood, California, ended tenth and last with 150.56 points. She started her short program to Gershin’s "Summertime" with a good combination of triple toe loop and triple toe loop. Later she fell on the double Axel and under-rotated the triple loop.

"It was a very good experience. I had a lot of fun. I wish I could have done the double Axel because it’s not the hardest jump in my program. But other than that I think I did pretty good,“ she said

 In her free program to a jungle theme, however, only two of her seven jumping elements worked as planned, the others were singled, under-rotated or she fell. She did not try the triple Axel which she had announced to try, but said, "It was a little rough. I definitely haven’t been practicing like that, so it was kind of a shock to me. But I mean you have to live and learn. This is a great learning experience for me and I just have to turn it around and show them what I’ve been practicing. I just have to collect myself and move forward.”

Loena Hendrickx from Belgium is the younger sister of Belgian male skater Jorik Hendrickx and behind Carolina Kostner perhaps the best non-Russian European lady. She came with a lot of hope, but caught the flu upon arrival. In the short program she fell on the triple Lutz, which is unusual for her, stepped out of the triple flip and therefore could not perform any combination. After a bad night she was too sick to skate the free program. Elena Radionova withdrew from Skate America only three days before the competition, too late to invite another skater. She has a back injury, but had generally been out of shape at her first national competition in Russia.