The first day of the 2021 World Championships brought plenty of pleasant surprises, shocking slip-ups, and stories to look out for as the event unfolds. Here’s what went down in the women’s and the pairs short programs.
The Top Three
Anna Shcherbakova – FSR: 2A, 3F, 3Lz+3Lo / 81.00 (TES: 43.86, PCS: 37.14)
Anna Shcherbakova had a solid outing here, hitting all of her jumps and only losing technical points on a level 3 step sequence. Her PCS seemed quite generous compared to the rest of the field, which we’ll talk about more later, but she managed to put out a great skate after struggling in practice the past few days.
Rika Kihira – Japan: 3Aq, 3F+3Tq, 3Lz / 79/08 (TES: 43.68, PCS: 35.40)
Kihira was called short of rotation on a couple of elements, but her performance quality was the class of the field among the top women. She got all of her technical levels but was scored two points lower than Shcherbakova in PCS, which made the difference between first and second.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva – FSR: 3A, 3Lz+3T, 3F / 78.86 (TES: 44.39, PCS: 34.47)
Returning to the World Championships for the first time since winning the event six years ago, Tuktamysheva showed that it’s not just teenagers that can compete on the worlds stage. She nailed her opening triple Axel and even got level 4s on all of her spins, only missing a level on her step sequence. She’ll still need to count on mistakes from her compatriots and Kihira, but has a real shot at a medal come Friday’s free skate.
Biggest Surprise – Madeline Schizas
Madeline Schizas made her Worlds debut for Canada after failing to get any international assignments last season and had an absolutely lovely skate to find herself in ninth place after the short. Due to fellow Canadian Emily Bausback failing to make the free skate, Schizas will need to stay in that top ten to keep two spots for Canada in next year’s Olympics, so she’s definitely one to watch in the second part of the competition.
Biggest Flop – Alexandra Trusova
Following some strong run-throughs in practice, Trusova was being eyed as a potential favorite for the gold medal. There were questions over whether she would put a triple Axel in the short program, but ultimately, she opted for the safer double Axel to open. Unfortunately, the jups went downhill from there, with a shaky triple flip that got an unclear edge call and missing the second half of her combination, automatically receiving -5 GOE. Her scores were propped up by the highest PCS mark she’s ever received, but she ended the short program in twelfth place, over 15 points off the lead. Based on the layouts she’s been running in practice, Trusova has the potential to make up a lot of that gap, but hasn’t performed a clean long in competition in quite some time, so it will be quite the uphill battle.
Who Had a Good Day?
If the women’s event ended now, the US would get three Olympic spots, so you’d have to say that’s a pretty good showing for the team. Karen Chen skated a personal best to end the segment in fourth, and while Tennell had difficulties with her jump combo and some uneasiness overall, she ended the day in seventh. They’ll both need to skate very well on Friday to keep those placements, but it was a very good start for the American team.
The South Korean ladies also had a very strong day, with Yelim Kim and Haein Lee currently sitting in fifth and eighth respectively. Both were making their Worlds debut and Lee appearing in her first senior international competition and the only technical mistake between the two of them was a wonky opening combo for Lee. They’ll likewise need to skate clean and keep those placements in order to qualify three spots for South Korea.
Who Had a Bad Day?
Before the competition began, Yi Christy Leung withdrew due to injuries sustained in official practice, deferring Hong Kong’s chances of qualifying an Olympic spot to Nebelhorn in the fall. In the same group that Leung would have skated in, Maé-Bérénice Méité suffered an injury midway through her program that forced her to withdraw as well. According to a statement from the French skating federation, she suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, and was later seen back in the arena with a boot on her left foot. Mid-program injuries like this are thankfully quite rare, but today did highlight the need for the ISU’s medical protocols to be updated. Méité’s music continued to play long after it became obvious that she couldn’t continue and she was forced to skate to the referee to formally withdraw while clearly in pain and unable to put any weight on one side, something her coach could and should be able to do while she receives prompt medical attention. Hopefully both skaters are able to recover quickly and don’t have their subsequent seasons affected too severely.
One effect of this event being held in a year when many skaters were faced with unstable training environments has been some surprising eliminations as skaters fail to make the free skate. Alexia Paganini of Switzerland who finished fourth at last year’s Europeans was the first skater out, missing the cut-off by less than half a point, and promising young Polish skater Ekaterina Kurakova had a very messy skate that left her in 32nd place. Those eliminations, plus the withdrawals, will make Nebelhorn Trophy very competitive as big names vie to pick up one of the last few Olympic spots.
To put it bluntly, the PCS scores in this event were nothing short of criminal. Rika Kihira being two points behind Anna Shcherbakova despite no major mistakes is simply incorrect based on skating skills alone, not to mention the composition of their respective programs. Further down the order, Trusova and Tuktamysheva were virtually tied, both a point higher than Karen Chen and Yelim Kim. While Trusova has no doubt made improvements in her program components, particularly in the short program, she should not have been ahead of skaters like Chen and Kim on a good day, never mind with the skate she had today. Russian skaters have always gotten a PCS boost, but that bonus was especially heinous today and may, unfortunately, significantly impact the final outcome of the competition.
The women’s free skate will take place Friday, March 26th at 6pm local time (GMT+1) / 1pm EST.
The Top Three
Boikova/Kozlovskii – FSR: 80.16 (TES: 43.44, PCS: 36.72)
Boikova and Kozlovskii were the only pair to skate a completely clean short program, so they rightfully ended the segment in the lead, two and a half points clear of second. They debuted new short program music, but noticeably kept the exact same choreography, so the whole thing looked a bit odd to someone who has been watching all season. Without any previous knowledge, it would have been an excellent program, well skated and well performed.
Sui/Han – China: 77.62 (TES: 40.53, PCS: 37.09)
Sui and Han had a small mistake on the side-by-side jumps, but otherwise looked strong returning to their 2016-2017 Blues for Klook program. This is their first and only competition of the season, so the reigning world champions were a relative unknown at the start of this week.
Mishina/Galiamov – FSR: 75.79 (TES: 40.77, PCS: 35.02)
Mishina and Galliamov were strong apart from very out of sync side-by-side spins, but their lower PCS scores as a young team made up the score difference between them and Sui and Han. Scores are tight at the top, so anyone in the top three has a realistic shot at the title.
Biggest Surprise – Miura/Kihara
Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara had an outstanding showing in their first Worlds as a team, finding themselves in eighth place and in the penultimate group for the free. In fact, if the standings remain as they are, Miura and Kihara would qualify a second Olympic pairs spot for Japan despite being the only Japanese pair team currently competing.
Biggest Flop – Moore-Towers/Marinaro
Hyped as a potential spoiler to the Russian and Chinese pairs, Kirstin Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro of Canada struggled mightily in their short program, starting with a very low twist and losing levels all over the place. They placed tenth in the short program, a long way adrift from where they wanted to find themselves at this point in the competition.
Who Had a Good Day?
Team USA (again)
All things considered, the US pairs teams had a very positive outing, slotting in sixth and seventh on virtually identical scores, with only Russian and Chinese teams ahead of them. Though their programs were by no means free of mistakes, if these placements hold then the US would miraculously qualify three spots for the Olympics, above and beyond what anyone would have expected.
Who Had a Bad Day?
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin started their program with a freak fall, accompanied by the side of Peng’s dress bursting open and clearly causing discomfort throughout the program. In spite of that nightmare start, they managed to recover well and get through most of their technical elements, placing fifth and virtually level with Tarasova and Morozov in fourth.
Zoe Jones (and Christopher Boyadji)
Even though today wasn’t their strongest skate, it’s worth giving a shout out to Zoe Jones and Christopher Boyadji of Great Britain. Jones is the oldest competitor in this event at 41 years old and a mother of three. She previously qualified for the 1998 Olympics as a singles skater and is now trying to qualify for the 2022 Games. Though they failed to reach that goal today, they only had 23 days of training to prepare for these championships and still managed to skate and land a throw triple flip. We won’t be seeing them again in the free skate, but it’s always nice to see Zoe continuing to prove that skating isn’t just a sport for children.
The pairs free skate will be tomorrow, Thursday, March 25th starting at 6:10 local time (GMT+1) / 1:10pm EST.