It’s the halfway point of Grand Prix season and with most skaters having competed in at least one event, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of how the rest of the season might play out. Italy managed to put on a great event on short notice, complete with real-looking medals better than anything IdF has given out in the past few years and massive blocks of cheese for the winners. Let’s rundown the top finishers of this weeks event and how they stack up against the rest of the field.
Disclaimer: scores can’t necessarily be compared directly across events because of different judging panels etc., but I’m going to do it anyway! Just keep in mind that in situations where scores are close, it’s likely a toss-up who would have won in a head-to-head.
The men were chaos once again, but in a fun new way. While Skate Canada was a struggle for everyone except the top two favorites, the GP Italia short program was the opposite. Gold medal contenders Yuma Kagiyama and Mikhail Kolyada both had significant mistakes, while more unpredictable skaters like Junhwan Cha, Daniel Grassl, and Boyang Jin skated perfect short programs and were all in medal contention after the first segment. However, the free skate was back to your regularly scheduled programming, with Kagiyama and Kolyada claiming the top two spots and the home skater Grassl taking bronze. Cha fell to fifth and Jin all the way down to seventh, with Deniss Vasiljevs finishing fourth, the best Grand Prix result of his career. The free skate will be a particularly bitter disappointment for Boyang Jin, who could have caused some real chaos by winning this event as it’s his one and only assignment. But alas, that specific brand of chaos wasn’t on the menu.
As far as Olympic prospects go, this event confirmed that Kagiyama and Kolyada both have medal potential when they skate clean (and perhaps even when they don’t). Probably the skater we learned the most about was young Daniel Grassl, who has always brought big jumps that don’t always go to plan. He skated two clean programs here with multiple quads but was still significantly behind the top men in PCS and lost a lot of points on spins and steps. He’s a clear example that in such a competitive men’s field, landing high-scoring jumps isn’t enough; you need to be a well-rounded skater to break into the top tier.
With the results of this event, Nathan Chen has mathematically qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Top Scores Comparison
|Nathan Chen (SCI)||106.72||200.46||307.18|
|Vincent Zhou (SKAM)||97.43||198.13||295.56|
|Yuma Kagiyama (Italia)||80.53||197.49||278.02|
|Mikhail Kolyada (Italia)||92.30||181.25||273.55|
|Shoma Uno (SKAM)||89.07||181.61||270.68|
|Daniel Grassl (Italia)||95.67||173.33||269.00|
|Jason Brown (SCI)||94.00||165.55||259.55|
|Evgeni Semenenko (SCI)||87.71||168.30||256.01|
|Shun Sato (SKAM)||80.52||166.53||247.05|
It was another Russia 1-2 in the final standings, bringing us one step closer to an all-Russian final, but the breakout star of the event was Belgian Loena Hendrickx, who won the short program and took home the bronze medal. With two very strong skates, under immense pressure no less, she becomes the first Belgian woman to medal on the Grand Prix, and the first Belgian skater overall since Kevin van Der Perren in 2011.
Among the Russians, reigning World Champion Anna Shcherbakova took the gold over training-mate Maiia Khromykh, despite a botched combo in the short program and only competing one quad (a flip) in the free skate. Shcherbakova has reportedly been struggling with injury, but like Trusova at Skate America, did exactly as much as she needed to win. Maiia Khromykh had a decent weekend, landing multiple quads in the free skate, but ultimately coming off second best. Khromykh’s total score ranks fifth among the Russian women on the Grand Prix, but with Trusova now sitting out of NHK due to injury and the pressures of the Olympic season on everyone, she’s still very much in the fight for an Olympic spot.
And once again, a special shout-out to Mai Mihara, who had another brilliant weekend to take yet another fourth place on the Grand Prix. She also beat countrywoman Satoko Miyahara in an event where both skated clean, which makes Mihara a real contender for the Japanese Olympic team.
With two events complete, Mihara leads the qualification standings, but is unlikely to qualify with two fourth place finishes. The main contenders have yet to finish their second event, so no one has officially qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Top Scores Comparison
|Kamila Valieva (SCI)||84.19||180.89||265.08|
|Anna Shcherbakova (Italia)||71.73||165.05||236.78|
|Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (SCI)||81.24||151.64||232.88|
|Alexandra Trusova (SKAM)||77.69||154.68||232.37|
|Maiia Khromykh (Italia)||72.04||154.31||226.35|
|Loena Hendrickx (Italia)||73.52||145.53||219.05|
|Daria Usacheva (SKAM)||76.71||140.60||217.31|
|Young You (SKAM)||70.73||146.24||216.97|
|Kaori Sakamoto (SKAM)||71.16||144.77||215.93|
|Mai Mihara (Italia)||70.46||144.49||214.95|
|Alena Kostornaia (SCI)||75.58||138.96||214.54|
For the second week in a row, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were in a league of their own and continued building their campaign towards an Olympic gold medal. Their free skate wasn’t perfect here, with some sketchy throw landings and a final lift that almost went horribly wrong, but they were still the class of the field by some margin.
Fellow Chinese pair, Chen Peng and Yang Jin also moved themselves solidly into the Olympic medal conversation, with two fantastic skates and a free skate program that is sure to be a major Olympic moment in Beijing. They showcased some very creative elements and strong skills which put them easily above the rest of the teams here, apart from Sui and Han.
Italians Della Monica and Guarise lost their chance at a home medal after multiple mistakes in both programs, and were usurped by young Russian team Artemeva and Nazarychev.
With two gold medals, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han have officially qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Top Scores Comparison
|Sui / Han (Italia)||80.07||145.11||224.55|
|Tarasova / Morozov (SKAM)||80.36||142.14||222.50|
|Miura / Kihara (SKAM)||72.63||135.57||208.20|
|Boikova / Kozlovskii (SKAM)||75.43||130.10||205.53|
|Kneirim / Frazier (SKAM)||66.37||136.60||202.97|
|Calalang / Johnson (SKAM)||68.87||128.55||197.42|
|Pavliuchenko / Khodykin (SCI)||69.46||123.62||193.08|
|Cain-Gribble / LeDuc (SCI)||61.68||128.22||189.90|
As usual with ice dance, the final result was more or less what everyone expected, but there were still a few key takeaways. Papadakis and Cizeron are back in top form and are the definitive favorites for Olympic gold, though we have yet to see programs from the reigning World Champions in their absence, Sinitsina and Katsalapov. If the Russian pair were hoping that Papadakis and Cizeron’s year away will have left them rusty, this event will have definitively crushed those hopes.
Skate America gold medalists Hubbell and Donohue took the silver medal here and have officially qualified for the Grand Prix Final next month. Their weaknesses are clearer when directly compared to Papadakis and Cizeron, but they are still squarely in bronze medal contention for Beijing.
Rounding out the medals were Russians Stepanova and Bukin, who unfortunately have fallen off the back of Sinitsina and Katsalapov pretty substantially at this point. They may have been a distant shout for Olympic bronze, but the score differential to Hubbell and Donohue makes that possibility even more distant.
The one unfortunate surprise in this event was a freak fall for Green and Parsons in the free dance, which ultimately cost them a second fourth place finish in as many weeks. That spot was instead taken by the Chinese team, Wang and Liu, who are also going for an Olympic MomentTM in their Kung Fu Piano free dance. Despite a disappointing finish, Green and Parsons are looking like a real possibility for an Olympic berth after the #3 American team, Hawayak and Baker, unfortunately had to withdraw from NHK Trophy due to Hawayak recovering from a concussion.
After this event, only Hubbell and Donohue have qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Top Scores Comparison
|Gilles / Poirier (SCI)||85.65||125.32||210.97|
|Hubbell / Donohue (SKAM)||83.58||125.96||209.54|
|Chock / Bates (SKAM)||82.55||125.68||208.23|
|Guignard / Fabbri (SCI)||78.82||121.23||200.05|
|Smart / Diaz (SCI)||76.97||115.96||192.93|
|Fournier-Beaudry / Sorensen (SKAM)||75.33||114.80||190.13|
|Green / Parsons (SCI)||72.40||114.11||186.51|
Here are the remaining Grand Prix events–I recommend the “So You Want to Watch FS” calendar to keep up with event timings and more.