The Grand Prix Final is the most prestigious figure skating event of the season, other than the World Championships. The best figure skaters in the world gathered to compete this past weekend as a prelude to the World Championships that will occur at the end of March. Though a few of the major competitors were absent for the Grand Prix Final, there was a lot of stiff competition and incredible performances that were given.
The highlight of the Final was the men’s event. Yuzuru Hanyu broke his short program world record score, his free skate world record score, his overall world record score, became the first man to ever win three consecutive Grand Prix Finals and won by the largest margin in Grand Prix history. It was an incredible feat that will not be soon forgotten.
Some might think that because of Yuzuru’s phenomenal accomplishments over the past few weeks, it would demoralize the rest of his competitors, but that did not seem to be the case at this event at all. Though all of the talk is mainly centered about Yuzuru, there were many outstanding performances given by the rest of the men.
Japan’s Shoma Uno had a thrilling free skate that included two quads and seven triple jumps. He has been on the rise this season and claiming the bronze medal at the Grand Prix Final is no small accomplishment. Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who captured the silver, skated with a joy and charisma that was both entertaining and spectacular as he had three quads in his free skate. Though Patrick Chan had a rough short program, his free skate was absolutely brilliant! The depth of his skating skills and overall quality of skating was breathtaking. The men seem to be at a whole new level this season.
The ladies event was somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. The only major competitor that was absent at this event was Russian, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who did not qualify for the Grand Prix Final. The American ladies proved that they have some serious work to do on an international level. Ashley Wagner had a great comeback after being in last place following a rough short program and finished in fourth place. Wagner is a fighter until the end, but almost needs something to fight for to bring out that fire in her that she needs to perform at a winning level.
It was disappointing to see Mao Asada in last place, but it was later reported that she was very sick during the competition. Chances are, we will see a different Mao at the World Championships, she is certainly not one to count out. Her teammate, Satoko Miyahara certainly created a lot of buzz after her performances. Satoko has steadily grown more consistent this season and the judges are starting to reward that reliability.
Most of the ladies had some issues with two-footing jumps, under-rotation or doubling intended triples, but not Russian Evgenia Medvedeva. She was the clear winner of the event as she delivered two fantastic, clean performances. This is Evgenia’s senior debut season and what a season it has been. It will be exciting to see her grow as time passes.
The battle for the best pair team in the world is heating up as Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford went up against Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov. In the end Duhamel and Redford faltered and gave the Grand Prix Final win to Russians Stolbova and Klimov who were outstanding. Stolbova and Klimov look as if they have found their rhythm once again and are now considered contenders for the world podium. Missing from this event though was Olympic Champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. It will be exciting to watch these teams go head-to-head at the World Championships. And don’t forget Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov who also gave a riveting performance.
Ice Dance Event
There are many rules and politics involved in the world of ice dance, which make it challenging to completely understand all of the dynamics going on in the sport. If there is one discipline within figure skating that should be driven by presentation, artistry and overall emotional connection it should be ice dance.
At times what is seen by the audience and what is decided by the judges seem like two different things entirely. This event personified that kind of contradiction. The best performance of the event arguably was given by American team Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. Their performance was absolutely captivating and brought the audience to their feet and many watching to tears. It was one of the most moving performances given and yet they returned home without a medal. It was reported that Alex had a stomach illness and yet was able to overcome the illness and skate with brilliance. At the end of the program the brother-sister team both broke down into tears. It was an unforgettable moment for both the skaters and the viewers.
No doubt that the gold medal winners Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje were beautiful, but Andrew faltered on his twizzles and so did Madison Chock who captured the silver with her partner, Evan Bates. There are a lot of elements to take into consideration, but at the end of the day the Shibutani’s seem to continually get shorted as they ended up off the podium once again. It will be interesting to see how the face-off between Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia and Alex Shibutani turns out at Nationals.
This should be a wake up call for the American skaters as this is the first time in four years that only one medal was won by the American team at the Final, which was in ice dance. This event revealed weaknesses and strengths in each skater and now the athletes have a few months to go home and prepare for Nationals and the World Championships. If there is one thing that can be taken away from the Grand Prix Final is that we are in for some unpredictable moments and mesmerizing performances at the World Championships.