Cup of China 2023: Recap

© International Skating Union (ISU)

The audience in Chongqing, China saw the fourth event in the 2023 Grand Prix circuit last week; it was a competition with strong performances and surprise results, as spots for the Grand Prix final continue to be sought after and secured by the skaters. Keep reading for a recap of some of the significant performances from the Cup of China!

Results

Men
🥇 Adam Siao Him Fa (France)
🥈 Shoma Uno (Japan)
🥉 Mikhail Shaidorov (Kazakhstan)

Women
🥇Hana Yoshida (Japan)
🥈 Rinka Watanabe (Japan)
🥉Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)

Ice Dance
🥇 Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier (Canada)
🥈 Marjorie Lajoie / Zachary Lagha (Canada)
🥉 Caroline Green / Michael Parsons (USA)

Pairs
🥇 Deanna Stellato-Dudek / Maxime Deschamps (Canada)
🥈 Rebecca Ghilardi / Filippo Ambrosini (Italy)
🥉 Cheng Peng / Lei Wang (China)

Men

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Following on from his win last week at the Grand Prix de France was Adam Siao Him Fa of France with 298.38 points. He was second after the short program with a costly fall from his quad toeloop, thus missing out on the combination jump. Nevertheless, he showed top quality elsewhere: his quad lutz was given +4.27 GOE and has become an invaluable element in his arsenal this season. All his spins and step sequence were given level fours, and he received good grades of execution throughout. He put out an incredible free skate, nailing all of his elements to deliver a clean performance. He had both the highest TES and PCS of the event and scored a total of 207.17. He landed four quads with great height; however, he is a skater who can push himself technically without this detracting from the musical and performative aspects of his performance. Although his first six elements were jumping passes, choreography and transitions were integrated into the moments between them so that the program as a whole was a developed, integral piece. 

World Champion Shoma Uno of Japan took the silver medal with 279.98 points, and the event was his first time competing this season. He was clean in the short program and was first after the skate, which saw him break the 100-point barrier with 105.25 points. He put out a quad flip given +3.46 in GOE, and followed up with a quad toe-triple toe combination which was also strongly rewarded by the judges. All of his spins were level fours; however, his step sequence was given a level three. The program to pieces from the film ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’, choreographed by Stephane Lambiel, is one that fits him very well, and plays to his strengths of lyricism and emotivity. The program opened with detailed choreography, immediately establishing the tone for the skate and showing attention to the accents of the music. His free skate sees him return to a more classical, instrumental approach, and his ability to match the style of his skating to the relatively quiet, flowing choices of music is a testament to his capacities as a performer. He did not put out a clean performance, with several errors on jumps, including a fall on the opening element, a quad loop. Furthermore, his step sequence was given a level two, and Uno will no doubt make amendments or work on the element in time for the NHK Trophy. 

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Third in both the SP and FS to finish third overall was Mikhail Shaidorov of Kazakhstan. He showed confidence in his performances, and is a very strong technician with quality jumps. He pulled off a quad lutz, triple axel, and quad toe-triple toe in his short program to ‘Clubbed to Death’, although he missed out on levels in a spin and the step sequence. In his ‘Carmina Burana’ free skate, there were three jumps which were judged as landed on the quarter, lowering his TES somewhat, but it was a high quality skate from Shaidorov nonetheless. He is a dynamic and driven skater, and the music choice works well with these attributes. It is his second season skating to the piece, and he showed his comfort with the program, which will undoubtedly keep developing as he pushes his PCS further. 

Kazuki Tomono of Japan finished in fourth place. He was sixth after the short program, where he fell on the quad salchow and had a negative grade of execution on the triple axel. However, he came back much stronger in the free skate, nailing two quad toeloops in succession at the beginning. He popped the salchow into just a double, but maintained focus and delivered many strong jumps thereafter. The pause before continuing his choreography into the triple axel-euler-triple salchow was a highly effective moment, and such releases of movement accompanied by well-timed stillness is one of his assets, as well as that of choreographer Misha Ge. 
Compatriot Sota Yamamoto was not able to put out the skates he would have wanted and was sixth overall. The Skate Canada gold medalist had a difficult short program where he scored 75.48 and placed eighth; his quad toe and triple axel were both marked as landed on the quarter, and his salchow was just a triple. He did better the following day skating to ‘Exogensis Symphony’. The performance started with a beautiful quad salchow; although the planned moment for the quad toeloop didn’t work, Yamamoto managed to maintain the concentration and momentum to land it despite this. He used a spin and the transitions out of it to build up to the apex of his program, and showcased good lines in his spread eagle.

Women

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Hana Yoshida of Japan won her first Grand Prix gold medal with 203.97 points. She attempted the triple axel in the short program, but fell. Despite this, she maintained focus and was clean in the rest of the program, putting herself in a strong place for the following day. Her free skate to ‘Shakuhachi’ and ‘La Terre Vue du Ciel’ has a memorable opening section which effectively sets the tone for the program. Again, she went for the triple axel and landed it this time, albeit with a step out. Many of the following jumps were landed with seeming ease, and both the tight in-air positions and the running edges coming out of them were impressive. She pulled off a triple lutz with very little preparation coming out of the choreo sequence. The step sequence was the penultimate element and was detailed and in time with the percussive beats of the music with creative movements. 

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Compatriot Rinka Watanabe was in close second, 0.75 points behind Yoshida. She had the second-highest scoring short program, where she secured level fours on all spins and was clean on the double axel and triple lutz. Her free skate was a clean performance, and she opened it with a double axel which had great distance. She was secure on all of her jumps  and received positive grades of execution throughout. She is a strong performer, and projected especially in the step sequence where she really connected to the music and paid attention to all the musical details of ‘November’, showing neat footwork. 

Loena Hendrickx was first after her short program, but third in the free skate, and took the bronze medal overall. She had a costly error in the short program, popping the axel into just a single and thus not earning any points for the element. Furthermore, the triple toe was judged as on the quarter, further reducing her total element score. She had a difficult free skate, and her TES was held back by the lower grades of execution given to them. Two of her jumps were marked as under-rotated, and two spins and the step sequence were given level threes. It was a difficult skate for Hendrickx, but she showed her strength as an athlete and performer and committed to the energetic and fun feel of her ‘Break My Soul’ program.  

Niina Petrokina of Estonia would have hoped to be on the podium for the second time this season, but was fourth in both the SP and FS, and ultimately finished fourth. She is a powerful skater, and the double axel in her short program had great distance. However, she had a step out from the triple lutz, and her triple flip-triple toe combination was called for rotation. Her step sequence was a highlight, as she paid attention to the beats and lyrics of the song to perfectly match her movements to them. Her free skate saw some errors on her jumps, with a fall on the triple flip, and a negative grade of execution on the double flip- double toe combination.

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Ice Dance 

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Winning their second Grand Prix gold medal of the season were Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada. They committed fully to the 80’s feel of their ‘No More I Love You’s’ and ‘Addicted to Love’ rhythm dance, and demonstrated a highly controlled sliding movement in their midline step. However, Gilles had a loss of balance during the twizzles, for which they were given a -0.23 GOE deduction. Although second after the short program, they were first in the free dance to the soundtrack of ‘Wuthering Heights’. They opened with one-foot turns to begin their narrative, and showcased skilled worldbuilding during the skate. They were stronger on the twizzles compared to the rhythm dance, though they still missed out on a level; the element was used well to match the faster, descending section of music. Their level four curve lift had great extension and Gilles and Poirier built up to the emotive final section of the skate. They used a memorable cantilever move as final element with which they closed another successful performance.

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Just under two points behind Gilles and Poirier were compatriots Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha, with 206.02 points. They were first after the rhythm dance, where they skated to music by Michael Jackson. The team has great ice coverage and were engaging throughout. They had extraordinary speed on their twizzles, for which they were given level four and +3.20 GOE. They have grown into the program since Skate America and gave the audience a crowd-pleasing moonwalk moment. They showed their range as performers in their free dance, which highlights the fluidity of their skating. It is a well-constructed program, where each moment is filled with choreography. The changes in position with the spins matched the music; it is a relatively quiet piece, but Lajoie and Lagha brought out all its details and brought it to life, highlighting changes in tonality, volume, and emotion. They gradually built up to the climax through their diagonal step and rotational lift.

© International Skating Union (ISU)

In third place were Caroline Green and Michael Parsons of the USA, who were third in both the rhythm and free dances. They are powerful skaters and retained the high energy necessary to deliver their rhythm dance to music by Scorpions; their level four straight line lift was in time with the beats of the music. They projected effectively towards the audience, and closed the performance with the choreo rhythm sequence, ending emphatically in time to the music. In their free dance, they opened with their trademark stationary lift, and took care to express the nuances of the piece in the one-foot turns, although they lost out on some levels here. The team showed good attention to choreography and music, picking up the tempo and changing the tone and texture of skating over the course of the program. Their level four dance spin had well-defined and maintained positions, and it was a clean skate for the two, which earned them a season’s best of 113.26 points.  

Pairs 

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In first place for the pairs event were Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada, following on from their gold medal at Skate Canada. They opened their short program with a quality triple twist which was given 7.80 points in total. The power of the team’s style fits with ‘Oxygene’, and they pulled off the side-by-side triple toeloop with seeming ease. There was a hand down on the throw triple loop, where they were given -0.07 GOE, but their great musicality was shown in the step sequence as they skated to the percussive beats of the piece. Their ‘Interview with a Vampire’ is an intense, magnetic program, and enables them to play to their strengths as skaters. There was a lean on the 3T-1A-2A sequence, but they had good synchrony and height. They remained committed to the style and characters of the program, and their dramatic lasso lift was effective in building up the intensity of the program. There was a two-footed landing from the throw triple salchow, and they were not successful with the final lift: they received only 3.05 points for the element. 

In second place were Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini of Italy, ten points behind the winning team, and in their first GP assignment this season. They had speed going into the opening triple twist, where they secured a level four. Their side-by-side triple salchow was on lean and judged as on the quarter, therefore receiving negative GOE, but there was height and distance on throw triple flip. Their step sequence was energetic and high-energy; there were a few short moments where they lost synchrony, but the two were well-matched in the final spin. Their free skate to ‘Dracula’ sees them take a darker approach, and they portray it convincingly. They had a fall and underrotation on their side-by-side triple salchows, but had flow throughout their lasso lift with a smooth change in position. There was a shift in tonality from the first to second half of the skate, which they picked up on in their skating. They showed two great lifts near the end of the skate with speed coming out of them.

Third overall, and third in both the short and free programs were Cheng Peng and Lei Wang, who skated in front of a home audience. Despite being a relatively new team, they showed their confidence and quality at the competition. They were clean on their opening triple toe-loops, and their throw triple loop had impressive height. The music possessed a dramatic ending, which they depicted through their step sequence as they brought the details of the piece to the fore. Their side-by-side triple toe-loop combination saw a fall in their free skate, and the triple twist, which they opted to put second, also received a negative grade of execution. However, they were solid on throw triple loop, and had good transitions going into their spins. They nailed their throw triple salchow further on in the program and finished emphatically to the music.

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Skate America winners Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany had two difficult skates and finished off the podium in fourth place. They were fourth in both the short program and free skate after some mistakes in both. The SP opened well, with a solid triple twist timed to ‘I Love Rock n Roll’, but the planned side-by-side triple salchow became a double, and the throw triple flip had a hand down. They had good footwork in the step sequence, however, and secured level fours in the element, as well as in their spins and lift. They were again good on the twist in their free skate, with height and speed shown, and followed up with a side-by-side triple salchow this time. However, their side-by-side axel became an invalidated element, and there was a fall from the throw triple loop. Despite this, they retained focus in the skate, and showed quality in their lifts as always.

To watch the video of our Cup of China livestream, click here.

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