The MK John Wilson Trophy is a new competition on the Senior Grand Prix circuit and took place in Sheffield: the UK’s first time hosting the event. Many skaters commented on the enthusiasm and support of the crowd, speaking of how they had never been to the country. Whilst some skaters won their second GP medal of the year, for others being on a Grand Prix podium was a new experience. Here’s a recap of what happened!
🥇Daniel Grassl (Italy)
🥈 Deniss Vasiljevs (Latvia)
🥉 Shun Sato (Japan)
🥇 Mai Mihara (Japan)
🥈 Isabeau Levito (USA)
🥉 Anastasiia Gubanova (Georgia)
🥇 Charlene Guignard / Marco Fabbri (Italy)
🥈 Lilah Fear / Lewis Gibson (UK)
🥉 Marjorie Lajoie / Zachary Lagha (Canada)
🥇 Alexa Knierim / Brandon Frazier (USA)
🥈 Sara Conti / Niccolo Macii (Italy)
🥉 Letizia Roscher / Luis Schuster (Germany)
Italy’s Daniel Grassl won the men’s event with 264.35 points. His short program is choreographed by Jason Brown, and the music choice to ‘Silhouette’ should invite him to explore lyricism and artistry as the season progresses. The step sequence demonstrated how his expressive qualities have grown over the past few years. He had a negative GOE on two jumping passes, with some tight landings, but delivered a strong skate which placed him in second place after the SP. His free skate showcases his technical arsenal; despite falling on the quad flip he produced other high-scoring elements, including a quad lutz and two clean triple axels. Whilst he attained level fours in all spins and the step sequence, there is still room to improve artistically, as he grows into the music of both programs to deliver still more compelling programs. His FS was given a season’s best of 177.50.
Deniss Vasiljevs of Latvia won the silver medal and was a crowd favourite in Sheffield. He fell on what is often an elusive quad salchow in his short program, but followed up with quality jumps showing speed, distance and flow. As always, he stunned in his step sequence and spins, reflecting all the intricacies of ‘An Englishman in New York’, showcasing his strengths as a performer, artist, and athlete. His free skate received a standing ovation and was a wonderful performance apart from a deductive GOE on the opening quad salchow. His centered spins were given level fours, and the high level of his skating skills and edgework was evident. Deniss encapsulated the grandeur of Dvorak’s ‘New World Symphony’, expressing both the gravity and modernity of the piece with strong musicality.
Coming in third place was Shun Sato of Japan. His short program was skated to ‘Carol of the Bells’, and he retained the intensity of the piece throughout the program, skating with speed, magnetism and musicality. He opened with a quad lutz, but had a mistake on his quad toe-loop which led to a negative GOE, and only a double toe-loop added in combination. In his free skate the following day, he had a hard fall on the opening 4Lz, but recovered to deliver some strong jumping pass, most notably the 4T with +2.71 GOE. He is a powerful skater who expresses the music well, and is a contender for a podium place at Japanese nationals.
Koshiro Shimada of Japan finished in fourth place, fifth after the short program, competing beside rinkmate Deniss Vasiljevs for the first time since 2016. His free skate was to a Chaplin medley, and he effectively picked up on both the poignant and comic aspects of Chaplin’s work. He popped the opening quad salchow into a triple, and had two imperfect landings which led to a negative GOE, but showed high quality elsewhere: his 4T was given a +3.26, and his 3A-1Eu-3S gained a +2.17 bonus. It is a crowd-pleasing program. It will be exciting to see how Japanese nationals will play out, as he goes head-to-head with his compatriots. Roman Sadovsky of Canada delivered an incredible short program, opening with a stellar quad salchow, and was clean overall other than the jump combination, which he managed to hold onto. Skating to ‘Cold’ by Chris Stapleton, he showcased charisma and charm, with delicate attention demonstrated towards the various beats and tonalities of the piece in the step sequence. He secured level fours in all spins and the step sequence. Roman struggled in his free skate, with no jumping passes rewarded with a positive GOE, and three falls. Nonetheless, he skated beautifully and delivered a lyrical performance to Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’, which brought the crowd with him. His top quality as a skater is evident from his spins and step sequence alone, with all spins given a level four.
Morisi Kvitelashvili of Georgia was in last place after the short program, popping all jumps apart from the triple toe-loop in the combination. He did better in the free skate and managed to finish eighth overall. Graham Newberry and Edward Appleby of Great Britain finished in eleventh and twelfth places, respectively, and within half a point of each other.
Mai Mihara of Japan won the women’s event, as reigning Four Continents champion. Her short program was a great performance, clean save from a tight landing on the triple flip which incurred a negative GOE. Skating to ‘Merry Christmas Mister Lawrence’ with soft elegance and musicality, she showed her strength not only as a performer, but also technically, earning points through her level four spins and step sequence, all with strong GOEs. She followed with an incredible free skate, once again garnering level fours in her step sequence and spins, and a +1.93 GOE on her choreo sequence. Mai landed her jumps with seeming effortlessness and ease, and although two jumps were later judged as landed on the quarter, she won with just under a two-point lead.
Isabeau Levito of the USA won her second Grand Prix silver medal after that of Skate America, with 215.74 points overall. Her short program contains intricate transitions, and Isabeau delivered a clean skate with centered spins and neat edgework, paying close attention to ‘Una Noche Mas’ during the step sequence. Her free program was another clean skate, with quality demonstrated in all elements. She opened with a lutz-loop combination and followed up with solid jumping passes. The choreography enables her to showcase her flexibility, and she conveyed her music with skill and confidence. She earned a new personal best of 143.68 for her free skate.
In third place was Anastasiia Gubanova of Georgia, who delivered two clean programs, apart from two jumps landed on the quarter in her free skate. She landed all her jumps with flow in the SP, skating with lyricism which matched the music chosen for her program, which was quiet and thereby required performative skills. She struggled a little more with her final two elements, two spins, with just a level two on her combination spin. The TES of her free skate was brought down by the aforementioned under-rotations, placing her free skate score in the fifth position, however it was still enough for her to stay in a podium place, although she was less than two points above Young You.
Young You of South Korea expressed the difficulty of entering this season, coming to the competition after illness, and skating after what has been a tough year, losing her father whilst at the Olympic Games. She was placed sixth after the short program, with two jumping passes given a negative GOE, and a triple-double combination. Nonetheless, her step sequence picked up on the tonalities and nuances of the program, incorporating choreography which paid tribute to the tango style of Piazzolla’s piece. Her free skate was clean apart from a flip-toe-loop deduction, and was skated to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. It is a program with a physically demanding layout, including a jumping pass as the penultimate element, which she landed successfully. She secured level threes and four in her spins and step sequence, achieving a season’s best of 130.15. We look forward to watching this program develop over the course of the season. Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova was undeniably a crowd favourite, and fourth in both short and free programs. Her free skate to the soundtrack of ‘Up’ was enjoyable to watch as always. She showed energy and personality throughout the performance, with fun choreography which encapsulates the world of the film. It was a clean skate which she appeared to be delighted by, opening with a 3Lz-1Eu-3F combination. Bradie Tennell of the USA finished in twelfth place coming back after injury, but expressed happiness at being able to compete once more; we wish her all the best with her recovery and training.
Winning the gold medal in the Ice Dance event was Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy, just one week after their victory in Angers, France. Their rhythm dance was a clean skate which enabled them to take the lead over the British couple, albeit with less than a point margin, giving the audience a vibrant performance to Samba and Rhumba pieces. They were rewarded well for their straight line lift with a level four and GOE of +1.51. They followed up with a clean free dance, matching the intensity of their music to deliver an enthralling skate, which showcased their technical strength. They achieved a PB and SB of 127.44, taking the lead overall with a wide margin.
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain were in second place, cheered on by an enthused home audience. They were given 85.37 for the rhythm dance, which displayed their showmanship as always, highlighting their capabilities as strong performers. Both skates were utter crowd pleasers; their free dance was an electric program to Lady Gaga’s music. Aside from a fall near the end, it was a strong performance, with rousing steps and charisma throughout. There were cheers from the audience for the last elements in this program, which promises to be an exciting moment in all competitions this season.
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha of Canada won their second bronze medal of this Grand Prix season. They were third in both rhythm and free dances, and were a little over four points behind Lilah and Lewis after the RD. Their neat twizzles opening the program were given level fours and a GOE of +2.29, and showed remarkable speed in the lift. Skating to Cha Cha and Samba pieces, they displayed confidence and strong energy in the program, matching the beat of the music with precision. The versatility of both skaters is evident from the change of tone and style between the two programs. Skating to ‘Nureyev’, they gave the crowd in Sheffield a captivating performance for their free dance, merging balletic elegance with passion. It wasn’t flawless, with a few minor errors including a slight stumble, but Marjorie and Zachary secured level fours in all lifts, and once again showed a stunning opening set of twizzles. They both commit wholly to the choreography, with attention to the detail of each movement.
In first place for pairs was Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the USA, with 205.85 points: over 20 points ahead of the silver medalists. Coupled with a gold medal victory at Skate America earlier in the Grand Prix circuit, they have booked themselves a ticket to the Grand Prix Final in December. Their short program generated a season’s best of 75.88; they weren’t flawless for their first two elements (the triple twist and side-by-side triple toe-loop), but racked up GOE in the elements to follow: most notably, a +2.60 in their lift. They were rewarded with a high PCS of 34.52. Their free skate was to ‘Sign of the Times’; they matched the changes in the dynamics and volume of the piece, which opened with quieter chords and built up to a rousing and powerful ending. There were errors in the two side-by-side jumping passes, but the pair showed quality in other areas, with an innovative combo spin, and were rewarded strongly in their lifts, skating with speed and flow. It was another season’s-best performance, given 129.97.
Second was Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy, who won bronze at Skate Canada. Second in both the SP and FS, they skated to ‘Oblivion’ by Piazzolla in their short program, earning a solid GOE of above +1 for both their throw triple loop as well as their lift. They weren’t able to deliver a clean free skate, with small errors on their side-by-side triple toe-loop and the throw triple salchow. Although they had two quality lifts, they missed out on the third, which was consequently an entire missed element: something that understandably and evidently frustrated the two. Nevertheless, they showed the skilful storytelling and performance capabilities which they also displayed in Canada, with another GP medal in the bag.
Winning the bronze medal was Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster of Germany. Despite small deductive GOEs on three elements in their short program, they delivered the third highest SP score of 60.24. It will be exciting to watch how they grow into their program to ‘In the Air Tonight’ over the course of the season, as their performance and artistic aspects develop further, and they gain more experience. Their free skate wasn’t clean, with several small errors including some two-footed landings on jumps, and a minor struggle with a lift near the end of their program. Despite this, they showed emotive performance skills in the choreo sequence.
Anastasia Vaipan-Law and Luke Digby of Great Britain finished in seventh place but brought the home crowd with them in their first Senior Grand Prix assignment. Performing in an arena familiar to them in an entirely new competition, they skated to ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ for the short program, and a James Bond medley for the free skate. To find out more about the two, take a look at our interview with them.