As a culmination of this year’s six Grand Prix events, the Final in Torino, Italy saw the qualifiers in each discipline go head-to-head, aiming for clean skates, personal bests, and podium places. From history-making jumps to first medals for countries, this year’s GP circuit has seen an array of memorable performances and touching successes and is undoubtedly one for the books. Read on for a recap of this ultimate Grand Prix competition, which marks the conclusion of what has been a thrilling seven competitions.
🥇Shoma Uno (Japan)
🥈 Sota Yamamoto (Japan)
🥉 Ilia Malinin (USA)
🥇 Mai Mihara (Japan)
🥈 Isabeau Levito (USA)
🥉 Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)
🥇 Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier (Canada)
🥈 Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA)
🥉 Charlene Guignard / Marco Fabbri (Italy)
🥇 Riku Miura / Ryuichi Kihara (Japan)
🥈 Alexa Knierim / Brandon Frazier (USA)
🥉 Sara Conti / Niccolo Macii (Italy)
Winning the gold medal in the men’s event was Shoma Uno of Japan; now with the title under his belt, the only win he is missing is that of Olympic champion. First after both the short and free programs, he finished with a total score of 304.46 points. Somewhat humourously, he was 0.01 points from breaking the 100 mark in the short program. Here, he delivered a clean skate, opening with a quad flip which was given a GOE of +3.14. Whilst he wasn’t able to show a quad-triple combination, the 4T-2T nonetheless contributed 12.56 points to his total score. Uno takes his time with each movement of coach Stéphane Lambiel’s choreography and performs ‘Gravity’ with a precision that simultaneously seems deeply natural; he comprehends and connects to the nuances and accents of the program with his whole body. Although his step sequence and final spin were given a level three, he nonetheless racked up points in grades of execution, with only the final element (the change foot sit spin) earning less than +1. He also had by far the highest PCS of 45.57. In the free skate, he put out another strong performance, with five quads landed. The only negative GOE was a -1.36 on the quad toe-loop. Opening with the loop, salchow and flip, he had a TES of 41.28 after just three elements. As always, he commits to every movement with extraordinary lyricism, transitioning from the delicate ‘Air on the G String’ to the intense ‘Mea tormenta, properate’ sections. The step sequence earned a level four this time, and is a section where he really sells the emotions and choreography of the program.
In second place was compatriot Sota Yamamoto, with two clean programs save from an axel landed on the quarter in the free skate. In his short program to ‘Yesterday’, he secured level fours in all spins, and had solid grades of execution for all elements, which enabled him to achieve a total of 94.86 for the performance and come into second place after the SP. He maintained flow throughout the performance, especially in the step sequence. The fluidity of his skating was displayed once again in his FS to Rachmaninov’s ‘Piano Concerto No.2’, and he nailed all his jumping elements once more, earning many points with the largely positive grades of execution attributed to his elements. He opened with a quad salchow, and followed up by two high quality quad toe-loops, the first of which was in combination with a triple salchow. Similarly to the short program, he had a level three step sequence, but was awarded level fours in all of his spins. He demonstrated calm and confidence in the program, and whilst his PCS of 76.96 indicates that his artistry and projection towards the audience and judges has much room to grow, he is a strong contender for a podium place at Japanese Nationals in a few weeks time, where he will once again go up against Shoma Uno, as well as the other two Japanese skaters we saw at the Grand Prix Final.
Ilia Malinin of the USA, who won gold medals at both of his Grand Prix events this season, finished in third place. The now-eighteen-year-old was fifth after the short program, with crucial points lost in mistakes; the injury he was harbouring at GP Espoo appeared to be bothering him still. There were negative grades of execution on four elements, three of which were his jumping passes; his quad salchow was later judged as landed on the quarter. His final spin received +2 from two judges, and -3 from one: it was ultimately given a GOE of -0.04. Whilst he has struggled this season to put out a clean short program, he nevertheless opened with magnetism and secured a level four in the step sequence to Garou’s ‘I Put a Spell on You’, with the choreography containing well-timed pauses which complement the beats of the piece. Already over the course of the season, his artistry has developed, and these emphatic pauses in the step sequence are becoming more natural and integrated within the other movements. He delivered the second-highest scoring free skate to songs from the soundtrack of ‘Euphoria’, and landed five quads, the first of which was the quad axel: a jump which earned a +3.04 GOE. He followed up with the flip, toe-loop and salchow, and once again was given a level four for the step sequence. The 4T-1Eu-3S sequence was given a -0.68 grade of execution, and the final jump of the combination was judged as on the quarter. Despite this, he nailed the final combination which finishes with a triple axel, displaying his technical skill which doesn’t cease to be astonishing. There were suggestions of fatigue in the final elements of the free skate, however, and the choreo sequence and final spin lacked its usual dynamism and verve, with the ‘Mount Everest’ section demanding a high-energy delivery. Speaking to media after the free skate, Malinin said “As of right now we’re not so sure about the schedule. I still need the time to be able to prepare for Nationals. After the GPF we need some time to check what condition it’s in, if I need to take time off, or adjust the content a bit.”
Shun Sato of Japan had a fourth-place finish in Torino, with 250.16 points overall. Despite finishing in sixth place after the short program, he had the fourth highest scoring free skate, which was enough to put him behind the three medalists overall. He fell on the opening quad lutz in his short program, and doubled the second jump in his quad toe-loop combination, but managed to hold onto the landings. His triple axel was of quality, and he showed speed and dynamism to ‘Carol of the Bells’, with large movements throughout the program and especially in the step sequence. Whilst it wasn’t the clean skate he would have wanted, Sato retained focus after the short program to deliver a stellar free skate, which was clean and had positive grades of execution on all elements. Here, he landed the quad lutz with +2.63 GOE, and went on to land two quad toe-loops as well, in addition to other solid jumping passes. It was a strong comeback skate, and while the step sequence was given a level two, he worked well to emulate Rodrigo’s music.
In fifth place was Kao Miura of Japan, who earned two silver medals at this year’s Grand Prix at America and Canada. He fell on the exit of his quad salchow-triple toe-loop combination in the short program, but managed to retain focus, with quality shown in his triple axel and quad toe-loop. He opened and closed the program with conviction and intensity which reflected the choice of music to Piazzolla’s pieces. His spins have improved over the course of the GP circuit already, and he secured level fours here. His free skate was a dynamic performance to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, starting with success and cleanly landing his triple loop and 4T-3T combination. Miura emulated the narrative arc of the story well. Despite this, it wasn’t the skate he would have wanted, with costly errors on his toe-loop in the latter half of the program, with one popped into a double, and the next a fall from the quad.
Daniel Grassl of Italy, despite being in fourth place after the short program, finished in sixth place overall, skating in front of a home audience. His short program to ‘Silhouette’ is choreographed by Jason Brown. Although he fell on the opening quad lutz, he recovered from the setback well to deliver a great triple axel and lutz-toe-loop combination afterwards. He expressed himself well in the step sequence, which is an area where he has shown growth over the past few seasons and will inarguably continue to grow. He landed all his jumps in the free skate, and opened with three quads (the lutz, flip and loop). Of the performance, he said “I’m very happy how I fought for it, I wasn’t feeling very well for this competition because I was very sick.” Grassl connected with skill to the intensity of the music, which, during the middle of the program, also transitions into a softer and more lyrical tone: he did well to emulate these changes. However, his TES saw major deductions and was greatly reduced between the end of the skate and the final results, with judges noting errors such as landings on the quarter, edge calls, and under-rotations. His TES was therefore just 87.85, which coupled with his PCS of 76.72 made his free skate the fifth highest score. With Nationals being next week, Grassl said to media that “I don’t have a lot of time because now I want to recover after this competition, I want to get this sickness away. On Wed/Tues I’ll be back on the ice then competing on Saturday.”
Mai Mihara of Japan won the Women’s event with 208.17 points. Reflecting on her first GP Final with Kaori Sakamoto, she said “I really feel strongly that I want to be on the podium [with Kaori] and Kaori is also always working hard and it made me want to work harder a lot of times as well.” In her short program, she delivered a clean skate with all jumps successful, and was rewarded highly for her combo spin and step sequence which earned a GOE of +1.10 and +1.23 respectively. Her fluidity and grace was highlighted in this program to ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’, which was a performance which she was visibly delighted by. Apart from a fall on the double loop in her free skate and an under-rotation on a triple toe-loop in competition, she demonstrated another strong performance the next day, landing all other jumps with ease and flow coming out of them. Her strengths also lie external to her jumps, with spins, step and choreo sequences all rewarded well, with the latter including a brilliant spiral. Mihara has great musicality, emoting towards the audience and judges and doing well to reflect the intricacies of the music.
Isabeau Levito of the USA came in second place in her Senior GP debut season. Her short program had an error on the 3Lz-3T combination, with the toe-loop landed on the quarter and a negative grade of execution. Nonetheless, her spins were high quality as usual and she earned level fours across the spins, with the combo spin given +1.19 GOE. Her neat footwork also enabled her to secure a level four in the step sequence, and she included transitions such as an Ina Bauer and spiral between elements. Levito demonstrated dedication and focus in this ‘Una Noche Mas’ program, whilst also engaging with the audience and expressing the music. She wasn’t able to put out a clean free, with a step out on the triple loop of the opening combination, and a fall on a triple flip resulting in a repeated jump and thus lowering her TES. Despite these mistakes she demonstrated great flexibility, and her spins are no doubt a forte of hers and were once more rewarded well in terms of GOE. She said of her performance that “I feel very satisfied with it, I know there’s minor mistakes that can definitely be improved.”
Winning the bronze medal was Loena Hendrickx of Belgium, who said “It feels pretty amazing to stand here, as a European woman and also for my country, to achieve this goal and perform here.” Whilst both jumps of her triple lutz-triple toe-loop combination were judged as landed on the quarter, she nailed her other two jumping passes and earned positive grades of execution for six of the seven elements. She furthermore showed level four quality in all three spins and the step sequence. The entertaining and bright step sequence to the ‘Mi Gente’ section of the short program is no doubt a highlight, and a great contrast to the tonality of her free skate. The FS to ‘Heaven’ and ‘Fallen Angel’ wasn’t the clean skate she would have wanted, with the first jumping pass seeing a step out form the triple toe-loop, and a fall from the triple flip. Nonetheless, she worked well to come back from these opening errors, and whilst two other jumps were judged as underrotated, it was enough to finish in third place. It was a dynamic performance, showing strong emotion in the final few elements and ending with an emphatic finish pose. As a woman in her 20s competing at this level, she stated that “This is how it should be, it’s harder to perform when you’re above 20 I think. Mentally it’s getting harder every year. When I compare it to when I’m 16 or 18, everything was so easy in my head.”
Rinka Watanabe of Japan was fourth in Torino. Her ‘El Tango De Roxanne’ short program earned a season’s best of 72.58 and whilst her triple axel was judged as landed on the quarter and incurred a negative grade of execution, it was nonetheless landed, and followed by two strong jumping passes. All three of her spins and her step sequence were given level fours. Her free skate to the soundtrack of ‘Jin’ was the third highest score at 123.42 points, and whilst there were negative GOEs for four elements including the triple axel and a fall from the triple lutz, she landed multiple other jumping passes solidly. It will be interesting to see her performances at Japanese Nationals in just over a week’s time, where she will once again go up against Kaori Sakamoto and Mai Mihara, amongst other skaters.
Despite being first after the short program, compatriot Kaori Sakamoto was sixth in the free skate and fifth overall. On her preparation for the GP Final after her skates at the NHK Trophy, she said that “The amount of my practices didn’t change but I’ve increased my training slightly. When I had time, I walked or used the train instead of taking the car. I just thought about moving my body even during the day.” She delivered a clean short program with positive grades of execution on all elements; she displayed her trademark ice coverage and deep running edge out of her jumps. It was a powerful performance and an energetic program to Janet Jackson’s music, which she delivered with attention shown to the piece to earn a season’s best score of 75.86 points. She struggled in the free skate however, with costly errors on her jumps. Although she opened with a double axel with great distance, she followed with a step out on the triple lutz and went on to pop two other jumps, the flip and the final loop at the end of the program. Two of her spins were given a level three, similarly to her short program. Whilst her TES was lower than her other two GP performances this season, it was nonetheless a dynamic performance with expressive qualities in her movements.
Yelim Kim of South Korea had disappointing skates, and finished in sixth place. There was a costly error on the take-off for the double axel, resulting in an invalid element which contributed 0 points towards her overall score. Despite this mistake, she followed up with a solid triple flip, earning a +1.14 GOE. Although her first two spins were rewarded with level fours, her final spin was just a level two, further lowering the TES to put her in sixth place after the short program. She showed top skill and quality in this short program to ‘Mercy’, with an intricate yet flowing step sequence which foregrounds the elegance of her skating. Her free skate opened with a fall, but she did well to come back from this mistake, although other jumps were also judged as under rotated. Here, her spins were given level threes and fours, and she delivered a good performance and showcased her lyricism and musicality, ending with her trademark Ina Bauer.
Winning the gold medal in the Ice Dance event was Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada. Coming into the competition with gold medals at both of their other GP events this season, they put out two clean skates. In their rhythm dance, they showed synchronised twizzles, and closed the program with a level four rotational lift which was given a grade of execution of +1.71. The two were given the highest PCS of 37.54 in the rhythm dance. Their free dance was to the musical ‘Evita’, and whilst they got level twos in the circular step, they received level fours in the twizzles and the lifts. They successfully built up to the crescendo of ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’, with commitment to the world of the program and dedication shown to the characters they were emulating. They were first in the free dance to take the lead with almost four points above Chock and Bates.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the USA came second in Torino. In the rhythm dance to a ‘Let’s Dance’ remix, they secured level fours on the twizzles, as well as the penultimate element, which was the lift. Points also piled up via grades of execution, although there was also arguably space to earn more through levels on several elements. They achieved a season’s best of 85.49 points. Their free dance showed focus and intensity, skating to ‘Souffrance’ and ‘Les Tectoniques’, and was another clean skate. Both Chock and Bates once again received level fours in the twizzle sequences, and retained the flow of their movement throughout the program to achieve a free dance score of 126.45. Speaking of the changes to their choreography after the NHK Trophy Chock said, “We’ve done a lot of revamping in our free dance, adding a more contemporary vibe. We dove into a new lane of dance to convey our story and develop our characters.”
In third place were Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy, who were third in both the rhythm and free dances. They put out a high quality rhythm dance; both skaters are strong in both technical and artistic aspects, and delivered a charged program to the home audience. They showed speed and good ice coverage in the opening twizzles; furthermore, their lift was given a level four by the judges. Their free dance was clean, skating with intensity and maintaining this dedication to the music throughout the entirety of the program, drawing the spectators into their performance. They showed quality once again, with level fours in the lifts, and achieved a total score of 122.29 for the free dance. On skating in the rink that hosted the 2006 Olympics, Fabbri said to media that “It’s always beautiful but you still feel the presence of the rings. It’s special but a little bit scary sometimes to skate in such a big arena but it’s also nice to be able to perform in such a meaningful building.”
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain were fifth after the rhythm dance, but fourth overall. As always, they shone in the Final as strong entertainers, and secured high grades of execution across all elements in the rhythm dance, with both receiving a level four in the twizzles. It is a rousing program which brings the spectators with them with each performance. Their free dance was to a Lady Gaga medley, and was another energetic and crowd-pleasing performance, especially in the final section of the skate to ‘Born This Way’. The program opened with quality stationary and rotational lifts, both level fours, although they ultimately saw a one point deduction from their free dance score due to an extended lift. Fear and Gibson edged out Hawayek and Baker with over two points, with a total score of 200.90. Fear said to media of their schedule now that “We get to rest a little bit because we’ve been competing since August non-stop, pretty much every two weeks. We’re training until Christmas then taking a week off.”
In fifth place were Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the USA. They were sixth after the rhythm dance, which was a clean skate although only their twizzles and lift were given level fours; their twizzles were beautifully synchronised and the program ended with a vibrant choreo rhythm sequence. They both reflected the music’s tonality and energy well throughout the program to Samba and Rhumba pieces. Their free dance was another high quality performance to ‘Requiem’ and ‘Sofia’, which opened with their trademark one-foot turns, which showed fluidity and precision. The choreography highlights the brilliant lines of their skating, and the extension of each movement within the program. Although it is a relatively quiet piece, the two foregrounded each detail of the music, and secured level fours in multiple elements such as the twizzles, curve lift, and dance spin. Baker said to media about the experience that “We’re quite pleased with today’s performance, it’s our first time this season skating first and that can add a little bit more anticipation and nervousness feeling rushed. We were happy being able to manage that.”
Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada finished in sixth place overall, despite being fourth after the rhythm dance. Their rhythm dance was a clean skate, and whilst their opening element, the midline step, was just a level two and three, they followed up with a beautiful stationary lift and twizzles, both of which earned level fours. Their free dance had a costly error on the curve lift with a fall coming out of the element, leading to a -0.64 grade of execution and a -2 deduction from the total score. Despite this, the other areas showed the quality of their skating, shining in the final few elements after the mistake, including the choreo character step sequence. The style of the program is one that they are comfortable with, and one which enables them to demonstrate their mastery of the music.
Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan finished in first place in the Pairs event. The short program was a clean skate, with high GOEs across all of the elements; the two cover the ice with remarkable speed. They nailed the side-by-side triple toe-loop and succeeded in the throw triple lutz with seeming ease. The emotive build-up in ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was reflected in their level four step sequence, where they both exuded positive energy. Going into the free skate with less than a one-point advantage over Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, they put out a wonderful skate, although it wasn’t flawless. There were minor errors on two elements which led to negative grades of execution, both of which were the side-by-side jumping passes; the throw triple lutz was in addition given 0 GOE. Despite this, they racked up grades of execution elsewhere, and finished off with a difficult lift showing brilliant strength and focus: it was a level four element and was given +1.82. The skate earned 136.50 points and was enough to put them in the lead overall.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the USA won the silver medal, just over 1 point behind Miura and Kihara. Their short program opens creatively, and they showed a solid triple twist with good height, going on to land the side-by-side triple toe-loops and nailing the throw triple flip as well. The lift displayed speed and flow, which enabled the two to secure a level four and a +2.40 GOE: four elements were rewarded with level fours from the judges, including their synchronised spins. The dynamic step sequence matched the energy of ‘Separate Ways’, and they achieved a season’s best score of 77.65 points. Their free skate was another great performance, and whilst there were mistakes on the side-by-side jumping passes, with just a single toe-loop in combination with the triple toe-loop, the top quality of their skating was evident in their other elements, notably the throw triple loop and lutz. All three of their lifts were given a level four, with complex exits out of them which blended in well with the rest of the choreography. Knierim and Frazier received a season’s best score for the free skate as well, with 135.63 points.
In third place were Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy, who were one of the two teams in the Pairs discipline skating before a home audience. In their short program, they nailed the side-by-side triple salchow, and their lasso lift was given a level four and +1.00 GOE. They also had a level four step sequence, and this clean performance led to a score of 67.30. In their free skate to ‘Cinema Paradiso’, they weren’t able to put down a clean program, with mistakes including those on the two side-by-side jumping passes. Despite these setbacks, they showed quality throughout the skate, opening with a strong triple twist as well as a good throw triple salchow and attained level fours on two lifts. They have great musicality and projected well towards the audience and judges especially in the last few elements. Producing a season’s best score of 119.72 for the free skate, they rose from fourth place after the short program to third overall. Macii stated later that “It’s an unbelievable achievement, we didn’t expect it. We’re really proud to represent our country.”
Third after the short program but fourth overall was Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada. Their short program was a clean skate where they both nailed all the elements, and whilst their spin was given just +0.05 in GOE, they displayed a powerful step sequence for a triumphant finish. Their free skate did not maintain this momentum, however, and was riddled with errors, including the exit to the opening triple twist. Although it is undoubtedly not the skate they would have wanted, their lifts were strong and retained flow throughout the program, with all three elements receiving level fours and over +1 GOE each. They succeeded in the throw triple loop, keeping the energy of the performance to the end, making for a highly enjoyable free skate. Speaking to media after the free skate, Stellato-Dudek said “Definitely we’re really disappointed. Not much in our program went our way. I wasn’t even sure if I would have been able to do this long today”: she was sick for the competition and had been for most of the week.
Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini of Italy also skated in front of a home audience and finished in fifth place. Their short program was to a medley of songs by Queen. The opening element of the triple twist had a two footed landing, but the side-by-side double axel and the throw triple lutz were both landed with positive grades of execution; the lasso lift had flow throughout and was rewarded strongly both through the level four attributed to the element, as well as the +1.40 GOE. Their spins and step sequence were well timed to the energetic ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, interacting with the spectators for an emphatic finish. The free skate to ‘The Barber of Seville’ saw the first three elements receive negative GOEs, two of which were the side-by-side jumping passes. There was also a negative grade of execution later on in the program from the throw triple loop due to a hand down, but overall they came back strong in the latter half of the skate, securing a level four in all lifts. The final two lifts of the program were used to pick up the tempo and successfully develop a crescendo to the conclusion of the free skate.
Sixth overall was Emily Chan and Spencer Akira Howe of the USA. Their triple twist was of level four quality in both programs, and in the short program the brilliant height of the element was showcased. Whilst they also had a clean throw triple loop, there was a mistake on the side-by-side toe-loops, and furthermore they missed out on the lift, subsequently earning zero points for the element. Nonetheless, they maintained focus to display an engaging step sequence and picked up speed in the final spin, connecting well to the intensity and percussive beats of ‘Nyah’. The free skate to the soundtrack of ‘Ghost’ saw a fall on both of the throw jumps, but they were solid elsewhere, save from a underrotated side-by-side triple toe-loop. The two nailed the lifts this time and emulated the music well, opening with softer choreography to build up to the climax of ‘Unchained Melody’, reflecting the transition via variations in the scale of their movements and expression. After the free skate, Chan said to media “Today I feel really happy with the way the free skate went because we were able to work together,” whilst Howe explained that “Through the Grand Prix series and with our schedule we haven’t had a lot of time between each competition. It’s nice to be able to go back home and have a breather before our next competition [US Nationals].”