Senior Grand Prix Final 2023: Recap

The 2023 Grand Prix Final took place in Beijing, China, and rounds up this season’s Grand Prix series. From personal bests and first medals to a plethora of memorable performances, it was a competition which made for a fitting climax to the GP events. Read on for a closer look at what went down!

Results

Men
🥇Ilia Malinin (USA)
🥈 Shoma Uno (Japan)
🥉 Yuma Kagiyama (Japan)

Women
🥇 Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)
🥈 Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)
🥉 Hana Yoshida (Japan)

Ice Dance
🥇 Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA)
🥈 Charlene Guignard / Marco Fabbri (Italy)
🥉 Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier (Canada)

Pairs
🥇 Minerva Fabienne Hase / Nikita Volodin (Germany)
🥈 Sara Conti / Niccolo Macii (Italy)
🥉 Deanna Stellato-Dudek / Maxime Deschamps (Canada)

Men

Ilia Malinin of the USA won the gold medal in the men’s event with a total of 314.66 points. The now-nineteen year old displayed his technical prowess in both the short and long programs. In his short program to ‘Malaguena’, he became the first skater to land a quad axel in the SP. Coupled with a clean quad lutz-triple toe combination and a triple axel, he secured a TES of 62.53 points for a total of 106.90 and went into the lead. He maintained the momentum for the free skate to the soundtrack of Succession; although he fell on the opening quad axel, he went on to land five quads and finished with a triple axel as the second jump in combination, becoming the first skater to perform all six quadruple jumps in competition. His choreo sequence was another memorable moment of the performance, and the butterfly twist has already become a trademark move for the skater. Shae-Lynn Bourne’s choreography continues to push him artistically, and it will be interesting to watch how the programs and his connection to them develop over the remaining half of the season. 

Last year’s Grand Prix Final winner Shoma Uno of Japan won the silver medal. He was closely in second place after the short program where he scored 106.02 points. It was a clean performance, and he nailed the quad toe-triple toe combination in both programs, which is a jump sequence that has eluded him in past years. The SP to pieces from the soundtrack of ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ opens in the realm of classical music which he has long been his forte; however, the quiet delicacy of ‘Clair de Lune’ demands a deep sensitivity and elegance which he showcased at the GPF. The step sequence, given a level four and +1.62 GOE, is a section where the music builds to a crescendo, and the choreography plays with different levels and changing speeds of movement to bring out the nuances of ‘I Love You Kung Fu’. The free skate to ‘Timelapse’ and ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ takes a path not often seen in programs, starting off with greater intensity before shifting to the quiet, minimalistic piano notes of the latter half of the skate. Uno landed four quad jumps, however popped his second axel jump into a single. He retained focus after the error, and pulled off a 3A-1Eu-3F sequence as his final jumping pass. He received three q calls as well as a time violation, but the score was enough for a silver medal, with an almost 10-point margin above Kagiyama. 

In third place was compatriot Yuma Kagiyama, for whom the event was the first Grand Prix Final experience. His short program to ‘Believer’ underscores the power and dynamism of his skating, especially in the ending, where the step sequence and two spins have big-scale, energetic movements. He showed three quality jumps, and secured level fours in all the other elements of the program. He opened his free skate to ‘Rain, In Your Black Eyes’ with an uncharacteristic mistake on the salchow, popping it into just a double, but his focus was commendable as he was flawless in the rest of the performance. With just one quadruple jump, the toe-loop, his TES of 93.12 is a testament to the quality of each element. The piece demands attention to both the quieter and louder sections of the music, and the changes in expression that each requires; Kagiyama reflected this with skill, and although the music choice is a popular one among skaters, it is one which matches him perfectly. 

Last after the short program, but third in the free skate to finish fourth overall was Adam Siao Him Fa of France, with 278.28 points. He popped his lutz into a double at the beginning of his short program, therefore invalidating the element and earning 0 points for the jump. Coming into the free skate, however, he put out a strong performance, landing four quads including the lutz. The skate to selections of music by Max Richter, Power-Haus and Ros Stephen is a complex and layered program, but Siao Him Fa commits to every movement to render them convincing, and magnifies each detail of choreography. He fell in the choreo sequence near the end of the program, thus earning a negative GOE and overall one point deduction, but secured a TSS of 189.92 points. 

Kao Miura of Japan had a difficult competition while struggling with illness but put out two strong performances and finished in fifth place; we wish him a good recovery. He was fourth in the short program, landing a 4S, 3A, and 4T-3T, although the first was given a -0.69 grade of execution. The choice of Olafur Arnalds’s ‘This Place Was a Shelter’ works to foregrounding the developments in musicality and shows a different side to the skater compared to what we saw last season. He showed an incredible fight in the free skate and was visibly exhausted afterwards: he went for four quads, including the loop, and landed them all. 

Kevin Aymoz of France was fifth after the short program but had a difficult free skate and finished in last place. His ‘Bird Gerhl’ short program is emotive and lyrical and plays to his strengths as a skater. He was clean on the opening quad toe-triple toe, but had a small deductive GOE on the triple axel. As always, he shone in the step sequence, and earned a level step sequence and a +1.56 grade of execution. He opened his free skate similarly with a quad toe-triple toe combination but popped the following jump into a triple. His third jump, the triple axel, was under-rotated and saw him have a very hard fall, as did the following triple loop. He popped the next two jumping passes into singles and fell on the final triple flip. Despite the struggles with the jumps, however, he secured level fours on the steps sequence and two of the spins, and his choreo sequence received a high GOE of +2.36.

Women

Winning the women’s event was Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto with 225.70 points. She was clean in the short program; her trademark distance and running edge in her jumping passes was seen in both of her performances. The program’s lyricism and instrumental coupled with the power of her skating made for a strong skate, and it put her in first place after the short program. Her free skate to the jazzy ‘Wild is the Wind’ and ‘Feeling Good’ is a new avenue stylistically for the skater, and she adapts to it well. She was clean apart from a negative GOE on the triple flip, and secured level fours in all spins and the step sequence. She added a double toe to the final triple loop, which highlights her stamina and athleticism. She maintained her momentum in the emphatic ‘Feeling Good’ section of the program, and received 148.35 points for the skate.

Loena Hendrickx of Belgium finished second overall. Her choice of more dance-based, modern programs and the verve and energy with which she pulls them off is great to see, and she brought both performances to life. She struggled a little with the opening triple flip in the short program, but was clean subsequently, and her step sequence was complex and interesting. Her ‘Break My Soul’ free skate is another entertaining program, and the transitions between elements also commit to the style and tonality of the music. She had a strong first half of the skate, but had slightly more difficulty in the remainder of the performance, with the lutz popped into a double, and the flip judged as marked on the quarter. 

Hana Yoshida of Japan was fourth after the short program, but put out a triumphant free skate to win the bronze medal. She attempted the triple axel in the short program, but fell on the jump, and fell on the subsequent triple lutz as well; both elements were marked with a q afterwards. However, she showcased the high quality of her skating in the final triple loop, as well as by receiving level fours in all spins and the step sequence. The free skate marks a shift in style from the ‘Koo Koo Fun’ short program, and she embodied a crane in her performance. She landed the triple axel this time (albeit on the quarter), and followed up with a clean skate, nailing all following elements. She skates with flow and musicality and is one to watch as the season progresses; she will also be a strong contender at the upcoming Japanese Nationals. 

Nina Pinzarrone of Belgium was third after the short program behind compatriot Hendrickx, but was fifth in the free skate to finish fourth. She landed all her jumps in the short program, although they were held back slightly by lower grades of execution compared to the two skaters above her. The lines of her skating are always standout, as are her spins- all of her spins were given level fours in the competition. She had a couple of jumping errors in the free skate, including an under-rotated triple toe in combination. Nonetheless, she has proven herself this season to be a strong competitor at the highest level, and it will be exciting to see her further growth in her following events. 

Isabeau Levito of the USA was last after the short program, but had a great comeback skate and finished in fifth place. She had uncharacteristic mistakes on all of her jumps in the short program, doubling the first lutz to make for an invalidated element, and struggling to land the next two jumping passes cleanly and with full rotation. In her ‘White Crow’ free skate, however, she put out a quality performance, and was clean apart from two q calls. The balletic style of the program suits her well, and she emulated it in her transitions and spins, as well as the choreo and step sequence which furthermore enabled her to display her flexibility and poise. 

Rion Sumiyoshi of Japan finished in sixth place overall. Her short program choreographed by Misha Ge had a popped and downgraded lutz, which contributed 0 points towards her final score; her toe-loop was moreover marked as on the quarter, which further reduced her TES for the performance. She went for the quad toe in the free skate, however was unable to land it fully rotated, and it was therefore marked as a downgraded triple toe: this meant that she put out three triple toe-loops in her program (two were as the second jump in a combination). Two other jumps were judged as on the quarter, and hence her TES was reduced substantially compared to the clean skate that she would have wanted to deliver.

Ice Dance 

Madison Chock and Evan Bates won the gold medal for ice dance with a six-point lead over the silver medallists. They skated to music by Queen in the 80’s rhythm dance, and took the lead after their performance, which secured level fours in the twizzles and rotational lift. The team is skilled at performing for and projecting towards the audience, and they played to these strengths in the free dance to pieces by Pink Floyd, which opens with a memorable starting position. Here as well, they were rewarded strongly for their elements, and put out a clean performance with high levels and grades of execution throughout.

Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy came second, with 215.51 points. Their rhythm dance to ‘Holding Out For a Hero’ and ‘Against All Odds’ is bold and entertaining, and shows a new side to the team. They put out two clean performances; in their rhythm dance, they showed remarkable speed going into the twizzles in the outset of the performance, and they were both centred and synchronised. The free dance to the soundtrack of ‘The Theory of Everything’ takes a starkly different approach and is one which they pull off with equal ease. It is an emotive, lyrical program, but one which simultaneously enables them to showcase their technical expertise. The transitions within the level four curve and rotational lifts were standout, as was the entrance into the dance spin, also a level four. They lost a few levels on the one foot turns; however, it was a strong performance from the team yet again. 

In third place were Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier of Canada. They were third after the rhythm dance, where they put out a solid performance to ‘No More I Love You’s’ and ‘Addicted To Love’: the two committed to the tonality and style of the 80’s program. Their free dance to ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a unique program this season; the two are skilled at worldbuilding and storytelling, and the FD underscores and emphasises these strengths. They encapsulated different pieces of music, and highs and lows of intense emotion, within the span of the performance. They were also strong from a technical perspective as well, putting out high quality lifts and twizzles, and using the elements and the transitions between them to build the narrative of the program. 

Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain were fourth at the Grand Prix Final. Coming in after a busy few weeks of competitions, they were fourth after the rhythm dance, where there was a mistake on the opening twizzles, incurring a negative GOE and lost levels. Despite the opening error, however, they secured points in the remainder of the program, and performed strongly to ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’. They are both charismatic performers, as the entertaining ‘Rocky’ free dance makes evident. Here, they were solid in the twizzles, earning level fours. The program integrates choreography throughout which pays homage to the film and the boxing theme, and the two built up towards the climax of the free dance well. 

Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen of Canada were fifth. They had a costly error on the twizzles in their ‘Top Gun’ themed rhythm dance, earning a -0.91 GOE and a level one; they also received a level one on the diagonal step. Thus they received a TES of just 39.82, and headed into the free dance in fifth place. Performing to music from the musical ‘Notre Dame de Paris’, they put out a much stronger skate, and secured positive grades of execution for all elements. They put out an emotive program, reflecting the drama of the musical and varying their movements in accordance to the song. 

Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha were sixth in their first Grand Prix Final. Their Michael Jackson rhythm dance is interesting and energetic, and they add their own interpretation to the often-chosen singer; it was a clean performance, however went into the free dance in sixth place behind Fournier Beaudry and Soerensen. Lajoie and Lagha skated to ‘Roses’ in their free dance, which is a lyrical piece which they convey with sensitivity and attention. Their twizzles, both given level fours, were fast and well-matched, and they built up the gradual increase in intensity with nuance and skill.

Pairs 

The Pairs’ event was won by Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin of Germany with a total score of 206.43. The team skates with confidence and flow, and have already reached remarkable heights in their first season together. They put down a clean short program, nailing the side-by-side triple salchow as well as the throw triple loop; their spin, lift and step sequence were furthermore all given level fours. They skated to ‘The Path of Silence’ and ‘Power of Mind’ in their free skate, which, while not clean, was nonetheless another strong performance. They struggled slightly with the side-by-side jump combination as well as the landing of the throw triple loop, but were solid in the second half of the performance, nailing the throw triple salchow and all the lifts. Whilst they were second in the free skate with a TSS of 133.87, it was enough to put them in the lead overall. 

Less than a point behind the winning team were Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii of Italy. They were third after the short program, where they were clean, but held back by grades of execution, especially on the opening triple twist and the side-by-side triple salchow. They gave a great performance to ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’, and interpreted the music with skill. Their ‘Cinema Paradiso’ free skate is the same as last year’s, and they were clean apart from a -0.16 GOE. They built up well to the climax of the program, skating with expressivity and emoting well towards the audience; the transitions into and out of their lifts were fluid and of top quality. 

Second after the short program but third in the free skate and third overall were Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps of Canada. They were narrowly behind Hase and Volodin after the SP, which they opened with an incredible triple twist that displayed excellent height and speed. They had more difficulty with the side-by-side triple toeloop and the throw triple loop, but showed a strong interpretation of ‘Oxygene’ in their step sequence. Their dramatic ‘Interview With a Vampire’ is a memorable program, and saw them commit to the dark intensity of the skate throughout the performance. There were errors in both side-by-side jumping passes, which were given negative GOEs. Despite these mistakes however, they were strong in the rest of the program and were just over a point below Conti and Macii. 

Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko of Hungary finished in fourth place. Their ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ short program saw them put out a clean performance, side-by-side triple toeloop, and throw triple flip. The final spin was given level three and a low GOE of 0.13; they were better in the free skate and secured a level four. They put out the fifth-highest scoring free skate, and had some difficulty with their side-by-side jumps (3T+2A+2A and 3S), with both of them given a negative grade of execution. A costly error came at the end of the program, where they were unable to pull off their lift; they thus earned a B level and a -1.45 GOE in addition, meaning they only earned 2.06 points for the element. 

Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini of Italy were fifth at the GPF, with 188.85 points. They opened their short program well with a level-four triple twist with good height, but had less success with the following double axel, as well as the throw triple lutz later on in the program. They performed well to the more upbeat latter half of the skate, especially in the step sequence. In their ‘Dracula’ free skate, they again had difficulty landing the side-by-side jumps cleanly, with negative grades of execution and a q call on both; however, both throw jumps were done well. Ghilardi and Ambrosini did well to capture the gothic tone of the program, and secured level fours in all lifts, as well as the final spin. 

Sixth in both the short program and free skate to finish sixth were Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada. Their energetic ‘River’ short program highlights the power and verve of the team, and while there was a fall from the throw triple loop, it was an entertaining performance, and the quality of their skating was evident in the engaging step sequence. They were unable to put out the clean free skate they would have wanted, with deductions on the 3T-2A-1A jump sequence, as well as the penultimate element, the lift; they missed out on valuable points in the latter, with a level one and -0.67 GOE given for it. The ‘Gladiator’ program works well with their big skating, and the team have proven themselves as a pair to watch in their Grand Prix debut season.

Photography by Verit: Twitter, Instagram

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