Skate America kicks off the Grand Prix circuit each year, and this year’s was marked by victories for reigning world champions, medals for skaters on their first Senior GP, and an enthused crowd who made each athlete feel supported. Here is a round-up of everything that went down at the competition!
🥇 Ilia Malinin (USA)
🥈 Kao Miura (Japan)
🥉 Junhwan Cha (South Korea)
🥇 Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)
🥈 Isabeau Levito (USA)
🥉 Amber Glenn (USA)
🥇 Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA)
🥈 Kaitlin Hawayek / Jean-Luc Baker (USA)
🥉 Marie-Jade Lauriault / Romain le Gac (Canada)
🥇 Alexa Knierim / Brandon Frazier (USA)
🥈 Deanna Stellato-Dudek / Maxime Deschamps (Canada)
🥉 Kelly Ann Laurin/ Loucas Ethier (Canada)
In first place was Ilia Malinin from the US with 280.37 points. Dubbed as the ‘Quad God’, he made waves in the figure skating community earlier this season at the US Classic after becoming the first individual to cleanly land the Quad Axel in competition. He had a fall on the 4T in the short program, and perhaps needs to grow into the choreography set to ‘I Put a Spell on You’ a little more. Despite heading into the free skate in fourth place, if there was any pressure on him from fans and media, it didn’t show. His sheer technical prowess is evident, as he opened with a flawless 4A that earned a high GOE, resounding cheers from the crowd, and 16.61 points in total. Although teasing a seven-quad layout recently at the practice for the Japan Open, he stuck with a 5 quad layout here, showing quality in the toe-loop, lutz, and salchow. Ilia didn’t manage to skate clean, falling on a combination jump (4Lz-1Eu-3S) in the second half of his program: it is exciting to think that we haven’t seen the best of Ilia Malinin yet. He is still a skater whose technical side remains much stronger than his artistic qualities in both the SP and the FS, and his artistry holds a large potential for growth over the season. The step sequence in his free skate will give him the opportunity to focus on lyricism and musicality in this slower section of the program, set to Labrinth’s ‘I’m Tired’. Ilia’s choreo sequence has arguably improved (and changed in some of its choreography) since its season debut at the US Classic, and the program as a whole has fleshed out well since its performance at The Ice in Japan over the summer. This choreo sequence seems to be an area of the program where he can enjoy the music without thinking about jumps, and was a moment of celebration after what was another stellar free skate from the seventeen-year old.
Second was Kao Miura from Japan. He earned high GOE of over 3 points in both quads of his short program, skating with charisma and paying attention to the various intricacies of the music throughout the step sequence. In his free skate to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, he retained intensity throughout a program which contains almost no moments of respite. He didn’t skate clean, falling on the opening Quad Loop, but was awarded high GOE in other jumps, notably his 4T-3T combination with +3.26. His step sequence to Dan Steven’s ‘Evermore’ from the film soundtrack was filled with dynamic movements. Nonetheless, the level and GOE of his step sequence and spins demonstrate that there is space to push the technical score up even higher, alongside those of the program components. Kao has proven himself to be a strong contender for a podium place at Japanese Nationals later this season.
Winning the bronze medal was Junhwan Cha of South Korea. In his short program opening with a stunning Quad Salchow, he stepped out on the Triple Axel and earned a negative GOE for this jump. He showed high quality in his other elements and secured level fours in the step sequence and spins. This Michael Jackson program is one that fans have loved since its first performance a couple of weeks ago. His musicality and ability to perform for the crowd was evident from the cheers that were heard as he moonwalked, and his step sequence hit all the accents of the music. His programs are two of the most exciting to watch this season; Junhwan emulated the world of James Bond with magnetism in his free skate, with strong spins and footwork. He struggled a little more in the second half of his free skate, with a fall from a 3A and other errors in the following two jumps. However, he earned cheers from the crowd in the final element, showing a beautiful cantilever and Ina Bauer in the choreo sequence. He deservedly had the highest PCS in the Men’s event.
Some other skaters of note included Daniel Grassl of Italy. His short program this season set to ‘Silhouette’ by Aquilo is choreographed by Jason Brown, and hopefully this will see him pushing himself musically and artistically, which he has previously stated in our interview as being very important to him. He wasn’t able to skate clean in his free skate yet put out a strong performance nonetheless, opening with a 4Lz followed by a 4F. There were possible signs of fatigue in the latter half of the program, with the level of his step sequence dropping to a 2.
Sena Miyake of Japan struggled slightly in the competition, falling on the recovery of a fall from a 3A in the short program. This didn’t hold him back from cleanly landing the final jump sequence of the SP, however. There was a delicacy and lyrical quality to the beginning of the program, skating to ‘Unchained Melody’, which built up towards the end of the performance. Sena dropped to eighth place after the free skate, with two falls and a downgraded jump. The program components still have a lot more room for growth, and it will be exciting to watch how these programs will compare to his second GP in a few weeks’ time. Compatriot Koshiro Shimada, competing due to Yuma Kagiyama’s withdrawal, rose from 12th place after the short program to ninth overall, with the fifth highest free skate score of 152.58.
Reigning world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won the women’s event with two strong performances. There was a popped jump on the combination in her short program set to a Janet Jackson medley, which she appeared to be irked by. She brought the crowd with her in the upbeat SP, displaying her usual charisma and extraordinary ice coverage, with high levels awarded to her step sequence and spins. Her free skate wasn’t flawless, with a slight deduction in one of her combination jumps. However, she remains a technically strong skater, landing all of her jumping passes with trademark fluidity and strength. Her ability to express both the softer chords of her program’s opening and the powerful latter half highlights her versatility as a performer. It is her first win at Skate America after five appearances at the competition.
Isabeau Levito of the US came to Skate America already with two wins this season. She is meticulous in her movements, with neat footwork and spins earning her Level 4s in the short program. Her transitions into and out of her jumps were well executed, and her SP to ‘Une Noche Mas’ was cleanly skated, earning her a new season’s best of 71.30. Her free skate wasn’t clean, with small errors in a couple of her jumps, but she displayed admirable flexibility in her spins: it was a strong skate and senior GP debut from the fifteen-year old.
Third overall was Amber Glenn of the United States. She was clean in the short program with a new personal best of 68.42, and earned Level 4s in her step sequence and two of her spins. She wasn’t able to land the opening triple axel of her free skate cleanly, however went on to earn positive GOEs for five of the remaining six jumps. She matched the intensity of her music well, skating to ‘Without You’ by Ursine Vulpine. She is a powerful skater who emotes strongly and covers the ice with speed.
Rino Matsuike of Japan withdrew prior to the free skate due to illness. Haien Lee of South Korea finished fourth, and displayed remarkable maturity in her skating. Her short program earned high levels in her spins, performing to ‘Storm’ and retaining the dynamism of the piece throughout her performance. Although she earned a season’s best in the SP (66.24), she wasn’t able to put two clean programs together, producing a free skate riddled with errors, including a fall and a popped jump. Nonetheless, she is an exciting skater to follow this season. The composition of her ‘Phantom of the Opera’ program is creative, staying away from the conventional pieces from the musical and instead opting to close the program with ‘Masquerade’.
Gracie Gold of the United States was another crowd favourite, becoming the oldest woman to land the 3Lz-3T after her short program, and going on to land it the following day as well. She struggled a little more in her free, falling on one jump and popping several others. However, she was cheered on by the crowd, and earned high levels in her spins: it is great to see her skating on the GP circuit.
Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova’s vibrant personality shines through in both her short and free programs, complementing the music well. Her free skate to ‘Up’ skilfully built towards the climax at the end. A fall coming out of the opening combination didn’t affect the rest of the skate, as she landed all the other jumps. There is a wonderful buoyancy to her skating, always making her performances enjoyable to watch.
Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the US won the first GP event after a successful last season, earning first place (82.63) in the rhythm dance set to a ‘Let’s Dance’ remix. Their program was performed with attention to the accents of the music, and a lovely synchronization of movement. The versatility of their skating is shown through their free dance to pieces by Jorane, presenting a different side to their characters from the rhythm dance. Their lifts were controlled, and although they came second in the free dance, they managed to edge out Hawayek and Baker to take the lead overall by less than one point.
Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the US finished second, although they earned the highest free dance score of 122.95. Their choreography to ‘Requiem’ and ‘Sofia’ is innovative, and their free dance displays a mastery of artistic expression. It was a delicate and emotional skate which picked up on all the nuances of a relatively quiet and lyrical piece, creating a program which seemed to be one continuous flowing movement.
Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain le Gac of Canada earned the bronze medal, producing the third highest scores in both the rhythm and free dances (72.12 and 106.18). Their program components scores were lower than both Hawayek/Baker and Chock/Bates, and it will be interesting to see how these develop over the next few months. Their free dance set to the music of ‘Pink Panther’ reflected both the comical and suave elements of the music, with creative choreography that the crowd enjoyed.
Another crowd favourite was Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi of Japan, who finished in sixth place at 169.68 points. Their performances have improved exponentially since the beginning of their partnership, with both of them displaying charisma and showmanship in their crowd-pleasing rhythm dance. Their free dance was set to the music of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, which Daisuke has skated to before whilst competing in singles. We can see the crescendo of the ‘Music of the Night’ section becoming a memorable moment in future competitions. The confidence and fluidity of their lifts have developed greatly, and the opening choreography was complex and creative. Both skaters have the wonderful ability to emote.
Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier of the US showed quality in their movements as reigning world champions, and skated clean in their short program set to ‘Separate Ways’ other than a slight error on their side-by-side triple toe-loop. They didn’t manage to produce a clean free program, with two elements of the free skate earning negative GOE, including a fall from the throw triple loop. They nonetheless put out a strong set of performances, and earned the highest program component scores in the Pairs event (34.34 and 67.80).
Second was Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps representing Canada. Their powerful short program was set to a tango, and they skated cleanly, earning a solid GOE of 1.46 on their opening triple twist, and positive GOEs across all their other elements. This was also seen in their free skate to ‘Cleopatra’, although there is room for these technical scores to develop even further in the competitions to come. Despite their technical scores being higher than Knierim and Frazier, their program component scores led to them being second in the free skate. No doubt this couple is one to watch this season.
Taking bronze was Kelly Ann Laurin and Loucas Ethier of Canada. They were fourth after the short program with 52.59 points but made a podium finish due to Letizia Roscher and Luis Schuster of Germany dropping to seventh place after the free skate. Their short program was riddled with minor errors, and they weren’t able to skate perfectly clean in their free program either, but it will be exciting to watch how their technical and artistic elements develop this year as they gain more experience.