Kicking off the 2023 Grand Prix circuit was Skate America, which took place in Allen, Texas this year. The competition saw first medals for skaters, continuing victories and successes for others, and achievements that wrote themselves into skating history. Read on for a more detailed look at what went down at the event!
🥇 Ilia Malinin (USA)
🥈 Kevin Aymoz (France)
🥉 Shun Sato (Japan)
🥇Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)
🥈 Isabeau Levito (USA)
🥉 Niina Petrokina (Estonia)
🥇 Madison Chock / Evan Bates (USA)
🥈 Marjorie Lajoie / Zachary Lagha (Canada)
🥉 Evgeniia Lopareva / Geoffrey Brissaud (France)
🥇 Annika Hocke / Robert Kunkel (Germany)
🥈 Lia Pereira / Trennt Michaud (Canada)
🥉 Chelsea Liu / Balazs Nagy (USA)
Winner of the Men’s event, Ilia Malinin of the USA skated in front of a home audience at the event, one year after his historic feat of landing the quad axel at last year’s Skate America. This time, he did not attempt the element and went for six quads overall, landing each jumping pass. In his short program to ‘Malaguena’, he received a TES of 60.20, with all spins and the step sequence receiving level fours. Although there is still a need to fully commit to each movement and extend the lines of his skating further, there was inarguably an improvement in his artistry and musicality compared to last season.
In the step sequence, he showed fast footwork and projected towards the audience in his performance; the program highlights the quality of Shae-Lynn Bourne’s choreography. In the free skate to the soundtrack of ‘Succession’, Malinin again showed greater attention to the details of movement including transitional content between elements.
It was a clean program with all level fours once more; the judges gave him a high PCS of 87.77, which combined with the technical element score of 118.64, gave him enough points to earn a new personal best (206.41), and he broke the 300-point barrier by over 10 points.
The silver medal went to Kevin Aymoz of France, who showed top quality in both of his performances. His ‘Bird Gehrl’ short program is a lyrical piece which enables his artistry to shine through. Aymoz is a skater who extends his limbs at every moment in the program, and commits completely to each movement. He nailed the quad toe-triple toe combination in the opening, and pulled off the spread eagle entry into the triple axel. He put out a triumphant short program, with an emotive step sequence as the final element of the performance. Aymoz performed to ‘Bolero’ in his free skate, which is a popular choice of music among skaters but one which nevertheless works well for him. Aymoz opened with a strong quad toeloop which earned a GOE of +1.63, which was the only quadruple jump in his program. Although three subsequent jumping passes were given a negative grade of execution, it was a strong performance nonetheless, and placed him second behind Malinin. The program enables him to showcase the elasticity and charisma of his skating, integrating choreography in the spaces between each element.
Shun Sato of Japan earned 247.50 points overall and won the bronze medal. He opened his short program to ‘Libertango’ with a stunning quad toe-triple toe combination, but struggled to cleanly land his quad flip and incurred a -4.24 deduction. Nevertheless, he completed his jumping passes with a quality triple axel, and transitioned into an intense and dynamic step sequence, using his whole body to express the music. In his free skate, he underrotated the opening quad lutz and stepped out of the quad toe, thus losing out on valuable points. The performance was nonetheless solid overall, and whilst Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ is a common piece in figure skating, he expressed the piece with skill; there is a lightness to his skating which works well with the music. The transition into the more intense section of the music was reflected in Sato’s skating, and the latter half of the program therefore demands great stamina in order to retain the high energy required and build up to the crescendo. He showed signs of fatigue near the end, and his step sequence was just a level two, but it will no doubt be a strong program once he has skated more run-throughs over the course of the year.
Other notable performances included those of Vladimir Litvintsev of Azerbaijan, who placed fifth overall. He put out a memorable ‘Lion King’ short program, and his free skate was the third highest scoring performance in the men’s event, and opened with a strong quad toe which was given +1.76 GOE. Litvintsev furthermore delivered a triple axel-euler-triple salchow in the second half of the program, although the salchow was subsequently judged as landed on the quarter. His FS consists of an interesting choice and arrangement of music, and he interpreted the different tonalities of pieces well throughout the free skate, building up to the expressive climax of the program.
Nozomu Yoshioka of Japan finished sixth in Skate America, less than four points behind Litvintsev. He nailed a quad toe-triple toe in his short program, following up with a great triple axel and finishing the jumping passes with a triple lutz, making for a clean skate. The tonality of the program shifted in the step sequence, and he did well to reflect it in his skating. In the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ themed free skate, he opened with a quad toe-triple toe combination. He followed it up with another quality quad toe-loop, but struggled with the triple axel. He secured level fours in all of the spins, although he received a maximum of +2 from the judges and was thus held back in grades of execution. He popped his final two jumping passes, and dropped to sixth place after being fourth in the short program. A strong technician, the projection towards the audience and expression of the music could be further honed, and it will be exciting to see how the two programs develop throughout the season.
Latvia’s Deniss Vasiljevs was not able to put out the performances he would have liked in Texas; he was sixth in the short program but tenth in the free skate, and finished ninth overall. He fell on a quad salchow and triple axel in the SP to a rendition of ‘Hallelujah’, losing out on crucial points, and was given just +0.76 in GOE for his jump combination, leading to a TES of 37.60. His bluesy free program enables him to display his incredible musicality and strength as a performer, and he committed to the style and choreography from the very opening moments of the skate, drawing the audience in. Vasiljevs doubled the opening salchow, but managed to follow up with a solid triple lutz-triple toe jumping pass. However, he struggled with the majority of his jumps, and had a hard fall on the second triple axel, which was moreover counted as a repeated element. Despite these errors, he was strong elsewhere, and delivered a level four step sequence: an element which plays on all of his strengths and was a highlight of the skate.
Loena Hendrickx of Belgium started her Grand Prix outing strongly and took home the gold medal from the event. She was strong in her short program, landing the opening triple flip in time with the music, but was unable to put out a clean performance, with a slight deduction (-0.08) on her triple lutz-triple toeloop combination. She was rewarded well in her PCS scores, where she was given 36.00: the SP to ‘I’m nin’alu’ and Madonna’s ‘Living for Love’ is one which works well with her skating. In her free skate to ‘Break My Soul’ by Beyonce and Madonna, she was secure in her jumps and demonstrated great elevation in them, although the opening triple lutz-triple toe was deemed as landed on the quarter. The program has creative choreography which she performed with dynamism, despite the fact that there is still room to connect with and express the music further still, and connect with the audience. Understandably, she did so more in the step sequence after all the jumping passes had been nailed, allowing her to shift her focus.
Isabeau Levito of the USA won silver at the event in her home country. She was third after the short program, where she received a call on her opening triple lutz, and was given a level three for one of her spins. Nonetheless, she put out a solid skate to Raul Ferrando’s ‘Yearning’; she is a skater who pays meticulous attention to the details in choreography and music, with complex transitional content. Her free skate to the soundtrack of ‘The White Crow’ complements the elegance of her skating, and she opened the performance with an intricate and detailed opening sequence. She displayed incredible flexibility in the spins and choreo sequence, and interpreted the choice of music convincingly throughout the duration of the program. She nonetheless received calls on two of her jumps, with an underrotated triple salchow and a triple loop landed on the quarter; as with last season, her jumps raise the question of correcting and changing technique, despite the fact that many of them were rewarded highly by the judges at this competition. Levito committed to the balletic style of the free skate throughout her performance, and followed up on the success at last year’s Skate America with another silver medal.
Niina Petrokina placed fourth in both the short program and the free skate to win the bronze medal overall, becoming the first skater from Estonia to ever win a medal at a Grand Prix event. She had a -1.14 deduction in her short program for her jumping combination, but was clean elsewhere and received level fours for all spins and the step sequence, which put her in a strong position for the free skate. It was a magnetic performance, and the high kick coming out of the jump combination was a memorable moment. Similarly to last year’s short program, the step sequence displayed a range of movements and fine attention to the pauses and nuances of the music.
She has kept the same FS from last season, and it is a program which enables her to showcase the powerful nature of her skating. Petrokina covers the ice with speed, and her jumps displayed great height. One jump was judged as underrotated, and another was landed on the quarter, but she was otherwise secure in her jumping passes and remained focused throughout her skate.
Amber Glenn of the USA was second after the short program, just over a point ahead of compatriot Levito. She nailed all her jumps in the SP, and was given level fours on all spins and the step sequence to earn 71.45 overall. She opened her Exogenesis Symphony free skate with an incredible triple axel, becoming the 26th woman to cleanly land the element in an international competition, and earned 9.94 points for the element. She pulled off a quality triple flip-triple toe to follow, but struggled to cleanly land her fourth jumping pass, the triple salchow, and struggled with her jumps thereafter, with two falls and a popped jump in the second half of her free skate. Nevertheless, she was cheered on by the crowd in her home state, and performed powerful and memorable choreography in the step sequence, sustaining each position.
Reigning world champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates performed in front of a home audience at Skate America, and won the Ice Dance event with a total of 212.96 points. Their rhythm dance was to a medley of music by Queen, and is a vibrant and energetic program. They lost out on some levels, such as in the Midline Step, but secured level fours in the lift and twizzles, and ended the program with an emphatic finish. In their Pink Floyd free dance, they demonstrated intriguing and creative choreography. The team are skilled at worldbuilding, and commit to the style and character of each program they perform. They received level fours in all lifts and the twizzles, and earned high grades of execution from the judges.
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha of Canada placed second in both rhythm and free dances, and won the silver medal. Their Michael Jackson rhythm dance foregrounds the team’s charm and expressivity. Lajoie and Lagha opened with top quality twizzles which were given level fours, and maintained this sharpness in movement throughout. Their free skate to ‘Roses’ opened with a beautiful straight line lift, which showed attention to all the nuances of the piece and highlighted the strong musicality and artistry of the team. It is a relatively quiet piece, but they picked up on all the nuances and accents of the music. The two brought the choreography to life, and worked up to the more intense final section of the skate, using the level four rotational lift to convey the passion.
Evgeniia Lopareva and Geoffrey Brissaud of France skated to songs by French singer Mylene Farmer for their rhythm dance, and matched the playful tone of the pieces; it is a different tonality to many other choices for RDs this season. They had speed going into their opening set of twizzles, which were neat and synchronized, and the element received 9.28 points in total. Their free dance to music by Rachmaninov contrasts last year’s Edith Piaf program, and whilst this season’s skate is not a narrative or character-based program, the team still brings the classical piece to life with their emotion. They delivered a clean program, and placed third overall with a comfortable margin of over 8 points above Caroline Green and Michael Parsons.
Caroline Green and Michael Parsons of the USA were fourth in the event, with 185.07 points. The two are charismatic skaters, and the rhythm dance was to ‘Still Loving You’ and ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane’. Their straight line lift matched the emphatic beats of the music. There is a stark contrast between the first and second songs, and they changed up the expression and energy of their skating with ease in order to reflect this shift. Their free dance opened with a creative position, and they started their program with a high quality level 4 stationary lift, and followed up with solid one foot turns. They used their twizzles to transition into the faster section of the music, and skilfully matched both each other and the piece during the element. There is a sensitivity and lyricism to the program which they conveyed convincingly, and strike an effective balance with the rhythm dance.
Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler of the Czech Republic finished fifth overall with a total of 184.84. Their opening choreography in the rhythm dance (The Knowledge/Juicy Fruit/Serious Slammin’) was effective in drawing in the spectators. Their twizzles matched the music perfectly, and they were given 9.63 points for the element. They closed their clean performance with the midline step, which was a rousing element and made for a great finish.
As always, they are standout skaters in their speed and power: the team’s ice coverage is nothing short of impressive. Their free dance was another success, with centred and neat twizzles, and an emotive and passionate ending to the program.
Following the withdrawal of reigning world champions Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan, Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel of Germany were favourites to win the event; they were first in both the short program and free skate, and took the gold medal with a margin of just two points. Aside from a fall on their side-by-side triple salchow in their short program, they were clean on the first day, and secured level fours in the spins, step sequence, lift and twist. Their ‘Without You’ free skate was the same as last year, and their confidence skating to the program was evident in their performance. They had a quality triple twist to open the program, which was level four and given +1.20. They struggled with their side-by-side jumping passes, with a fall on the triple salchow and errors on their axel sequence. However, they nailed their throw jumps, with the throw triple flip having great distance. They used the lifts in the latter half of the program to accentuate emphatic moments in the piece. Although it was not the clean performance that they would have wanted to put out, it was enough to put them in the lead over the Canadian team.
Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud of Canada were just over a point behind the German team after the short program, where they skated to ‘River’. Although they missed out on levels in their triple twist and step sequence, they received strong grades of execution in their lift, which was level four quality and given +1.09 in GOE from the judges. Their ‘Gladiator’ free skate opened with a triple twist of just level two, and a grade of execution of +0.46, and there was subsequently a fall on the side-by-side jumping pass which followed. Despite this, the team maintained focus to land the throw triple loop, and were stronger in their side-by-side salchows. They gained momentum as the performance went on, and finished to the uplifting climax of the music.
Third in both the short program and free skate, Chelsea Liu and Balazs Nagy of the USA won the bronze medal in front of the home audience. Like the Hocke/Kunkel and Pereira/Michaud, they were unable to put out a clean short program with minor deductions on the spin and the side-by-side triple salchow. Despite pairing up just this year, they are a strong team and it will be exciting to watch how their partnership develops. In their free skate, they put out a triple twist with amazing elevation, which was furthermore rewarded strongly by the judges. Although there was a step out from the side-by-side triple salchow, they were more solid on the double toe-double axel sequence. With a double loop and triple salchow as their throw jumps, they had less difficulty in their technical arsenal compared to the other two teams on the podium, but the quality of their elements made up for these differences in base value. They demonstrated incredible lifts, including a quality lasso lift; they opted to close the program with a lift, which possessed buoyancy and speed and was given a level four.
To watch the video of our Skate America livestream with Meagan Duhamel, click here.