Second in the 2023 Grand Prix series was Skate Canada International in Vancouver. An event with both redemption performances and triumphant programs, as well as frustrating results for others, it was a competition full of emotions and memorable moments. Read on for a closer look at some of the significant skates of the event!
🥇 Sota Yamamoto (Japan)
🥈 Kao Miura (Japan)
🥉 Matteo Rizzo (Italy)
🥇Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)
🥈 Chaeyeon Kim (Republic of Korea)
🥉Rino Matsuike (Japan)
🥇 Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier (Canada)
🥈 Lilah Fear / Lewis Gibson (Great Britain)
🥉 Allison Reed / Saulius Ambrulevicius (Lithuania)
🥇 Deanna Stellato-Dudek / Maxime Deschamps (Canada)
🥈 Maria Pavlova / Alexei Sviatchenko (Hungary)
🥉 Lucrezia Beccari / Matteo Guarise (Italy)
Sota Yamamoto of Japan won the gold medal in the men’s event. He was first in the short program, skating to the jazzy ‘Chameleon’. He comfortably landed the opening quad toe-triple toe, but had a hand down on the following quad salchow, with a -2.36 deduction. He followed up with a solid triple axel, and his final two spins and step sequence were all given a level four. There is more room to develop his expression of the music, especially with a vibrant piece like ‘Chameleon’, where more facial expression and emoting could be integrated. His free skate to ‘Exogenesis Symphony Part III’ was not the clean skate he would have wanted, and was only the third highest overall. Although he started well and nailed three quad jumps, including the toe-loop in combination with a triple, there were several jump errors which followed: he fell on the triple axel, and struggled on the following axel as well, stepping out and thus incurring a repeated jump. He also received a call on the lutz and a -0.17 grade of execution. However, there was a good section of choreography coming out of the camel spin, and he projected more towards the audience near the end of the program, after the jumps had been completed.
Compatriot Kao Miura finished in second place. He was just fourth after the short program, but delivered the highest-scoring free skate. His short program to ‘This Place Was a Shelter’ started off well with a quad salchow-triple toeloop, and although he did not have much flow coming out of the subsequent triple axel, he still managed to land it with transitions coming out of the element. Despite this, the third jumping pass, the toe-loop, was popped into a double and hence scored no points. Even with this error, however, he showed a great improvement from last year’s Grand Prix circuit, and the step sequence was complex and showed attention to detail: the music has both a strong percussive beat and the melody over it, and Miura reflected both textures in his skating. His free skate also shows choreographic and artistic changes from last season, and he is showing and developing a new side to his skating. Although he had a fall on the triple axel, he opened the second half of his program with a quad toe-triple toe landed well. The ‘Attack on Titan’ free skate has an intense ending, which works with his big, dynamic skating.
Eighth after the SP but second in the FS to finish third and win the bronze medal was Matteo Rizzo of Italy, who said he was coming back from an injury in September. His jumps did not work out for him in the short program, with errors on the two quad attempts, although he managed to land the triple axel cleanly. However, he captured the audience’s attention from the opening choreography, immediately immersing the spectator in the style and tone of the program.
The song choice ‘Dernière Danse’ is fitting as he was, as ever, a real dancer on ice, and paid equal attention to both moments of movement and pauses, using the latter to create emphasis within the step sequence; he was patient enough to wait for specific pauses and words in the music to match the choreography with the right cue. Rizzo came back strong in the free skate to deliver a brilliant performance.
Many jumps were on a lean, but he managed to land them all well nonetheless; there was a step out on the last jump, the triple axel, and he had a slight loss of balance in the choreo sequence. Nonetheless, it was a strong performance and the second-highest free skate.
Kazuki Tomono of Japan finished in fourth place, less than a point behind Rizzo. He is a great mover, and connected to ‘Underground’ with ease, following its trajectory from the soft opening to the rousing ending. The level-four step sequence highlighted the buoyancy and nonchalance of his skating; unfortunately, he fell in the element, but retained focus afterwards. He struggled to cleanly land his three quads in the free skate, with negative grades of execution in all of them, but was more secure in his following jumps, although they could have been landed with more flow. He brought all the nuances and details of the music to the fore in his skating and showed great lines in his choreo sequence.
World silver medalist Junhwan Cha of the Republic of Korea was second after the short program but had a difficult free skate and dropped to ninth place overall. His short program to ‘Masquerade Waltz’ will no doubt be a memorable program this season and matches the natural charisma and showmanship which he possesses. He started well with a quad salchow-double toe combination, but fell on the following quad toe. The error did not detract from his performance, and he pulled off a brilliant triple axel later on in the skate, as well as a series of high-quality spins, and a great step sequence. The high score of 86.18 considering the fall indicates not only his skill as a skater but also that we can expect top scores from him this season when he does put out a clean performance. He struggled in his ‘Batman’ free skate, with very hard falls on his opening two quads. He had difficulty landing his other jumps, with both triple axels landed on the quarter and deductive grades of execution: he fell on the second axel, thus reducing its base value as it was a repeated jump. As such, his TES was just 57.21; nonetheless, he maintained the focus needed to deliver his program’s choreography and perform: the step sequence was, as always, memorable, and he took care to commit to each position and shape within it.
Winning the gold medal in the women’s event was Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, with an almost 25 point lead. First in both the short program and free skate, she performed to ‘Baby, God Bless You’ in her SP, putting out a clean program save from a call on her lutz. Her double axel was landed with trademark flow and distance, and was given +5 GOE from three judges. The flowing piano matched the remarkable speed with which she covered the ice. It is a lyrical, quieter piece, which is a shift from her short program last year and demonstrates her range as a skater. Her free skate to two pieces by Lauryn Hill equally pushes her even further in a new artistic and choreographic direction, and she nailed all her jumps with characteristically great running edges. There was an impressive double axel-triple toe-double toe combination late in the program, and the triple loop was also landed securely as the penultimate element. She showed more connection with the music in the choreo sequence, expressing the piece more, and no doubt as the season progresses, she will bring the program to life to an even greater degree.
Chaeyeon Kim of the Republic of Korea won the silver medal. She opened her short program to ‘Pantomeme’ and ‘Lilies of the Valley’ with intensity and showed remarkable determination throughout. She had brilliant flow in and out of the double axel, with transitions on either side of the element, and choreography was integrated into each moment of the program. There was a seeming ease with which she pulled off her jumping passes, which was reflected in the positive grades of execution which she received. The step sequence was complex, and picked up on all the intricacies of what is no doubt a difficult section of music to skate to and grasp. In her free skate, she put out a solid triple lutz-triple toe combination, but had a lean on the triple flip and incurred a -1.45 deduction. She was held back by grades of execution on a few of her jumps, but she skated with a precision of movement whilst still retaining flow and grace.
In third place was Rino Matsuike of Japan, coming in as the alternate after compatriot Rika Kihira’s withdrawal due to injury. She showcased the beautiful lines of her skating and mapped the trajectory of ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’ well in the short program, building up towards the climax and reflecting the changes in emotion and volume. Third in both the short program and free skate, she followed up with another quality performance on the second day. Matsuike is an elegant skater who moves with poise, and she used her torso and arms fully in the step sequence, using her whole body to express the music. She was a little tight on the triple lutz-triple toe-double toe combination, for which she was given a -2.44 grade of execution, and elsewhere several jumps were judges as landed on the quarter. Despite this, she finished her program triumphantly, with two centred, level four spins.
Madeline Schizas of Canada was eighth after a disappointing short program, where she had deductions on her first two jumping passes and popped the axel attempt into a single. Nonetheless, she had a clean program and great redemption skate in front of the home audience the following day and put out the second-highest-scoring free skate with a TSS of 132.47.
The jazzy free skate to ‘Summertime’ saw her open the program with a brilliant triple lutz-triple toe; Schizas started strongly and retained this focus throughout, using the opening success as momentum for the rest of the performance. She displayed commendable distance on her jumping passes, and they were all given positive grades of execution.
Winning the Ice Dance event with an almost 10-point lead and a total of 219.01 were Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. They debuted both their rhythm and free dances at the event. In their rhythm dance to ‘No More I Love You’s’ and ‘Addicted to Love’, they showed synchrony in their midline step and twizzles, and received high grades of execution in all elements, finishing with an emphatic final position. It was a clean program for the team, and they displayed a creative position in the rotational lift, which was given a level four and +1.85 in grades of execution. Their ‘Wuthering Heights’ themed free dance has a musically difficult opening piece, but they used it well in their one-foot turns. The three different music choices for the program enable them to demonstrate different styles and movements within their performance. The twizzles matched the music perfectly and were well rewarded, receiving a GOE of +3.01. Gilles and Poirier used the lifts and choreographic hydroblade to close the program in the more melodic section of the free dance.
In second place were Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson of Great Britain, who were second in both the rhythm and free dances. They skated to music by the Eurythmics in their rhythm dance, which is a choice that works well with the team’s style and charisma. It is a high-energy program, and they showed their talent as performers. Nevertheless, they missed out on some valuable levels, such as in the midline step and pattern dance-type step sequence. Their ‘Rocky’ free dance was a clean skate, but it is a program which perhaps doesn’t enable them to let the entirety of their performative capabilities shine through. The choreography is true to the style and theme of the program, incorporating boxing movements as motifs throughout, but this could also be developed and varied more, and will hopefully do so over the course of the season. The team received high grades of execution for all elements and closed the program with a great stationary lift.
Allison Reed and Saulius Ambrulevicius of Lithuania placed third in the event, earning the first Grand Prix medal for their country since 2011. Their Guns n’ Roses opened with a series of neat twizzles, and the two showcased great projection towards the audience. The program closed with a fun choreo rhythm sequence; however, compared to the two other teams on the podium, the grades of execution for each element were considerably lower. Their free dance was a creative and interesting performance about technology, and they integrated the theme and narrative into the choreography. Their twizzles were once again synchronised and centred. The pair showed great storytelling and emoting, and whilst they lost out on levels in elements such as the one-foot turns, and earned a negative grade of execution on the final choreo step, it was nonetheless a strong performance.
Less than five points behind Reed and Ambrulevicius were Oona Brown and Gage Brown of the USA, who were fourth in both performances. They skated last week at Skate America, thus having a tough schedule, but showed a huge improvement in their programs since the event, and their score was ten points higher. In their Elton John rhythm dance, they had great speed going into the first element, the choreo rhythm sequence, and maintained this energy throughout the skate. They reflected the change in tonality from ‘This Town’ to ‘Satellite’, before ramping up the energy even higher for the final two elements, skating to ‘I’m Still Standing’. Their free dance to ‘All by Myself’ once again displayed strong musicality. Their twizzles, given level fours, were well timed to the piece, and their straight-line lift was used to effectively highlight and reflect the chorus of the song. The program contains a range of different tones, volumes and emotions, and the team brought out each of them with skill.
Skating in front of a home audience, favourites to win Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Maxime Deschamps won the Pairs gold medal with 214.64 points. They had a strong short program to ‘Oxygene’, with all elements given level fours, and both the side-by-side and throw jumps landed, setting themselves up well for the free skate. Their ‘Interview with the Vampire’ free skate is an intense, darker, dramatic program, and they maintained this feel from the start to the end. Their triple toe-single axel-double axel sequence showed synchrony and security, and Stellato-Dudek had impressive knee flexibility in landing the throw jumps, both of which she nailed. She committed to facial expressions and choreography even within the lifts, and the team put out a triumphant performance which earned them a new personal best of 142.39 points: they are a team to watch this season as they compete against other top teams, and many more successes will no doubt follow.
Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko of Hungary were fourth after the short program, but put out the second-highest scoring free skate, and won the silver medal with 187.78 points: they became the first Hungarian pairs team to win a Grand Prix medal. In the short program, they skated to Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’. It wasn’t a clean program, with the final element, the spin, given a -0.23 grade of execution; nonetheless, the throw triple flip was nailed with a +1.44 GOE. In their free skate, they racked up points with grades of execution, and nailed both side-by-side jumps; their 3T-2A-2A jump sequence showed commendable distance and synchrony. Their lasso lift was also well rewarded by the judges, and was given both a level four and +1.50 in grades of execution. Although the throw triple loop was on a lean, it was still landed solidly with a positive GOE. Both skaters are strong technicians, although the program could be filled out more, such as choreography between elements and greater expression: no doubt this will come with time, and will also continue to develop throughout the season.
Lucrezia Beccari and Matteo Guarise of Italy won the bronze medal in Canada: they were second after the short program, and fourth in the free skate. Performing to ‘Run’ by Ludovico Einaudi in the short program, they put out a clean skate. Although the triple twist and step sequence were judged as level threes, the other elements were given level fours, and the lift was given a GOE of +1.09. They skated to music from the musical ‘Cats’ in their free skate, using the choreography to reflect the character and theme of the program, although there is space to develop and nuance these movements more. They showcased three different tones and emotions with three different songs. The side-by-side jumps did not work out for them, with a fall on the triple toeloop, but they nailed the throw jumps (triple loop and triple salchow). They used lifts in the rousing climactic moments of ‘Memory’, with quick rotation and well-sustained positions; all lifts were given level fours.
Anastasia Golubeva and Hektor Giotopoulos Moore of Australia were third in both short and free programs but finished fourth overall. Their short program was to ‘Architect of the Mind’; they received deductions on their opening two elements, the triple twist and side-by-side triple toeloop. Nonetheless, they were stronger in the rest of the program, and earned a solid GOE of +1.50 in the throw triple loop, as well as level fours in their spins and step sequence. Their ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ free skate was not a clean program and dotted with errors: they struggled on their side-by-side jumps, and were tight on their opening triple twist, where they received just a level two and -1.16. However, they shone in their lifts and were rewarded strongly for them; their lasso lift demonstrated a one-handed dismount. The team emoted well to the music and built up to a crescendo, using the choreo sequence to wrap up the skate.
To watch the video of our Skate Canada livestream with Kirsten Moore-Towers, click here.