The Women’s discipline in the 2023 World Championships was a thrilling event, with emotions running high and every skater aiming to put their best performance out on the ice in this climactic competition. Many results were just points away each other and this made for memorable moments both in the rink and in the Kiss and Cry. Read on to find out more about the Women’s competition in Saitama, Japan: the culmination of this season!
🥇 Kaori Sakamoto (Japan)
🥈 Haein Lee (South Korea)
🥉 Loena Hendrickx (Belgium)
Winning the event and becoming a two-time world champion was Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, with 224.61 points. She delivered a clean short program in front of the home crowd in Saitama, and had both the highest TES and PCS for the SP among the women. The Janet Jackson medley works well with the high energy and exuberance that she brings to the ice, and the program is one that carries the audience with her for the entirety of the performance. The speed of Sakamoto’s ice coverage, as well as the size of her jumps, were exceptional as always. All jumps were landed with great flow and were skilfully integrated into the other elements and the transitional content: the triple lutz was rewarded with +1.94 GOE. In her free skate to ‘Elastic Heart’, she landed her first four jumping passes with the same ease, reflected in the grades of execution of +1.46, +1.94, +1.41, and +1.21 respectively. She subsequently popped her flip into a single, but impressively added a triple toe-loop in combination with the jump. The triple loop chosen to be the penultimate element in the skate reveals the strength and athleticism of the skater, but Sakamoto equally showcased a quality overall performance and connection to the music.
2023 Four Continents champion Haein Lee of South Korea won the silver medal in Saitama, with 220.94 points. She put out two strong performances, with level fours on all spins in her short program to Eric Radford’s ‘Storm’. Lee opened with a double axel given +1.04 GOE and went on to land the other two jumping passes with seeming ease and flow. She used the entirety of her body well to express the music and choreography and varied the scale of her movements throughout the program, building up to the louder, more intense and dynamic ending of the piece. The effortless quality of her skating was also evident in her free skate to ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, which was the highest-scoring free skate in the women’s event. Apart from a 3Lz-3T judged on the quarter with -0.08 GOE, it was a clean program, with not only positive but high grades of execution for all other elements and level fours on all spins and the step sequence. The program holds the ‘Masquerade’ number as its climactic section, showing an effective selection of music, for it is not often chosen to be the conclusion of ‘Phantom’ performances, but works incredibly well for Lee.
Loena Hendrickx of Belgium was fifth after the short program, fourth in the free skate, and was third overall with a total score of 210.42 points. Her fun and electric program to ‘Si Mama’ and ‘Mi Gente’ comprises of vibrant choreography which she delivers with skill; her commitment to the movements and its emotion has developed over the course of this season to make for a deeply enjoyable and memorable program. A fall on the 3Lz-3T, as well as the toe-loop being judged on the quarter, were costly errors, but the top quality of Hendrickx’s skating was reflected in the score of 71.94 despite this mistake, and she was in the final group for the free skate event. Her FS program is of a very different style and tonality, and this highlights the range of her skating. She demonstrated beautiful extensions coming out of her jumps, and used emphatic facial expressions and great positions in the choreo sequence: an element awarded with +1.71 GOE. She landed all jumps cleanly apart from a fall on the triple lutz in the latter half of the skate; despite the mistake, she recovered quickly to deliver a 3F-2T-2Lo combination. The performance had an intense concluding section of music, which Hendrickx matched and brought to life in the step sequence.
In fourth place was Isabeau Levito of the USA. She has impressed throughout the year in her Senior international debut season. The short program to ‘Una Noche Mas’ received a personal best score of 73.03, and displayed meticulous and intricate footwork, as well as centred spins which display her remarkable flexibility. Levito skates with confidence and charm, and demonstrated an impressive musical interpretation of both programs. She fell on the opening triple lutz in the free skate, but landed the second lutz attempt with a 1Eu-3S combination. It was a clean program apart from the fall, with level four spins and the step sequence, and solid grades of execution throughout. She has strong transitional content and displays beautiful extensions in her choreo sequence. It will be exciting to see her outings next season, as there is arguably much room for her to still grow and develop as a skater and gain more competitive experience.
Third after the short program but fifth overall after producing the sixth-highest free skate was Mai Mihara of Japan. For many people a podium favourite, she produced a clean short program in front of the home crowd in Japan, and the music of ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ suits her skating well. In the change foot combination spin, Mihara used her hands to enunciate and reflect the change in tempo and tonality of the piece, and such details in choreography do not go unnoticed. She didn’t manage to put out a clean performance for the free skate, and although her first three jumping passes were given over +1 in grades of execution, the following flip was landed on the quarter, and two other jumping passes were also flagged for rotation. Furthermore, a step out of the second triple lutz attempt incurred a repeated jump, and these errors lowered her TES. Nonetheless, the spins and step sequence all came out as a level four, and she displayed a beautiful spiral in the choreo sequence.
Chaeyeon Kim of South Korea produced the third-highest-scoring free skate, and rose from twelfth place to finish sixth overall. In her short program to ‘Everybody Knows’ by Sigrid, she received level fours for all three spins and the step sequence, but received negative GOEs for her triple lutz and the triple flip-triple toe combination. Her performance built up well to the climax of the song, with the step sequence enabling Kim to express this change. The sixteen-year-old skated to ‘Poeta En El Viento’ for the free skate and received 139.45 points for her clean performance. Opening with a triple lutz-triple toe combination that was given +1.85 GOE, she went on to nail all her other jumping passes. She has great power in her jumps, and her spins are beautifully centered.
Other notable competitors included Nicole Schott of Germany, who finished with a total score of 197.76, a personal best for the combined total, and was in seventh place. She had an amazing short program, which was clean and received level fours on all spins and the step sequence. Her musical interpretation has developed considerably over the past seasons: the music choice of ‘Rain, In Your Black Eyes’ demands an emotional breadth from the slower, quieter start to the powerful ending. The cover and arrangement of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for the free skate is another good choice of music; whilst opting for less technical difficulty than some of her other competitors, she went for quality and a clean execution and this undoubtedly paid off.
2023 European bronze medalist Kimmy Repond of Switzerland finished eighth in the World Championships. While she did not have the highest GOEs in her short program, with a TES of 34.49, the rotation of her jumps was not flagged this time, unlike in the Junior World Championships. It was a clean performance, as was her free skate: it is exciting to see how her musicality develops over the coming seasons.
Niina Petrokina of Estonia went into the free skate in the last warm-up group after coming in sixth place after the short program, and finished ninth overall. Her short program includes modern, contemporary choreography by Adam Solya to ‘Give Us a Little Love’. Petrokina perfectly times her movements to the enunciated beats and accents of the music from the program’s very opening; her jumps were well integrated into the choreography, and she maintained flow throughout. She received a PB of 68.00. Her free skate again showed strong and powerful skating, bringing intensity to the performance. She is skilled at portraying interesting and creative movements, and this complemented the percussive and vocal parts of ‘Dusty Road’ and ‘Prelude’.
Rinka Watanabe of Japan had a disappointing short program, but was stronger in the free skate and finished tenth with a combined total of 192.81. There were costly mistakes in her short program to ‘El Tango de Roxanne’, with a fall and under-rotation on the triple axel, and a popped lutz attempt. However, she reworked her planned program content and managed to include a combination jump. She fell again on the triple axel in the free skate, but refocused to deliver several strong jumping passes, and achieved a total of 131.91. The different pieces of music in the program enable her to explore and display different styles and textures in her skating.
Amber Glenn of the USA was twelfth in Saitama. Her energetic ‘Hit the Road Jack’ short program allows the dynamism of her skating to shine through; she covers the ice with speed and received positive grades of execution for all elements apart from the triple loop, which had a hand down. The high kick coming out of her spin is memorable, and such transitional content makes for an exciting program. Her free skate to ‘Without You’ had a triple axel attempt, but it was given -3.11 GOE. Although not all her jumps were landed cleanly, she is a powerful skater who emotes well.
In thirteenth place was Madeline Schizas from Canada. There was a fall on the triple lutz in her short program to the soundtrack of ‘Black Swan’, and she puts her own spin to the popular choice of music and expresses it with intensity. Her free skate saw her going back to her ‘Madame Butterfly’ free skate after having some difficulty growing into her ‘West Side Story’ program throughout the season. It was a strong skate, with only one negative grade of execution (the triple loop).
Coming back this season from injury, Bradie Tennell of the USA finished in fifteenth place. She delivered a solid short program, though with several jumps landed on the quarter. All spins and the step sequence were given a level four in both performances. Her free skate was to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’, but instills it with a sense of modernity: Greta Thunberg’s voiceover links the baroque piece to contemporary events and climate change.
Ekaterina Kurakova of Poland was ninth after the short program but sixteenth overall. Her fun, engaging personality shines through in the selection of Elvis Presley music in her short program, whilst also enabling to show a different side to her skating in the ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ section. The step sequence is a highlight and is always a crowd-pleaser; in Japan, it was given a level four by the judges. The performance received a season’s best of 65.69. Her free skate to the soundtrack of ‘Up’ exudes positive energy, and the charm of the program and its choreography really shines through in the step sequence once more. However, there were three under-rotated jumps and a lutz landed on the quarter, which lowered her TES considerably.
After what has been an exhausting season for the skater, Yelim Kim of South Korea finished eighteenth, with a total score of 174.30. She fell on the opening triple lutz with an under rotation, but the elegance and grace of her movements and her masterful connection with Max Richter’s ‘Mercy’ underscores the finesse of her skating. Her trademark Ina Bauer near the program’s end demonstrated flexibility and ice coverage. Her free skate also contained such qualities, but once again she struggled perhaps with conviction going into jumping passes. She popped and downgraded the opening lutz, and popped a loop as well. Although opting for relatively quieter pieces, Kim is a skater who is able to express such music with emotion and dynamism.