The sixth and final event of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, NHK Trophy, took place in Sendai, Japan this weekend.
Italian Carolina Kostner captured the short program ahead of Japan’s Miki Ando and Swiss miss Sarah Meier. Seven out of the 11 competitors set new seasonal bests in the short and the top three were separated by a little over two points.
The ladies event, however, turned into somewhat of a splat-fest with eight of the 10 women falling a combined 13 times. Italian star Carolina Kostner won the event with Meier a close second and rising star Nana Takeda of Japan into third.
Ando had serious technical difficulties in the free skate and placed a dismal 7th in the long program with a performance that saw her fall three times. She ended up in fourth place overall and failed to make the Grand Prix Final roster.
Kostner’s victory ended Japan’s five-year stranglehold over the NHK ladies title. The Italian champion’s score of 103.45 points ranked her second best in the free skating portion and she earned 164.69 points overall. “I was not quite satisfied after the program, because I made many mistakes on my jumps,” Kostner said. “But I am happy with my spins and steps. I tried to be clean on them, and it was rewarded. Now I need to work on my jumps and to become more consistent and calm.”
This will be Kostner’s first trip to the Grand Prix Final. “It means a lot to me,” she said. “It will be held in my hometown (Torino). This was something we’ve worked for from the beginning of the season. It shows that we are on the right track.”
Meier skated well but stumbled out of a triple flip and doubled the second flip and also the Lutz. The European silver medalist scored 104.01 points to win the free skating portion, claiming silver with 163.17 points.
Takeda, 18, gave an inspiring performance to “Otonal” and earned 99.77 points, a new personal best score. She jumped from fifth to third with a total score of 154.83 points.
Japan’s Mai Asada withdrew prior to the free skate, citing high fever. She stood in 11th place following the short program.
The Grand Prix Final will be held Dec. 13-16 in Torino, Italy.
The ladies heading to the Grand Prix Final are:
1 Yu-Na Kim KOREA 30
2 Mao Asada JAPAN 30
3 Kimmie Meissner USA 28
4 Carolina Kostner ITALY 26
5 Yukari Nakano JAPAN 26
6 Caroline Zhang USA 24
7 Sarah Meier SWITZERLAND 22
8 Miki Ando JAPAN 22
9 Joannie Rochette CANADA 22
Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy claimed the Pairs title and their second gold medal in this Grand Prix season. Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker moved up from fourth after the short to capture silver and Canada's Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison had to settle for bronze.
Savchenko and Szolkowy, the reigning World bronze medalists earned high grades for a number of elements but Szolkowy stumbled on the side by side triple Salchow and their last element, the throw triple Salchow, never took really off and was only a single. The Germans earned a new seasonal best score of 120.32 points and a combined total of 190.64. “It started well, but you have to push through,” Savchenko said. When asked what the problem was with the throw Salchow, Szolkowy said he made a mistake. “I was too fast (early). This is something I need to improve for the next competition,” he said.
McLaughlin and Brubaker continue to shine at their Grand Prix events. After a tough short, the young Americans rallied in the long, skating a silver medal performance to music from “Romeo and Juliet.” The reigning World Junior Champions scored 110.82 points, surpassing their previous personal best and skated into second with 166.48 points.
Dubé and Davison had technical issues and could do no better than third with 160.21 points.
Pairs Grand Prix Final Qualifiers:
1 Dan Zhang & Hao Zhang CHINA 30 pts
2 Aliona Savchenko & Robin Szolkowy GERMANY 28 pts
3 Jessica Dube & Bryce Davison CANADA 28 pts
4 Qing Pang & Jian Tong CHINA 28 pts
5 Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker USA 26 pts
6 Yuko Kawaguchi & Alexander Smirnov RUSSIA 22 pts
7 Maria Mukhortova & Maxim Trankov RUSSIA 20 pts
8 Jessica Miller & Ian Moram CANADA 16 pts
9 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent USA 16 pts
As expected, Isabelle Delobel and Olivier Schoenfelder from France captured the title and their second gold medal on the Grand Prix circuit this year. But it was not a runaway victory with Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir missing the title by less than one point. Russia’s Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski placed third. All three teams qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Delobel and Schoenfelder enjoyed the most successful Grand Prix season in their career. The European Champions earned 96.91 points for their free dance, a new seasonal best but ranked second by the judges. They claimed the title with 197.54 points. “We are very happy with this competition. Our Free Dance was good for the moment, we just wanted to skate clean,” Schoenfelder said. “The technical level of this competition was very high. We know of course that we still need to improve our technical elements, but I think we have a good program and we’ll be able to win the Original and Free Dance once we have the technical elements.”
Virtue and Moir’s romantic Free Dance to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” scored 100.18 points, also a new personal best. The Canadian teenagers won the free dance but had to settle for second with 196.89 points.
Khokhlova and Novitski’s energetic performance to “Night on Bald Mountain” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King” earned 94.89 points. The Moscow natives placed third with 186.96 points.
Great Britain’s Sinead Kerr and John Kerr placed fourth with 172.37 points. Kristin Fraser and Igor Lukanin from Azerbaijan were fifth with 162.15 points.
Dancing to the Grand Prix Final:
1 Isabelle Delobel & Olivier Schoenfelder FRANCE 30
2 Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto USA 30
3 Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir CANADA 28
4 Oksana Domnina & Maxim Shabalin RUSSIA 28
5 Nathalie Péchalat & Fabian Bourzat FRANCE 26
6 Jana Khoklova & Sergei Novitski RUSSIA 24
7 Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte ITALY 22
8 Federica Faiella & Massimo Scali ITALY 22
9 Meryl Davis & Charlie White USA 20