Russia’s Alena Kostornaia strikes gold in Sapporo and completes the Russian ladies sweep of the six Grand Prix events with her victory on Saturday night. The 16-year-old dazzled in her long program set to “Twilight” and “Supermassive Black Hole,” beginning with the triple Axel-double toe loop combination that opened her program. Other than a step out of a planned second triple Axel, Kostornaia nailed the routine and with 154.96 points for the segment and 240.00 in total, she danced off with the gold medal.
“I am very happy to have done a good program. There were mistakes, but overall it was still good,” the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion said. “I’m pleased to have achieved a record score in the short program and I would like to set records also in the free skating and total score. So far this is just a dream. For the Grand Prix Final my goal is, as always, to skate clean and to improve my technical score and second mark.”
Kihira of Japan, second after the short, captured her second Grand Prix silver medal of the season, earning 151.95 points for the free and a combined total of 231.84. The 17-year-old from Nishinomiya reeled off a series of clean jumping passes in her performance to “International Angel of Peace” — including two triple Axels, one in combination with a double toe loop — and four more triple jumps. She was also hit with an under-rotation call, this one on the toe loop on the back end of a triple flip combination.
“For the short and free programs I was able to concentrate almost fully and I was able to give a close to perfect performance, so I’m happy about that,” said Kihira, adding she felt she had done something that was close to her personal best. “There were small mistakes. It was a tough competition and I believe that for the Grand Prix Final it’s going to be even tougher. I have not included a quad (Salchow) into my program but that my be on the cards for the Final. I want to add jumps that can gain higher scores.”
Alina Zagitova, 17, fourth after the short, landed seven triple jumps in her free skate set to music from “The Feeling Begins” and “Lawrence of Arabia,” but was hit with an under-rotation on the flip. She earned a season high score of 151.15 for the segment and moved up to third with a total of 217.99 points.
“After the short program I was upset, of course, but I pulled myself together for the free skate thanks to my coaches who found the right words. In the program, I was just thinking from one element to the next what I need to do,” said Zagitova.
All three qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
Japan’s Yuhana Yokoi moved up from eighth after the short to finish fourth with 189.54 points, narrowly edging her teammate Mako Yamashita who earned 189.25. Sofia Samodurova of Russia landed in sixth with 183.27 points. Karen Chen of the U.S., third after the short, had a bad outing in the free and dropped to ninth overall with 165.70 points.
Though it was not a perfect performance by his own standard, Yuzuru Hanyu easily won the free skate in Sapporo on Saturday evening and claimed the men’s title by a 55.03-point margin over the runner-up. With two victories under his belt — he won Skate Canada in late October with 59.82 points to spare — the Japanese star qualified first for the Grand Prix Final.
Hanyu opened his “Origin” program with a solid quad loop and went on to cleanly execute a quad Salchow, and a quad toe loop. When he doubled a planned quad toe midway through the routine (for which he received 1.43 points) Hanyu improvised and threw in a quad toe-triple toe combination. However, the second jump in that combination was deemed under-rotated.
The slight mistakes were irrelevant in the end. Hanyu earned 195.71 points for the free and a combined total of 305.05 to capture his eighth Grand Prix title. “It seems like it’s been a long time since I’ve skated in Japan, but the home fans game me energy and I think that energy will be a springboard for me going into the Grand Prix Final,” he said. “I messed up on the combinations, so it wasn’t the prettiest performance.
“For now I’m happy that I was able to get through the program. Heading into this competition I stayed healthy, had no pain and no injuries. As I am also now going to the Final I want to recover and do some more training and coordination to be ready for that.”
Kévin Aymoz of France also encountered technical difficulties in his “Lighthouse” free skate, starting with an under-rotated quad toe at the beginning of the program. The 21-year-old finished third in the segment with a score of 158.55 and 250.02 points in total. He remained in second place, capturing his first Grand Prix silver medal and booked a ticket to the Grand Prix Final. “Today was hard for me to fight. I gave the best I can tonight,” Aymoz said. “It’s going to be my first Grand Prix Final, so I’m just going to take the experience of this competition to maybe get onto the podium in the next few seasons.”
Canada’s Roman Sadovsky had one of the best performances of his career, rising from fourth after the short to finish third and capture his first Grand Prix medal. He earned a personal best score of 168.99 for the free and 247.50 points in total. “I feel I’m so really new to the senior Grand Prix circuit in general, so I’m happy that I could perform my long program really well,” the Toronto native said. “I am a little disappointed with my short — there were silly mistakes that can be easily fixed. I’m hoping that this first success in the senior Grand Prix won’t be my last.”
Russia’s Sergei Voronov dropped from third to fourth with 239.05 points. Jason Brown of the U.S. rose from eighth after the short to finish fifth (231.27) and Japan’s Sōta Yamamoto skated into sixth (226.27).