Hanyu delights the crowd with his performance. courtesy The Japan Times

Helsinki hosts skating Grand Prix

Figure skating expert Hannah Robbins reports on the successes and wipeouts in the Grand Prix of Helsinki this weekend.

This week’s Grand Prix competition, Grand Prix of Helsinki, is the first Grand Prix event hosted in Finland and is a change from the usual Cup of China. China declined to host any figure skating events this year, citing preparations for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing. The competition was an exciting one, with Olympic gold medalists Russian Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan returning to the ice for the first time in a Grand Prix event this season.

This season there seems to be a significant struggle with under-rotated jumps. An under-rotated jump is a jump where a skater rotates between one quarter and half of a rotation less than the number of rotations they attempted. Any more than half a rotation less ends with the jump being downgraded, or given the base value of the jump one rotation lower than attempted.

When a skater under-rotates their jump, they receive 70 percent of the base value for that jump. In addition, under-rotated jumps also lead to a lower grade of execution. As technology improves, the ability to catch these under-rotations increases.

While a skater is competing, any jump that the technical panel of judges believes might be under-rotated is flagged for review. These jumps are replayed to determine if the rotation is considered complete.

Certain skaters have a reputation for under-rotated jumps, so their jumps are flagged more often. One common way to notice under-rotations is by looking for a spray of ice at the end of the jump. If this happens, the skater finished the rotations of the jump on the ice as opposed to in the air.

In the men’s competition, Hanyu proved that he is truly one of the most artistic and consistent skaters competing today. After a clean short program, he was in first by an impressive 13 point margin, ending with a program component score that was four points above his competitors. Despite under-rotations in the free program, Hanyu finished in first place, winning by a margin of 39 points.

Michal Brezina from Czechoslovakia finished his Grand Prix assignments with another solid performance in the short that earned him second place. Despite a fall in the free program, he earned another second place score, leaving him in second place overall.

This season is where it all seems to have clicked for Brezina. He was sixteenth in the Olympics last year and hadn’t ended on a podium since the European Championships in 2013, but this season he’s finished in the top three for both his Grand Prix assignments.

Boyang Jin from China ended in third following the short program after a fall on his combination jump. Jin finished just off the podium in the Pyeongchang Olympics, but has struggled since then. Jin ended in fifth after the free program and overall after a shaky free program where he fell three times, reminiscent of his falls at Worlds last year that left him in 19th place.

In his final Grand Prix assignment of the season, Junhwan Cha repeated his third place result from Skate Canada. Cha struggled slightly in the short with under-rotated jumps, ending fourth before returning to third in the free program despite falls and under-rotations.

American Alexei Krasnozhon ended in seventh after a decent performance overall, but his lack of difficulty and occasional issues with execution left him in eighth place in the short program and sixth in the free program.

In the ladies competition, Zagitova proved why she won a gold at the Olympics. Despite popping and invalidating the second half of her combination jump in the short program, she ended in first by a five point margin. This was an uncharacteristic error by Zagitova, who rarely makes mistakes on her jumps. Zagitova rebounded in the free program, only struggling on one jump pass, and ended in first place overall by a margin of 17 points.

The rest of the field had similar struggles, with almost every competitor falling once. First year senior Yuna Shiraiwa from Japan, who was in second place after the short program, ended in fourth after placing fifth in the free program due to under-rotated jumps. Belgian Loena Hendrickx ended the short program in third despite under-rotated jumps but finished in fifth in the free program after more under-rotations in the free program left her in fourth place overall.

Kaori Sakamoto of Japan fell twice during her short program, ending in seventh place. Sakamoto rebounded in the free program, earning second place and third overall, a comeback reminiscent of Evgenia Medvedeva from Skate Canada. Fellow Russian Stanislava Konstantinova, whose fifth place finish in the short program after a fall seemed to dash her podium chances, ended in second place after a third place finish in the free program.

American Angela Wang struggled. In the short program, she invalidated one of her jumps, ending in ninth place after the short program. In the free program, she ended in last place after an invalidated element, two falls, a downgraded jump and an under-rotated jump to end in last place in the competition.

In the pairs competition, it was time to shine for skaters that placed just off the podium at Worlds last year or just moved up to senior competition. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise from Italy, who placed fifth at Worlds, ended the short program in first place after a clean program. After a fall in the free program left them in third, they ended the competition in second.

Natalia Zabiiako/Alexander Enbert from Russia, who placed fourth at Worlds, ended in second place after the short program when Enbert fell on their side-by-side jump, but another fall in the free didn’t stop the pair from earning first place in the free program and overall.

First-season seniors Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin of Russia ended in third in the short program, and a clean free program left them third overall. Americans Deanna Stellato-Dudek/Nathan Bartholomay ended in sixth after both struggled on their side-by-side jump. The Americans continued to struggle in the free program, finishing sixth overall after struggles throughout.

In the ice dance competition, skaters who were in the middle of the pack last year had an opportunity to prove themselves. For Americans Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter and Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko, this was a chance to show they could fill the shoes of the Shibutanis and compete with Hubbell/Donahue to continue U.S. dominance.

First year seniors Carreria/Ponomarenko struggled in the pattern sequences, finishing in fourth after the rhythm dance. A level two (the second-lowest level) step sequence and level one twizzles left them in fifth after the free dance, and they ended in fifth. McNamara/Carpenter ended in third after the rhythm dance with a solid performance, but fell to fourth after they performed level two step sequences in the free dance, finishing third.

Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin of Russia had a solid performance in both events, ending in first overall by around four points. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri seemed poised to end in first after ending the rhythm dance less than a point behind Stepanova/Bukin, but a fall prevented that, leaving Guignard/Fabbri in second overall.

Post Author: Hannah Robbins