Figure skating expert Hannah Robbins discusses the winners and shocking defeats at Skate Canada this weekend.
This weekend’s Grand Prix competition Skate Canada was held in Laval, Québec. It was the first competition of the Grand Prix series for some of the best figure skaters in the world, including Shoma Uno, men’s 2018 Olympic silver medalist, and Evgenia Medvedeva, ladies’ 2018 Olympic silver medalist. For some competitors, including Hubbell/Donohue from the United States and Nam Nguyen from Canada, this was their last competition on the Grand Prix circuit.
As we get further into the season, it’s time to clarify how skating scores work. Unlike some sports where winning and losing is just based on time or distance, figure skating scores have three components.
The first two, grade of execution (GOE) and base value (BV), have to do with each of the physical elements a skater performs on the ice. The BV is the element’s starting point value; for example, a triple axel’s BV is 8.0 points. Depending on how the skater executes the element, their GOE can be rated by each of the judges as anywhere from a -5 (they fell on their jump or had five negative attributes to their skill) to a +5 (they executed the skill perfectly). This is a change from the +3 to -3 scale used before this year. Their GOE score is the averaged judge’s scores multiplied by a specific value for each element.
The last component, the program component score (PCS), is used to give a numerical value to a skater’s artistry. Each skater is rated .25-10.0 in .25-point increments on how well they performed in five areas. These areas are skating skills (how well a skater skates), transitions (what does the space in a skater’s program between the elements look like), performance (how well does a skater perform their program), composition (how well the program is choreographed, does it use the full ice and how the elements relate to the music) and interpretation (how well does the skater move in time with the music). As a skater competes longer on the international stage, their PCS value usually increases.
In the men’s competition, falls plagued every skater with a wide range of consequences. For Shoma Uno of Japan, viewed as a lock to win the competition, a fall in the short program left him seven points behind Canadian Keegan Messing. Messing, whose surprise sixth place in the short program of Worlds in 2018 made him known internationally, finished with 95 points after a clean short program.
American Jason Brown ended 11th in the short program after falling on his triple axel and doing a double toe loop in a combination jump instead of the planned triple toe loop, losing out on three points. Doing a jump with fewer rotations than planned is called popping a jump and usually is a result of nerves or a bad takeoff.
In the men’s free skate, falls continued to affect skaters, but two falls couldn’t stop Shoma Uno from winning Skate Canada, and his free program score surpassed Keegan Messing’s by 10 points. Brown could not overcome his short program, however, and his short program landed him in sixth place, effectively ending his chances of competing at the Grand Prix Final this year.
In the pairs competition, French skaters Vanessa James andMorgan Cipres started on top with a first place score in the short program. Just two points behind them, Cheng Ping/Yang Jin of China seemed poised to try to beat them in the free, but that was not meant to be. After Peng almost fell on a jump early in the free program, James/Cipres had no obstacles to winning, and Ping/Jin just outscored Canadians Kristen Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro to end in second place.
In ice dance, Americans Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue continue to dominate. After outscoring Russians Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov by six points in the short dance, they stumbled slightly in the free dance. The Americans recieved a one-point deduction for a lift that lasted too long, but ended behind the Russians by only .24 points. The Americans ended the competition in first, and with two first-place finishes, are guaranteed a spot in the Grand Prix Final in December.
The real drama at Skate Canada was in the ladies’ competition. Evgenia Medvedeva from Russia, the favorite to win here, ended in seventh place in the short program after a fall on a 14-point element left her with one point instead. Medvedeva, who has never ended outside the top three in any program since 2013, has had a rough year.
After a foot injury last October lead to Medvedeva missing the Grand Prix Final and skating injured at the Olympics, Medvedeva has not won a single competition. After receiving the silver medal in the ladies’ event at the Olympics, she chose to part ways with her coach and moved to a new coach in Canada, Brian Orser. So far it hasn’t seemed to work that well. She placed second in the Autumn Classic last month behind Bradie Tennell after a fall.
Medvedeva’s fall left the door wide open for fellow Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva to end in first after the short program. Americans Starr Andrews and Mariah Bell also had good performances, placing third and fourth respectively, with Wakaba Higuchi of Japan ending in second place.
Medvedeva showed why she is a world champion in the free program, putting up the highest free program score, but was unable to overcome her short program score, ending in third. After Higuchi struggled in the free, earning the seventh best score, she ended up in sixth place. Her compatriot, Mako Yamashita, ended up in second place after earning second in the free skate. Tuktamysheva continued to do well, earning third in the free program that was enough for her to win the competition.