By Rylie Smith, Team FSO contributing writer
Espoo, Finland hosted several talented skaters from all over the world Nov. 17-18 as the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating’s fifth event took place. The women’s event was particularly intriguing, with Team USA’s Amber Glenn finishing third overall after placing 11th in the short program.
Glenn skated a stunning free skate with positive marks on every element, earning a personal best of 133.78. Following the free, she shared, “I’m so surprised I’m up here right now. My goal was to put out a strong second half today. I’m not concerned with the (triple) Axel, as I know I have a very high percentage in practice. I’m in shock that I’m up here right now. I’m excited to see where the rest of the season goes. I aim to put together two strong performances this season.”
The winner of the women’s event was two-time World champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan. Sakamoto nailed a double Axel, triple Lutz, triple flip-double toe, triple flip-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe-double toe in the free skate to earn a free skate score of 135.52 and a total score of 205.21 to win the event by 15 points. Sakamoto has punched her ticket to the Grand Prix Final in Beijing in December. Sakamoto has never medaled at the Grand Prix Final, something she’s hoping to change this year.
“Hopefully it will lead to another first place in the Grand Prix Final. I will be working hard towards that,” she said.
Rion Sumiyoshi, who two weeks ago won bronze at the Grand Prix de France, earned her fourth Grand Prix medal of career. However, this was her first Grand Prix medal that wasn’t bronze. She won the silver with a free skate score of 121.56, which was third in the free skate and a total score of 190.21, which was second overall. With 24 points, she will have to wait and see if that’s enough to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
Korea’s Chaeyeon Kim dropped from third after the short program to finish fourth with 181.42 points. France’s Lorine Schild ended up in fifth with 175.71 points. Finland’s Nella Pelkonen finished sixth in front of her home country with a total score of 172.88.
The men’s event also had two top-place finishers from Japan, Kao Miura and Shun Sato. Miura got new season’s bests in all of the segments in the short and free to win his first ISU Grand Prix gold medal. In the free skate, he executed a quadruple toe-triple toe, quadruple salchow, quadruple toe and five triple jumps, including two Axels.
“I was able to show what I can today, but my spins were not very good. When I go home I will work on my spins,” Miura said.
With his gold in Finland and second at Skate Canada International, Miura has qualified for the Grand Prix Final.
In the free skate, Sato produced a stunning quadruple lutz, along with two quadruple toe loops and five triple jumps to set a new personal best free skate score of 182.93 points. The Skate America bronze medalist finished with 273.34 points, also a new personal best score, to win the silver medal.
Kevin Aymoz of France took home the bronze medal, jumping up from 5th in the short to 3rd overall with a nearly clean free. His free skate included a quadruple toe and six clean triple jumps. His only mistake was a step out on a triple flip. He earned 176.09 points in the free skate and earned a total score of 250.03.
Aymoz and Sato both have 24 points each from their two events and will have to wait and see whether that is enough to make the Final.
Skate Canada bronze medalist Matteo Rizzo, of Italy, pulled up from sixth after the short program to finish fourth with a total score of 241.47 while his teammate, Nikolaj Memola moved up two spots up to fifth place (221.25 points). Japan’s Koshiro Shimada finished sixth with 218.44 points. Team USA’s Jimmy Ma dropped from third after the short program to eleventh after some errors in the free skate.
The new team of Minerva Fabienne Hase and Nikita Volodin of Germany took home the gold in their first Grand Prix event of their partnership. In third after the short program, their free skate included a triple twist and a throw triple loop, but Volodin struggled with the solo jumps and Hase popped the throws salchow into a double. The team scored a free skate score 129.13 and won the free skate. They won the gold medal with a total score of 192.72.
“This ending of the competition was very surprising for us,” Hase said. “It was not our best skate, there were some mistakes, but we tried to push until the end.
Hase and Volodin will compete next week at NHK Trophy.
Italy’s Sara Conti/Niccolo Macii took home the silver, their second Grand Prix silver of the season. In their free skate, they produced a triple twist, throw triple loop and salchow and a side by side triple Salchow. The only mistake came when Macii fell on the triple toe, but it was a costly mistake, as they missed their entire planned jump combination. With 123.60 points, the reigning World bronze medalists ranked third in the free skate, but overall remained in second place with a score of 188.60. With 26 points, Conti and Macii should qualify for the Grand Prix Final.
Maria Pavlova and Alexei Sviatchenko of Hungary placed third. The Skate Canada International silver medalists were fourth in the short program, but moved to third with a second place free skate of 124.66 and a total score of 186.19 points. They have 24 points and will need to see if that’s enough for the Grand Prix Final.
The leaders after the short program, China’s Cheng Peng and Lei Wang slipped to fourth place with a score of 186.16, which was just 0.03 points from winning the bronze medal. France’s Camille Kovalev and Pavel Kovalev pulled up from seventh after the short program to finish in fifth place with 152.54 points.
Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Soerensen took home their second silver medal of the 2023-2024 Grand Prix Series. They will also compete at the Grand Prix Final.
The home crowd favorites Juulia Turkkila and Matthias Versluis, of Finland, earned the bronze medal. They will compete next week at NHK Trophy.
Read more about the dance event at Ice-Dance.com.