by Katie Tetzloff | Photos by Robin Ritoss
To bring both the Junior and Senior ISU Grand Prix circuits to an end this year, the Grand Prix Finals were held last week from December 5th through 8th in Fukuoka, Japan. Traditionally, this is the second most important event in the season, second to the World Championships, but this year it falls in third due to the upcoming Olympics. Throughout this season, teams have earned points based on their placements at their ISU international competitions, and the teams with the six highest points totals at each level then competed in Japan for the final.
In the junior event, Russia, the United States, and Ukraine were represented. Winning the gold were Anna Yanovskaya & Sergey Mozgov of Russia. Their “Putting on the Ritz” short dance earned them 63.71 points, giving them a comfortable lead of roughly five and a half points going into the free dance. They followed this with a strong performance in the free dance, securing their gold medal with a combined score of 152.48, more then 13 points higher than the silver medalists.
Coming in second were the United States’ Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker. Although they only received a Level 1 on their second Quickstep sequence in the short dance, they skated well in both programs, putting them in second place overall with 139.42 points. Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, also representing the United States, finished right behind them in third with a cumulative score of 135.89.
Russia’s second team, Betina Popova & Yuri Vlasenko, finidhed fourth. Unfortunately, an extra step in their twizzle sequence in the short dance caused them to only get a level 2, but they were able to skate a strong “Spartacus” free dance, earning them a total of 129.47 between the two skates.
Coming in fifth were Alexandra Nazarova & Maxim Nikitin of Ukraine. A mistake on the free dance twizzle sequence and an extended lift reduced their score, but they were able to finish with 123.17 points.
Wrapping up the junior event was the third team from the United States, Rachel Parsons & Michael Parsons. Their “Funny Girl” short dance score was lower than expected due to a fall on the twizzles; not only did they receive a one-point deduction for the fall, but they did not even receive any points for their twizzles, as if they had not attempted them at all. They did, however, skate a clean free dance, giving hem a final score of 116.60.
These six junior teams will likely be seen at this season’s Junior World Championships along with teams from many other countries. Since there are no more junior international ISU competitions this season, these teams will have to perform well at their national championships this winter in order to secure their spots at Junior Worlds.
The favorites going into the Senior event in Japan last week, America’s Meryl Davis & Charlie White, took home the gold. In their “My Fair Lady” short dance, they earned Level 4s on every single element, all with positive GOEs. They followed this with a strong “Scheherazade” free dance in which they also received level 4s on every element except the circular step sequence. Their score of 191.35 set a new world record.
Coming in a very close second place were the American’s toughest competition, Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir of Canada. They have never won the Grand Prix Final, even in 2010 when they won the Olympics. Virtue & Moir also received nothing but level 4s in the short dance, leaving a gap of seven one hundreths of a point going into the free program. Their diagonal step sequence in the free dance was rewarded only a level 3, which was not able to push them into first. Their final score was 190.00 points.
Nathalie Pechelat & Fabian Bourzat from France faced a bobble in their short dance twizzles, causing them to receive only a level 3 and negative GOEs, ultimately placing them in fifth going into the second event. Their circus themed free dance, on the other hand, was virtually flawless as they too received level 4s on every element except the circular step sequence. This allowed them to jump ahead into third place over all with a score of 169.11.
Russians Ekaterina Bobrova & Dmitry Soloviev were in third after the short dance, but a fall in their Vivaldi “Four Seasons” free dance pushed them into fourth overall with 166.72 points.
The second Canadian team represented in Japan was Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje. Their “42nd Street” short dance score of 67.68 placed them in fourth, but they were not able to keep this spot after the free program. They only were awarded with a level 2 for both of their footwork sequences, leaving their final score as 165.04.
Finally, Italy was the last country represented at this year’s Grand Prix Final by Anna Cappellini & Luca Lanotte. They too skated their short dance to the music of 42nd Street. In this program, however, their score suffered because of two deductions due to illegal elements; in addition to this, their step sequence only received a level 2. Cappellini & Lanotte skated well in the free dance, earning them a total of 156.58.
Since the Grand Prix Final included only the top scoring teams of the season, it is a good preview for what the Olympics and World Championships will show this year. As mentioned above, Virtue & Moir have never captured the gold at this event, but will they be able to steal the first place spot in the Olympics again? Will Davis & White be able to improve on their record-setting score as the season continues? This was the first event at which these two teams faced each other head on; in the past few years they have had the most important, friendly rivalry for the top spot at international events, and this is sure to continue in this crucial Olympic season.