By Matteo Morelli
Sheffield welcomed the fourth ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating, the MK John Wilson Trophy. This was the first Grand Prix event to take place in Great Britain, which was awarded the event to replace Cup of China, cancelled by the host nation because of strict COVID-19 protocols.
The 2012 European Figure Skating Championships was the last major international skating event hosted by the British Skating Federation. The ISU recently announced that Sheffield was appointed to host the same competition in 2026, the year of the Milano-Cortina Winter Olympic Games.
Coming into the event, three teams had medals from previous events: a gold for Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, a silver for Great Britain’s Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson, and a bronze for Canada’s Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha. All teams secured the same medals in Sheffield, bringing the Italian and British teams ahead of the qualifications for the grand prix final.
Ukraine’s Mariia Holubtsova and Kyryl Bielobrov opened the rhythm dance, scoring their season best. The team is receiving a lot of support from the skating world, and particularly from the Ice Academy of Montreal, where they are training this season. Amongst those helping, Spain’s Olivia Smart kindly offered them to stay at her place while she is away for some months in the UK as a professional on TV show Dancing on ice.
Competing at their first senior grand prix season, Georgia’s Maria Kazakova and Goergy Reviya improved their scores from Grand Prix de France and earned a personal best of 70.71.
“There is a lot that we need to learn and we are happy for this experience,” Kazakova said.
Asked about competing at back to back events, they said they felt it could have been tough, but they found the way to deal with it.
“All problems are in my head, but if you tell yourself you can do everything, you will do everything,” Reviya shared.
Also at their first senior Grand Prix event are USA’s Oona Brown and Gage Brown, which are already thinking about their growth as athletes whilst looking at teams they used to admire in their junior season.
“We try to put out the strongest skate we can, we try to better as skaters,” Gage said. “The atmosphere is different skating with teams we look up to, we try to switch off the start struck feeling when on the ice,” he added.
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha ended in third place with 81.09, improving their result at Skate Canada by five points. They are aware that more work needs to be done to improve their programmes.
“With a short period of time between competitions, you have to be strategic and understand which part of the programme you want to work on,” Lagha shared.
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson skated in front of a very supportive home crowd, which gave them a warm round of applause at the end of their routine that secured a second place with less than a point from the Italian team.
Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri took the lead with 86.30 points.
“We didn’t have time to change anything from the last grand prix,” Fabbri said. “We tried to have a different attitude when stepping on the ice, to get the right mental approach to the competition. We will work on changing some things after this competition.”
They shared that they arrived very late in Sheffield: in fact, their taxi from the airport was driving them to another location.
“You wanted to take a tour of the UK!,” joked Fear.
Building on the confidence from the results on their rhythm dance, Oona and Gage Brown delivered a solid free dance with a season best of 103.40. “We felt good with what we put out today,” Gage said “Our goal is to score a little bit higher at our next grand prix in Finland, we will work on improving our footwork and step sequence,” he added.
Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya also improved their free dance, earning 106 points. They shared that they only had 3 hours on the ice between last week’s grand prix and this competition.
“We changed two things: we added the jump in the choreo step and we changed the stationary lift,” Reviya said.
The music of Czech Republic’s Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler free programme was slightly changed from the one they presented at Finlandia Trophy earlier on this season. Following a mistake in the twizzles, their free scored a little lower than what they hoped for, but they were still happy with the overall result.
Marjorie Lajoie and Zachary Lagha ended in third place, earning a total of 198.95 points.
“It was very good for us,” said Lajoie. “ There were very little mistakes, but we are very happy with the performance we did.”
Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson confirmed their second place and scored 120.19 points, with a little fall from Lewis on the choreographic twizzle movement making them earn less than what they got in Canada. Their biggest prize though was to feel the love of the public, which cheered their local darlings waving plenty of flags and banners.
“It is so special, we never thought this chance would happen in our careers and it is just so exciting to be able to have so many family and friends come to watch us compete on such an elevated stage,” Fear said.
Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri collected a second gold medal, delivering a free programme full of intensity and confidence.
“It has been really nice to feel the home crowd so supportive with all the skaters,” Fabbri shared.
Their free earned 127.44 points and an overall total of 213.74, adding almost 6 points to the results achieved in France the week before. They are now fully qualified for the grand prix final, which will take place in their home country, Italy.