As July gives way to August, the pre-Junior Grand Prix events are getting into full swing, even as the roster for the second event in Salzburg comes out. The international accomplishments of the men is limited to the single JGP medal of Canadian Conrad Orzel, if only because both Russians are debutantes, but one of them is Evgeni Semenenko, who has attracted attention within the country. The ladies, on the other hand, include Anastasia Gubanova, as well as Mako Yamashita, who won two bronzes last year. Also Leona Hendrickx, who isn’t a junior anymore, but is young enough to be eligible and has apparently decided to take advantage. Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko highlight the ice dance field, which also includes Sofia Shevchenko & Igor Efremenko.
This week, however, were the last of the pre-JGP international events, including the first event of the year not attached to a club competition.
Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy
The Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy has often been the first international competition of the season. It still feels a good deal like the first; the ones that happen with it are still thought of largely as extensions of their originating club events. Still, it’s not quite big enough to start the season proper, especially since it’s supposed to be limited by region. Though Australian and New Zealand skaters also show up to it. And, inexplicably, this year two Americans competed in the Advanced Novice Ladies event.
And meanwhile, even though it was held in Hong Kong this year, there were no competitors from China proper above the Novice level (though Hong Kong of course fields a separate team), because this week the Chinese skating federation were holding their test skates. In their absence, the Japanese absolutely dominated.
The men’s competition saw a battle between two of the contenders for Japan’s wide open third Olympic berth, with Ryuju Hino debuting his short. He and favorite Keiji Tanaka came attempting quadruple jumps in both programs, none of which went well. A bad stumble on his axel initially left Tanaka in second. But in the free it was Hino who made the mistakes outside the quads outright falling on his axel. Tanaka met slightly less disaster on his three quad attempts, nailed everything else, and all in all did enough to firmly reestablished himself over Hino, winning by over ten points.
In the ladies, too, Japan went 1-2, with Kaori Sakamoto and Yuna Shiriawa making their international senior debuts. It was our first look at Sakamoto’s short program and both of Shiriawa’s. Both showed what they’ve gained over the summer, with Sakamoto killing it with intensity, and Shiriawa impressing with musicality, despite the odd cut of her free, where unfortunately she also had a pair of falls. Lucky for her, so did Australian Kailani Crane, who won bronze, and no one else in the field got near the podium either. Sakamoto had a couple of stumbles herself in the long, but winning really wasn’t a problem.
With the Chinese out, there were only four senior pairs, and none on the lower levels. The pairs competition, however, was the only one at the entire event above Basic Novice the Japanese didn’t win. Even that one they nearly did; Korean Se-Yeon & Hyung-Tae Kim edged out two more Japanese teams with less than a point and a half between first and third, and with Miu Suzaki & Ryuichi Kihara winning the free skate. However, none of these pairs actually skated very well. There were no ice dance competitions at all.
Sena Miyake has not been the most accomplished of Japan’s junior men, but he distanced the field here. His triple axel and showman abilities were in full display in the short, and if he crashed on the former in the free, he still had the latter. But the real show was in the junior ladies, where Rika Kihara started her season by outskating Korea’s top two junior ladies with two clean programs that showed her maturing style and skating ability. Her short program was impressive enough, complete with her landing her triple flip-triple toe in the back half, a feat she would repeat in the free. Although there, she also landed a triple axel, and even with an underrotation later on pretty much had the performance of the event.
The Koreans acquitted themselves well to fill out the podium. They even tailed Kihara closely after the short, though they lost a few more points to her in the free. This time, it was Eunsoo Lim who topped Ye-Lim Kim, though the latter beat her in the short, and the final difference was only a little more than a point.
View full results here.
Philadelphia Summer Championships/Philadelphia Summer International
For many years, the Liberty Open was one of the biggest club competitions of the year. Now, it’s been recently renamed the Philadelphia Summer Championships, and, like Lake Placid’s annual ice dance extravaganza, it includes an official, ISU-approved, international competition for senior and junior singles skaters to partake in. However, while results are available for the club events, as I post this Sunday night there’s no proper results page for the international event, and we’ve seen no protocol sheets, so we don’t know which skaters actually landed their harder jumps.
The men’s field wasn’t the strongest, especially after warm-ups, when Vincent Zhou became another one of the week’s boot-related withdrawals. That suddenly made Max Aaron more or less the favorite, on the heels of Goldenskate posting his interview with Ted Flatt, in which he indicated he has personal issues last season and talked up his improving artistry. But first his surprisingly poetic “Bring Him Home” short had him struggling with two quads. Then while he landed the first in his free, he stumbled on the other two and had a lot of bigger errors. Also, he shouldn’t have tried to skate to Phantom of the Opera the same year as Grant Hochstein; he can’t compare to him. He was lucky to win bronze.
But he wasn’t the only one struggling. Alexei Krasnozhon got a narrow lead after the short mostly by standing on his quad loop, though he probably didn’t rotate it. But he managed that on neither quad attempt in his long, where he lacked anything that could be a match for the Bocelli-or keep his score from dropping him to fourth. In contrast, his Junior Worlds teammate, Andrew Torgashev skated very decently in a third-place free, but that was after an utterly disastrous short, and he could only get up to fifth.
Nor was Timothy Dolensky perfect. Both his quad attempts ended in falls, and that wasn’t his only mistake in the free. But the latter was still relatively clean, and in multiple club competitions throughout the summer, he’s shown himself to have improved greatly both technically and artistically on the ice. And this week, it paid off with his first ever international win. Silver was a similar story. Ukrainian Yaroslav Paniot too is having a good summer. He was even second after the short in Glacier Falls, though he dropped to fifth after the free. Here, on the other hand, he was fifth after the short, but pulled up to second with a free skate that had a clean quad-triple and only minor errors on the other harder jumps (like a quad flip!).
Most of the footage currently on YouTube is of the men. Sadly, despite the existence of a livestream, even that’s limited. But it does include the most important performance. He may not have tried any quads, landed any triple axels, or placed that high, but with his short program, Sean Rabbitt showed why he’s such a fan favorite:
Daisuke Murakami wanted to compete in the international event, but the Japanese federation wouldn’t let him. Instead, he skated in the club event, and we have most of his unsurprisingly poetic “Bring Him Home” short. He went unchallenged in both segments, especially after landing one quad in each. His short program score was higher than anyone’s from the international competition! Although that might have just been generous club judging, since he had two falls in both programs.
In the ladies field, too, a field weakened by the withdrawal of the favorite turned out a surprise winner. Although even after Karen Chen hit her knee a little too hard in practice (and posted it to Instagram!), she bandaged it up and got through the short, albeit not very well. But when they discovered it to be worse than assumed, she pulled out before the free skate. The other established name in the field, Courtney Hicks, didn’t do as well as she had in Detroit. She still landed her triple flip-triple loop in both programs, and it looked good. But she had a fall in both programs, and other errors in her long. She finished fourth.
Instead, things were taken over by the younger girls trying to make themselves names. Two of them, Angela Wang and Bradie Tennell, did strong programs while standing up on difficult triple-triples, and went 1-2 respectively; from their scores, it looks like Wang’s was ratified, while Tennell’s might not have been. Wang followed it up with a triple-triple-double to open her long, Tennell with the same triple-triple. But whether or not those were ratified, neither girl rotated everything in the free. Tennell had a pop, and Wang multiple errors. Ultimately Tennell edged Wang out for gold by a little over a point.
Three more American prospects, Amber Glenn, Starr Andrews, and Tessa Hong, failed to deliver and piled in behind Hicks. However, a Korean one proved another matter. Hanul Kim did not land her triple-triple clean in the short and was down in fifth. But she won the free skate, standing up on that combination and everything else besides on unfortunate flip. It was enough to get her bronze. View short program results here, long program results here, and final standings here.
The junior international fields were tiny. There were only four men, all American, and four of the fives ladies were American too. Ryan Dunk edged out the men’s title, and Ting Cui took the ladies by some way.
They might not have competed in the international event, but there were two pairs who skated in the club competition. Deanna Stellato & Nathan Bartholomay scored promisingly well in the short given she went down on their side by sides lutzes, although they made too many mistakes in the free for that there. But it was Paige Connors & Evgeni Krasnopolski coming in a point behind them in both segments who made the bigger statement. A newly formed team, they’ve been uneven in their club competition appearances so far, but have now officially done enough to indicate they’ve got a good chance at winning Israel a pairs berth at Nebelhorn.
Wild Rose Invitational
The second event in Skate Canada’s Summer Series in Leduc, Alberta was even smaller than the first. There were only two senior men, both low-ranked. The only senior pair were longtime veteran Natasha Purich & David Portz, trying to get an international assignment for their second season together. Unfortunately, their short program was very much an argument against it. Their free skate went a lot better, but was still far from spectacular. There was no senior dance teams.
And there were only eight senior women. But they included Kaetlyn Osmond. She came in giving a brief interview in which she revealed a little more about her programs, and then, at last, we got to see them in their entirety. They were good debuts; what jumping errors she did make didn’t disrupt the mood any. (Which, this time around, was all anyone watching cared about.) Unfortunately, her short doesn’t quite emerge from the shadows of Joannie Rochette skating to the same piece ten years ago. But despite all the Swaning going on this season, her long stands up well.
View full results here.
Over in Japan, Marin Honda, having already debuted her long program in one ice show, debuted her short in a smaller one in Nikko:
This is not really a mature tango, but given she’s not quite sixteen yet, it shouldn’t be anyway. Meanwhile, the mood it does project she does well.
China’s test skates took place in Beijing, and included most of the national team, even Han Yan, despite his not having his new programs choreographed yet! The skates were open to the public, but audience members were not allowed to film anything, and even asked not to leak info. So all we’ve got to watch is a news video (summarized in English here), which even dubbed music over footage of three of the programs to avoid revealing their actual music. They even did it for Cheng Peng & Yang Jin, even though it’s already been reported they’re doing a tango short. But they did reveal that Zijun Li’s short is to skating standard East of Eden.
But we’ve got reports on the other short programs anyway. It looks like it’s going to be the season of Swan Lake; Xiaoyu Yu & Hao Zhang are reportedly the latest using it. Boyang Jin is reportedly skating his short to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is certainly the kind of music he likes. Wenjing Sui & Cong Han are reportedly skating theirs to an unspecified version of “Hallelujah.” One wonders at the secrecy when the music choices are so boring.
Hopefully Sui & Han aren’t using the Jeff Buckley version, since that one’s in use already. Patrick Chan gave us a humorous peek at it:
We also got a preview of sorts from Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Pojé, and it seems they’re using a warhorse for the second year in a row: Aram Khachaturian’s Spartacus (it’s less a warhorse in ice dance, but they’re hardly the first to use it there either):
Weaver & Pojé are so great it’ll probably be wonderful to watch anyway. But it still feels like a bit of a letdown.
At the beginning of the week, we got to watch Nathan Chen’s short program too, as performed last week when he was the guest star in Sun Valley’s ice show series. It was to Instagram in three clips. Then they were deleted. Then we at least got the first clip back:
At least one person, and one who’s been selling himself mainly on his quads, no less, is tackling a difficult piece of music to skate too, and it looks like his program is creative indeed.
Russia also held junior test skates this week. No footage so far, but we did get an interview with ice dance team Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin. He’s another skater who had surgery lately, but only on his nose. They also confirmed Elena Ilinykh & Anton Shibnev’s partnership, saying they like having her training there with them as someone more experienced. They also talked about their programs. For the short they gave only their rhythms: rumba, cha-cha, and salsa. But they’re doing a tango free dance, and they specified they’re using a pair of Gotan Project tracks: “Vuelvo al Sur” and “Paris, Texas,” which are more unusual tango choices.
There was also an interview with Elena Radionova and Maria Sotskova’s coach, who among other things talked about a couple of their programs. It turns out the cliches and Swan Lakes are coming out of Russia too. Sotskova’s skating her long to the latter, though at least she’s using the waltz, which is the second-most used piece from the ballet, rather than the most-used “Song of the Black Swan.” Choreographer Peter Tchernyshev apparently said it suited her, and he’s probably right. Elena Radionova is continuing to do flirtatious. Literally in the short, since she’s keeping her Gershwin, which we knew already. But now she’s combining it to a free to “Historia de un Amor.”
In the aftermath of their qualifier last weekend, some Korea-related news came out at the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, most of it is injury-related. First we learned that Jun-Hwan Cha’s week was even worse than we thought: as well as losing his trip to Nebelhorn and putting himself at a disadvantage for Olympic qualifying, he also aggravated his injury. We’re not really told how much, so now we can’t even know yet whether he’ll make the Grand Prix. He was supposed to compete in Hong Kong; obviously that didn’t happen. But then Da-Bin Choi pulled out too, also due to ankle and boot issues. Though she at least has the advantage in the race for two already-earned berths.
But there was one piece of good news: Alexander Gamelin is getting his Korean citizenship. He needed it specially granted to compete in PyeongChang. It coming through isn’t a surprise; South Korea is a country that will often grant citizenship in such cases. But it’s good for him and partner Yura Min to have that issue behind them as they focus on earning that berth in Germany.
In the U.S., it seems it’s the pairs talking, and this week it’s the ones recovering from serious medical issues. Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea are blogging for IceNetwork, and this week was the entire history of her knee injury, and just how bad it was. That was revealing enough, though short.
Much longer was the other Ted Flatt interview posted this week, with Alexa Scimeca Knierim & Chris Knierim. There were no further medical details than they’ve given already, though they did talk about keeping things private. What they really talked about was how they dealt with it, including her recovery post surgery and how they handled their two-competition season. He noted all the work they’re doing to catch up this year as well, including eventually bringing back their signature quadruple twist, and they talk about their more complicated programs this year. We also got the amusing image of Chris Knierim lifting Christopher Dean.
Before the Junior Grand Prix comes the peak of Canada’s Summer Series. That starts next week in Quebec.