First off, I hope I spelled that right. I should probably have just written “JGP Slovakia,” but I didn’t, because I like to live dangerously. :p
This event was really something, so sit back and strap in for a wild ride.
1. Rika Kihara
I wasn’t a huge fan of Rika’s skating after her first event, but after watching her skate here, how can you not be? Little Miss Triple Axel absolutely stormed the place with two exquisite programs to win the event. She begun her campaign with a very strong performance of her “Tzigane” short program, which, I must say, I liked a lot more here than I had at her last event. I felt like she was more into the performance this time. And I can’t say enough good things about her free skate, but may we briefly pause to recognize: TRIPLE. FREAKING. AXEL!
I could stop there, but I won’t. Not only did Rika land a perfect 3A, becoming only the second junior lady (after compatriot Mao Asada in 2004) to do so, but all of her other elements were clean, and when she’s hitting the jumps, her performance quality really shines. Simply put, Rika was on fire this morning. Although the 3A has been hit-or-miss in competition so far, she’s shown that she can land it in competition, which is huge. If she does it again at any of the big competitions, all I can say is good luck.
2. Marin Honda
In hindsight, Marin didn’t have a prayer of winning this event, not after what Rika did. But she didn’t go down without a fight. As is becoming her norm, Marin’s short program was not fantastic: her intended 3-3 became a 3-1 and was invalidated. She was in fourth after the short, and if she was to beat Alina Zagitova, who was leading her by over ten points, she had to be perfect in the free skate. She managed to beat Alina, but still had to settle for silver. Solid, yes. But perfect? No. She nearly fell out of her 3F-3T and popped an intended 2A into a single. I love Marin, and her “Romeo and Juliet” FS, as much as anyone, but I felt like she was overscored here. She got about 120 with a near-fall and a pop, and I though she lacked the spark, and the sparkle, that she had at her first event. The placements were fair-Alina made several costly mistakes, and Alisa UR’d herself half to death, so she was definitely deserving-but the scores were ridiculous. I thought Rika’s score was fair, given her insane technical difficulty and cleanliness, but the rest were slightly nuts. But regardless, I’m glad she did well enough to give herself a decent shot at the final. (Two silver medals usually makes it.)
3. Alina Zagitova
I haven’t exactly discussed it with Alina, but I’m 99% sure that her uncharacteristically bad free skate was because she was freaked out that she had to follow Rika Kihara. Poor girl got the Gracie Gold Curse of having to skate after a showstopping performance. But I can’t feel too bad for her, because her SP was perfect, and she lead by a healthy margin with it. She was a favorite to win coming into the competition, and after the SP, but several big mistakes in her FS more than undid her SP lead. A fall and a downgrade on her second 3Lz, a couple of turns between the jumps in her 3Lz-3Lo, which also got downgraded, and URs on all three jumps in her 3F-2T-2Lo combo had her fourth in the FS and a disappointing third overall. The good news? She’ll probably still be able to make the final. Alina has a lot of potential, which we saw at her first event, so I hope she can get back in form and that this really was just a fluke attack of nerves after having to follow Rika.
4. Alisa Lozko
Sigh…Alisa continues to frustrate me. Her spins are magical, her musicality is fantastic, and I like both of her programs, but her jump technique is maddening. This free skate got her four underrotations and a downgrade, and I’m sorry to say I expected it. She needs to do something-maybe a coaching change, maybe a season off to rework her jumps, fill in the blank-about this, or it’s going to hold her back for the rest of her career. It would be a crying shame if that Biellman spin never got its day in the sun…
5. Eunsoo Lim
Eunsoo had a pretty strong JGP debut, finishing 5th in a very deep field: she fell on the 3Lz-3T in both programs, but other than that, was clean. I didn’t actually see her short program, but from the looks of the protocols, it was clean other than the fall on the combination. In the free skate, she started the combination with a gorgeous 3Lz, but she was very close to the boards and slammed into them on the landing of the 3T. It was a pretty dramatic hit: she smacked straight into the boards and plopped down as if she was being thrown into a chair. Needless to say, it was very jarring! She recovered well, though, and the rest of her program was beautiful. Eunsoo has really nice performance quality and airy jumps, and (shallow note) her costume was beautiful. She has lots of potential, and I hope to see her compete again soon!
Closing note: I’m sorry I never put up the U.S. Classic post. It’s in my drafts, but I didn’t get to watch very much of it and the videos I wanted weren’t uploaded yet. I’ll see if I can finish it, but no guarantees.