JGP Germany Ladies Recap

It’s been a whirlwind JGP season, and after seven competitions, it’s finally come to an end. With that, the JGP Finalists have been announced. In order:

  1. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia – 30 pts. (1/1)
  2. Polina Tsurskaya, Russia – 30 pts. (1/1)
  3. Rika Kihara, Japan – 28 pts. (2/1)
  4. Kaori Sakamoto, Japan – 28 pts. (2/1)
  5. Alina Zagitova, Russia – 26 pts. (1/3)
  6. Marin Honda, Japan – 26 pts. (2/2)

I’d say that’s a pretty solid line-up. We’re in for a treat. (Grand Duchess of Triple Lutz Polina vs. Mini Miss Triple Axel Rika vs. a bunch of other great skaters? Count me in!)

But I still have to explain what actually happened here. So…here goes.

1. Anastasia Gubanova

Anastasia punched her ticket to the Final in style, with two clean performances and a second gold medal. Not too shabby for a first-year junior! (Fun fact: Anastasia was the only debuting junior to do so, and one of only two skaters who won both of their events-the other being Polina Tsurskaya, as we all expected.) Her jump technique still makes me want to avert my eyes until she’s safely on her feet, but I can overlook that because she has so many wonderful qualities. Her spins, interpretation, lines and extension, and overall polish are astounding for a junior. Even with a UR problem and some seriously sketchy 3-3s, Anastasia is a great addition to the final, and it’s awesome that she was able to qualify in first.

2. Yuna Shiraiwa 

Yuna didn’t have her strongest SP here, but she rebounded with a rock-solid FS to earn the silver medal. Unfortunately, it was just barely too little to make the final (a gold probably would’ve done it), and she wound up third alternate. However, there was lots to like here: her expression seems to be improving, which made her programs much more enjoyable, and she had a fantastic, clean free skate. Yuna’s jumps are solid, but she still lacks the “spice” or special something she needs to distinguish herself from the throngs of decent bronze-medal contenders. A little more consistency would do it-most junior ladies aren’t all that consistent (Polina Tsurskaya is an outlier who I eliminate from all data for being the exception to literally every rule ever), and that would help her a lot. It did just that last season, but unfortunately, she seems to have lost a little bit of that. I think her current programs set her up well to find an artistic je ne sais quoi, but even if they do, she needs to regain her consistency if she wants to keep climbing the ladder.

3. Eunsoo Lim 

Eunsoo is an absolute delight to watch, and her gorgeous SP had people online jumping on the “next Yuna Kim!” bandwagon. I agree that she has loads of potential, but that…is premature. That kind of pressure would likely do her more harm than good, so it’s probably best to lay off the hype until she gets a little more experience. However, she did have a perfect SP and a strong FS, and I really enjoyed both of her programs, so I can see where they’re coming from. She’s also the only non-Russian-or-Japanese skater to medal in ladies on the JGP this season, so props for that. Eunsoo has all the potential in the world, with gorgeous, high jumps and strong technique, good spins, and nice interpretation and presentation; she just needs to a) not jump so close to the boards (her board-hugging 3-3s are terrifying) and b) not let the pressure of people jumping to premature conclusions get to her head.

4. Stanislava Konstantinova 

Stanislava didn’t have her best competition here. She couldn’t capitalize on her silver medal from Saransk to get to the final, but she still managed to snatch an alternate spot (she’s second in line), so that’s a plus. As I said in my JGP Saransk recap, I’m not the biggest fan of Stanislava’s skating, but I do admire that she brings something different. A lot of juniors seem sort of copy-and-paste, but not Stanislava. She has a very unique, quirky style, and while it’s not really my cup of tea, I appreciate that she’s bringing something different to the table.

5. Yuna Aoki 

Lovely skater, horrible competitive nerve: we’ve seen it a million times, and Yuna is no exception. This was one of her better competitions in a while, with only two major mistakes. In her SP, she somewhat inexplicably popped her 3Lz-3T into a 3Lz-1T, and in the FS, aside from a 2A-3T that she didn’t do, her only mistake was a fall on her 3Lz-3Lo (understandable, as far as mistakes go). She’s a really pleasant skater to watch, albeit one with a very distracting leg wrap in her jumps, so it was nice to see her have a fairly strong outing here. But her inconsistency makes me cry. (I legitimately think it’s some of the worst headcasery I’ve ever seen, and this is coming from the world’s most overzealous Gracie Gold uber…)

You Might Also Like…(I Certainly Did!): Holly Harris 

Holly Harris of Australia is a JGP debutante who I knew nothing about prior to this competition, but wow, she is an absolutely gorgeous skater! She placed 11th here. She doesn’t have all of her triples yet, but her polish, artistry and obvious dance training make for a really watchable skater.

I can’t believe the JGP is already over-it flew by! The Senior GP is only a few weeks away, and there are Challenger events, but I’m going to miss it. But, I hope you enjoyed my coverage, as I really tried to get it out as often as I could. (Still kicking myself for not getting JGP Japan…ugh!) 

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JGP Ostrava Ladies Recap

JGP Ostrava is a wrap, and from the looks of it (I haven’t gotten to watch a lot of the men’s and dance programs yet, but I saw the results), it was a much stronger competition across the board than the first event. Despite a lot of lackluster free skates and some truly insane scoring inflation in the ladies event, it had its strong points, too. Let’s get started!

1. Anastasia Gubanova, Russia — 185.59

What Happened: Coming into this competition, a lot of people (myself included) had their eyes on Anastasia. She’s one of the most watchable skaters I’ve ever seen: her balletic carriage, gorgeous use of her hands, wrists and arms, and beautiful extension make her skating about as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. However, her jumps…are another matter. Her technique would make my coach cry, and her 3-3s are terrifyingly unstable because of her hold-onto-your-hats 3T takeoff. She reminds me of Yulia Lipnitskaya in almost every way: refinement, expression, extension, spins, and some reeeally sketchy jumps. However, despite falls in both programs, Anastasia’s polish, spins, and the jumps she did land were enough to squeak out a win by the narrowest of margins. This gives her a great shot at the Final, and I can’t wait to see her at her next event.

The Programs: Her short program to “The Swan” is kind of exactly what you’d expect someone like Anastasia to skate to-soft, elegant and balletic. Not exactly a creative choice, but it’s gorgeous. (She does need to look up more, though. My coach would be all over her for looking at her skates throughout the whole program.) I really love her “Romeo and Juliet” FS: it uses my favorite version of that music, shows off her best qualities, and really brings out the passion of the music. (Random: sometimes I’ll see a junior do an R&J program and think, ‘he/she’s too young for that music,’ but then I remember that in the play, Juliet was 13…and then I slowly die because it freaked me out when I first read it and it STILL FREAKS ME OUT.)

2. Rika Kihara, Japan — 185.51

What Happened: Rika was another skater everyone was looking at coming into this competition. A video had recently surfaced of her landing a perfect 3A-3T, and it was rumored she would unveil her 3A here, so fans were anticipating the possible debut of the Triple Axel That Was Not (sorrynotsorry, spoilers!). Her SP, despite not having the 3A, was impeccable, and she lead by a healthy margin. Most of her FS was good, too, except for the Triple Axel That Was Not™: she fell hard, and I didn’t look at the protocol, but it definitely looked <<. Still, gotta give her props for trying. She missed the win by only .07 points-possibly the smallest margin between medalists I’ve ever seen.

The Programs: eh…not sure how I feel about either. Both of them (the SP to “Tzigane” and FS to “Rhapsody in Blue”) are polished, well-choreographed programs, but I don’t feel like she was really “living up to” the very serious, well-known classical music she used. I’m all for juniors using classical music, and “Rhapsody in Blue” was a nice choice (I think that’ll be a nice program when it’s gotten more mileage), but “Tzigane” seemed…too heavy for a junior. Something lighter, like a waltz, or something up-tempo and fun, like “Czardas”, might have been better choices for someone Rika’s age who wanted to use classical music.

3. Alisa Lozko, Russia — 162.28

What Happened: Ted Barton of the JGP Live Stream said it best: Alisa’s a “spinner from heaven.” But her jumps…yikes. She fell in the FS, and through both programs, she racked up so many URs I lost count. It might have been partly because she is better at -3Lo combos than she is at -3T combos, which she had to do her because of the 3Lo being a required solo jump, but those were far from the only things hit with <. However, there were bright spots: I loved her footwork in both programs, and her spins are some of the best I’ve ever seen. (I tried to do something like her biellman variation, where she grabs her knee while spinning in a nearly-split position, at practice the other day, and I almost fell on my head. And it didn’t look an eighth as pretty.) Sadly, if she can’t fix her awful jump technique, she’ll probably get buried in the constant stream of Russian juniors.

The Programs: I’m not really sure how I feel about the music to Alisa’s “Pavlova” SP, but the program itself is really nice. Her “Milord” FS could be really fun, but she isn’t really engaging in it. She has wonderful musicality and uses the music well, but almost no expression, which makes it somewhat hard to connect with her skating.

4. Yuna Aoki, Japan — 155.79

What Happened: Yuna is a category-five headcase, and her leg wrap in jumps drives me crazy, but she is beautiful to watch. She has lovely polish and grace, and her interpretation is top-notch. However, she can’t seem to get through a program without falling or singling something, so I have no idea how she will hold up as a senior.

The Programs: Her “Meditation from Thais” SP is elegant and gorgeous and a joy to watch. The FS (“On My Own”) is nice, if a little generic.

5. Ha Nul Kim, Korea — 149.25

What Happened: essentially, URs kept Ha Nul out of the top five in the SP, and she came back with a fairly strong FS. She’s a nice skater, and her presentation is improving, but I still don’t really get anything out of her skating. Nice, but not anything earthshaking.

The Programs: her SP (forgot the music, but it’s something by Caro Emerald) is really fun, but the FS is nothing special. Since I’m too lazy to go into a long statistical analysis of why I think this, I’ll just leave it at that.