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 Saransk Ladies Recap

You know it’s finally skating season again when you miss an event that happened while you were asleep and wake up to approximately 8,900 pages of questions, comments, and concerns about the judging of said event on the Internet forums.

Wouldn’t be the same without them, really.

This time, it was no different, and the online judging critics were in full force – with good reason. Here’s a shake-down of what all happened at JGP Saransk.

1. Polina Tsurskaya 

Polina Tsurskaya was the overwhelming favorite to win this competition, despite having recently recovered from an injury. On that front, she didn’t disappoint. Her SP was phenomenal, earning a well- deserved junior world record score of 69.02. I’m not a huge fan of the droning, monotonous music or the choreography (as with many of Eteri Tutberidze’s students’ programs, there is a lot of miming), but her jumps were fantastic and her interpretation has improved greatly. I also couldn’t help noting that it seems she looks more like an adult this year than most of the seniors. Polina’s FS wasn’t her best, with two pops (a double lutz and a single Axel), and again, I thought the music was a little boring, but the choreography was much better, the rest of her jumps were excellent, and – shallow note – her dress was beautiful (actually, both of them were). Overall, this wasn’t Polina’s best competition, but it was an excellent return to competition. She likely just needs a little more time to get her feet back under her.

Fun random note: my phone tried to correct “Eteri” to “arteries.”

2. Stanislava Konstantinova

This was possibly the most controversial part of the competiton.

With a FS featuring two falls, Stanislava beat both Elizaveta Nugumanova, who was clean but underrotated several jumps, and Yuna Shiraiwa, who fell once but executed most of her other elements cleanly. I personal thought Elizaveta should’ve gotten the silver medal and Yuna the bronze, with Konstantinova in 4th, but there is some basis for what the judges went with. Stanislava had a clean SP that left her with a cushion of about three points going into the FS. While her jumps were clean, I felt like it was a bit frantic and unpolished; however, I can see why she was in second. The free skate, though, was a different story. I didn’t think the program itself was anything special (I was kind of bored) and she fell twice. I really can’t see the logic here-even if the judges wanted a Russian sweep, it could’ve happened with Stanislava in 3rd (which I thought was more fair). But there’s no point in arguing about that now. I try to find something I like to highlight about every skater I write about, so for Stanislava, I think that quality is that she’s different. In a field dominated by copy-and-paste Tutberidze pupils, any kind of uniqueness is refreshing, and I like Stanislava’s quirky style.

3. Elizaveta Nugumanova 

I’m not going to lie, I thought Liza was robbed of the silver. But she has a rather serious UR problem that I was previously not aware of, so it makes sense that that held her down. That aside, I thought her programs were the best of the event. Her spunky “Malaguena” short is a delightful little gem, not to mention impeccably choreographed, and her “Romeo and Juliet” free skate has an innocent sweetness to it that Liza pulls off very convincingly. (Another shallow note: I love her FS dress!) Unfortunately, she raked in UR after UR on her jumps, and while one wouldn’t have mattered much, four of them had an impact on her scores. She still managed to score very well (her SP score was fair, and her FS was slightly overscored), but the placements didn’t shake out in her favor. I hope she can get her jumps fixed up, because her spins, SS and interpretation are really great for such a young skater.

4. Yuna Shiraiwa 

Yuna Shiraiwa went from a nobody to a rock-solid contender for major medals last season; I was expecting her to continue that momentum. But, due to an injury, that wasn’t to be (at least, not here). She actually skated quite well, with a clean SP and one fall in the FS, but for various reasons (you know which reasons…), she missed out on the podium. Her “I Got Rhythm” SP was really well-skated and could be a very fun program if she can add some spark to her interpretation, which was a bit flat. The FS, to an instrumental medley of pieces from “Notre Dame De Paris” (which, for reasons I will never understand, didn’t include “Danse Mon Esmeralda”), is a powerful program that could either bring out the passion in her skating or showcase her weaknesses-hopefully the former. It looked as if she was exhausted towards the end of the program, and she fell out of the last jump, a 3L0. Maybe her stamina has taken a hit since her injury, or it was jet lag, but it seemed like a fluke mistake and I expect Yuna to be back to her usual, consistent form by her next competition.

5. Kokoro Iwamot0

I didn’t actually watch Kokoro’s programs during the competition, so I’m watching her free skate in the post draft and writing about it as I go along. First off, dress on point. I love the combination of gold and white, and it’s a great cut and style. Based on the protocol, her FS was clean except for an edge call (I just saw the flip that got called, and it was 0n a very obvious outside edge, even in real time). Her jumps are pretty good-they look labored, but she gets all the way around, and the height is nice. Her axel technique scares me. Spins are pretty nice. Expression could be better. So, now that I’ve finished watching it, Kokoro seems like your run-of-the-mill-top-5-JGP-skater: pretty good technically but nothing extraordinary, and not the best artistry, but gets the job done. For a JGP debut (I think?), she did really well.

And now I have to go write the U.S. Classic post! Yay…