Six down zero to go. Oh wait, no, the final to go. Well, congratulations to Eteri Tutberidze who got to complete her slew of Instagram hashtags this weekend with #sixdownfinaltogo because her skaters have won every single competition which probably wasn’t that surprising, but it’s impressive nonetheless. And with the NHK Trophy over, we now know who is going to be at the final and I cannot wait for this showdown.
Anyway, the gold medalist of NHK was Alena Kostornaia. She set a new world record with her short program and deservedly so because it is beautiful. I can’t say much about it because I can’t fault it at all so I was very happy that she got the score she deserved for this program after being underscored in France. Her free skate did not score as highly at this competition because her second triple axel was under-rotated so she stepped out of it, but her overall score was just shy of Alexandra Trusova’s world record so, depending on how Trusova (and Kostornaia) skates at the final, there may be a new world record holder and one who doesn’t have quads.
In second place was Rika Kihira who also had two brilliant skates, three triple axels and two new dresses. Her short program wasn’t perfect as her landing on the loop looked difficult, but I have to say the music seems to growing on me. I really like the new layout of her free skate; I was looking forward to seeing her try the quad salchow as it seemed she was intending to do it from the elements on the screen during the warmup so hopefully it’ll be ready for final, but it’s great to see that the triple axels don’t have to be the first two jumps in her program.
Then the bronze medalist here was Alina Zagitova (yay, I predicated another podium) who had one of her worst short program outings of her career. She did not do the loop on her lutz (although the landing did actually look OK, but she must have felt something was off) and tried to put it on the flip, but only did a single. She would have been much better off doing a triple flip, triple toe because then she would not have found herself in fourth place after the short. I was very pleased that she was able to do a clean free skate and make it to the final. I thought it was relatively interesting that, although she seemed disappointed with the result of her short program, she did not look as angry or emotional about it as she had done when she was fifth in the short at Grand Prix France in 2017. I wonder if this lack of emotion comes from the fact that she knows she won’t be winning gold medals this year. I have heard that she is skating for pleasure now rather than because she wants to win every competition which I think is a good attitude for her to have; if she’s not going be driven by gold medals anymore simply because she will not have the base value against her teammates, then she needs to find another reason to keep skating and to do it for pleasure is a very valid reason. I don’t think she’ll win a medal at the final, but you never know. I hope she simply shows how much she enjoys skating, skates for herself and gets a new season’s best.
Karen Chen was unexpectedly in third place after the short program which was a great surprise as I really enjoy her skating and especially this program. I miss her triple lutz-triple toe and I’m not sure why she’s doing a double toe instead – I can only assume that it’s because of her previous injury. Unfortunately, her free skate really does not seem to be working for her this season: she seems to run out of steam in the second half of the program. She had two falls and looked extremely dejected; it can’t have been fun to go after Kostornaia and Kihira. She came eleventh in the free skate and wound up ninth overall. I’m sure she was very disappointed, but hopefully she’ll be able to turn it around for U.S. Nationals.
Much like Karen, the rest of the skates here were rather up and down. Eunsoo Lim was in sixth place after the short, although could have been higher had she not fallen on her combination jump, but then had two horrible falls on her lutzes in the free skate where she almost hit her head on the ice she was so far forward. I can assume that much like her other events, Yuhana Yokoi had a bad short (the stream died) and a great free skate, earning a new season’s best which she was very surprised by although she did do too many double toes. Kailani Craine had a better set of skates than she did at Cup of China with no single toes. I was also pleased to see Sofia Samodurova do two relatively clean skates, although she’s not at the level at which she was last season and sadly I’m not sure we’ll see much more of her this year, like so many of the Russian ladies.
In two weeks time, we will see Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova, Anna Shcherbakova, Rika Kihira, Alina Zagitova and Bradie Tennell at the Grand Prix Final. I’m delighted Bradie made the final; it’s been four years since an American lady was at the final. My attempt to predict the standings for the final are as follows:
- Alena Kostornaia
- Alexandra Trusova
- Rika Kihira
- Anna Shcherbakova
- Alina Zagitova
- Bradie Tennell
and for fun I’m going to predict the junior ladies as well because I’m just as excited to watch them as I am for the seniors:
- Kamila Valieva
- Ksenia Sinitsyna
- Alysa Liu
- Haein Lee
- Viktoria Vasilieva
- Daria Usacheva
What was your favourite moment from NHK? And who are you most looking forward to seeing in the final?
My highlight from NHK was Karen’s short program.