Melissa Rosalind White – sports sub-editor
The new figure skating season started in July, and things are starting to heat up in the month leading up to the Grand Prix competitions. Any figure skating fan will already have been following the challenger competitions like the Autumn classic and the Nebelhorn trophy, which saw amazing comebacks and promising new additions to the senior league. There are many skaters to keep an eye out for this season, old and new.
The American figure skater Mariah Bell had a great start to this year’s skating season with a first place in the Nebelhorn trophy in the last weekend of September, as she delivered a smoothly choreographed free skate to a version of ‘Hallelujah’. This makes her a definite candidate to look out for in the upcoming Grad Prix, although she competed against none of the top Russian or Japanese skaters in the Nebelhorn Trophy, but will be facing them in the Internationaux de France in November. The 23-year-old has been placing reliably in the top fifteen in the Word Championships since her debut in the senior league, but maybe this season her scores will go up with the confidence of the win in the Nebelhorn Trophy.
As a multiple Grand Prix winner Kihira is an obvious skater to be on the lookout for. The 17-year-old Japanese skater made her senior debut last season, and as one of nine women to have landed a triple-axel she turned the fuigure skating world upside down. She achieved a world record score in one of her short programs last season and has started this season with a convincing first place in the Autumn Classic.
Named one of the most enticing skaters with her beautiful choreographies, the multiple worldwide champion went through a bit of a rough patch last year. She had fallen out with Russian leading coach Eteri Tutberidze from the skating club Sambo-70 (who famously also coaches 2018 winter olympics winner Alina Zagitova). Medvedeva left Tutberidze for Canadian ice skating coach Brian Orser, who also trains leading male figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu. She had been training her jumping technique entirely wrong with Tutberidze and that it had not been a sustainable way of skating for the young girls body. This meant that Medvedeva had to relearn her technique. This and the adjustment to the new coach caused her to drop in the rankings quite drastically and achieve her lowest results since the start of her figure skating career. However, she made a big comeback during the Autumn classic, gaining a solid second place. Her performance showed the Evgenia Medvedeva is still in the game to have a winning streak once again. Her special charme is that she does not win with the highest jumps or longest spins, but by gaining many extra points within her beautifully perfected and emotionally charged choreographies. This Autumn classic she convinced the judges with solid . With her technique improving and her getting used to her new coach, she is still always a competitor to watch out for.
Like Kihira, Zagitova is an obvious choice. After she won first place over her friend and competitor Evgenia Medevdeva, who had been en route to win the 2018 winter olympics with a record score, the reigning Olympic champion collected many gold medals over the last season. Alina Zagitova has virtually won every possible award, there is to win and that within one skating season since her Senior debut. Her technique is to load the last part of her performance with all the high scoring jumps. Elements of a figure skating performance will gain double points in the latter part of thec program, but not everyone is capable of pushing all the jumps as far back as Zagitova as this requires more a lot strength in the legs. However, many promising skaters will be joining her league this season from the junior league. These skaters ahave all been introducing new techniques and many will have been working on triple axels and quadruple jumps. Once the junior to Medvedeva, will Zagitova now be able to fight of the younger generation herself?
Alexandra Trusova deserves a mention as she was the first female figure skater to land a quadruple lutz last year. Debuting in the senior league this season, the two-time Junior world champion has already set several world records, she is the current world-record holder for the free skate. With only fifteen years of age, she has also earnt the world record for the highest marks given to a singular jump, which was her quadruple lutz. As there are propositions in place for the senior debuting age to be raised back up to seventeen, there is a possibility that she might be one of the youngest skaters around in the senior league for a while, giving her a lot of opportunity to beat her current seniors before the next generation comes to take her titles with new techniques as we saw happen with Medvedeva and Zagitova.
The mens senior league is still largely dominated by leading champion Yuzuru Hanzu and world record leader Nathan Chen, and it does not seem like that is going to change anytime soon. Although injured last season, Yuzuru Hanyu still placed first or second in all the competition he took part in. Even with a fall during the quad Salchow he still placed first during this seasons Autumn Classic, with more than ten points difference to the silver medalist Keegan Messing. Recently, he has announced that he is aiming to land a quadruple axel, which would place him above every other male skater in the world.
The Olympic bronze medalist Nathan Chen is currently holding world records with his quad jumps whilst casually also studying at Yale. The 20-year-old has been named “quad king” for spinning multiple quadruple jumps in a row. This ability has placed him a way ahead his peers, winning him the bronze medal in the olympics and first place in both last years and the previous years world championships. The last couple of years he has been consistently on top of the league alongside Hanyu, after having a few years in the top ten. The American hopes to bring home gold in the 2022 winter olympics after falling twice in 2018. He will be competing in Internationaux de France and Skate America this year, whilst Yuzuru Hanyu will be attending Skate Canada and the NHK trophy, whereby many other skaters hopes of first places will likely be diminished by these two skating megastars.
Junior Grand Prix
This year’s Junior Grand Prix (JGP) saw a lot of quadruple jumps and many new talents take to the ice. Again we see Russian and Japan skaters topping the tables, showing that Eteri Tutberidze’s team is still a leading group in the figure skating world.
Most prominently, 13-year-old Kamila Valieva landed a perfect quad jump, winning her both the Russian and French JGP. She had two quadruple jumps in her free skate and some high scoring combos and choreographical elements.
Her fellow Russian skaters in both the men’s and the women’s league filled up most of the medal positions, with the pair skating league entirely being taken up by Russia apart from one US and one German pair.
One skater particularly sticks out, the 14-year-old American Alysia Liu, who skated a beautiful free skate and won the US JGP despite a fall on triple axel. Her technique is incredibly precise, she landed the quadruple lutz as the first american lady with what seemed like ease.
The male skater Andrei Mozalev, 16, won two JGP in his second junior season, continuing his winning streak from last year, but now might lose the opportunity to join the senior league with the petition for the age of the senior debut to be raised to 17 years.