World Championships - Recap Day 1 - Wednesday 24th of March 2021
I am Judith, 31 years old and passionate figure skating fan and occasional journalist from Germany. I will publish my daily thoughts of the action at Figure Skating World Championships here on figureskating-online.com. I am happy about any feedback you have about my thoughts and am looking forward discussing them.
Ladies Short Program - Emotional start into an exciting competition
Hardly any event in the figure skating world has been so much awaited and discussed before it even started as these World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. So my excitement was huge for the event to start. The Ladies were to skate first this afternoon, and - honestly - an event I leave behind being sad for many of my favorite skaters.
So let’s start with these disappointments and finish with the highlights looking positively towards the Free Skate on Friday evening:
Seeing Loena Hendrickx cry in the mixed zone after falling on her triple flip broke my heart for the first time. After two really hard seasons full of injuries, Loena came back very strongly this season. Today she reached a respectable score of 67.28 despite the mistake, but Loena couldn’t see the positives: “I came here very well prepared, skated almost always clean during the last weeks. I missed some hight and now I just couldn’t manage to keep on my feet.“, she claimed very disappointed.
Poland’s Ekaterina Kurakova showed one of the most original programs to a Janet Jackson medley and showed some great energy, but a fall on her opening triple Lutz made her miss the Free Program.
Alexia Paganini from Switzerland shared this shocking fate. Skating an extraordinary new arranged Short Program to a live version of “Caught Out in the Rain“ by Beth Hart showed her improved performance skills under new coach Stéphane Lambiel, but popping the triple Loop into a double, cost her a spot under the best 24 skaters.
Fan favorite Mae Berenice Meite didn’t have the chance to qualify after she injured herself on her opening combination and had to stop her program after only half a minute. I wish her a very speedy recovery and hope we will be able to see her back on the ice soon.
Everyone was wondering if Alexandra Trusova would dare the triple Axel in the Short Program, but no-one expected her to step out of her triple Lutz combination. A jump that she usually quadruples. “I was just very nervous!“, Alexandra stated in the mixed zone, “I don’t understand yet myself why it happened!“ The layout for her Free Skate remains a secret but we can definitely expect a huge fight from the skater who shockingly finds herself in 12th position after the Short Program.
An even worse day at the office had Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, one of the most elegant skaters in the field and usually a pure joy to watch. Two mistakes on the jumping elements made me fear the worst for a moment: Would she even miss the Free Skate? Luckily the good performance scores saved Satoko and we can all see her beautiful Tosca program on Friday. Make sure you don’t miss this program - it’s in my favorite top 3 favorite programs this season!
Tears wiped away: Many Ladies had great moments and could enjoy every second they were out there:
Canada’s Madeline Schizas even cried some tears of joy after having the skate of her life. “Skating without an audience was nothing new for me anyways!“, she revealed afterwards, “this was only my second international senior competition. At local and junior competitions I always skated with hardly any audience, so it was a normal situation for me. But it is so cool to be here and compete with the best in the world. My ultimate goal would be, of course, qualifying for the Olympics!“
Another skater who had the skate of her life was Olga Mikutina from Austria who finds herself in 11th position, ahead of Trusova, going into the Free Skate. I have seen Olga skate live a couple of times but here she showed a new positive, strong energy I haven’t seen of her before.
Both Korean ladies could shine today: Haein Lee and Yelim Kim, the two ladies who managed to prevent and all Russian Junior Grand Prix Final 2018 and 2019, both delivered beautiful and elegant performances to soft music.
And it was the day of the two comeback skaters:
Karen Chen from the United States and of course Elizaveta Tuktamysheva from Russia. Karen had last made the World’s team in 2017. Today she scored 6 points ahead of her previous personal best and couldn’t even believe her own eyes seeing the scores. “I feel like I am a different skater and even a different person than four years ago!“, she told after her skate. “I am really happy with my performance today, I felt a lot of pressure coming here. To skate such a clean skate here today is a huge confidence booster for me!“
Even more impressive to me is Liza’s story. After becoming World Champion in 2015, she got confronted with new young talents from her country every single year. She didn’t manage to make the World’s team in 6 consecutive years, until now. And she delivered on point earning the highest technical score of the day, and in third position overall. “Being here means so much to me!“, she stated in the Press Conference, “figure skating is much more difficult now than in 2015. It was so hard to qualify.“ Even though she landed quadruple jumps in practices she won’t try them in the Free Skate here: “It is more important to me to skate clean.“
The best performance of the night - in my opinion - delivered Rika Kihira from Japan. Full of energy with great jumps, just a joy to watch! She will attempt the Quad in the long program - her only chance to beat Anna Shcherbakova who leads after the Short Program with 81.00 points, earned with the highest Program Components of the day. Not the way I would have personally judged this, but luckily I am not the one to decide, right? Anna skated beautifully, elegant and very clean, the difference to Kihira, who even had the more difficult jumping content, wasn’t obvious to me though.
A lot can still happen in the Free Skate, I personally wouldn’t count Alexandra Trusova out for the medals, as coming from behind, skating with a little less pressure could possibly help her - remembering Nathan Chen’s comeback Free Skate at the last Olympics. Who else could come back or will keep shining on Friday? The excitement still lives!
Pairs Short Program - the battle between Russia and China has just begun
The day went on with the Pairs Short Program and already the first group contained a very excitingly expected team: Alexa Knierim with her new partner Brandon Frazier. The pair that had won Skate America and the US Championships very convincingly this season. Even though Brandon doubled the planed triple side-by-side Toeloop they were really happy with their performance afterwards and in my opinion rightly so. The pair has a nice charisma and harmonies very well and Alexa seems more stable to me than she used to be in the past.
A pair I personally really admire for their maturity and positivity are German Annika Hocke and Robert Kunzel who unfortunately had a few small mistakes but didn’t loose their smiles and promised to “skate their hearts out“ in the Free Skate. Additionally they revealed that they had used their day in quarantine to search for new music pieces for next season.
In generell many pairs of the first group showed nerves and made many mistakes. A pair that positively stood out for me were Cleo Hamon and Denys Strekalin from France with a very modern and expressive program and whom I personally would have seen higher in the rankings.
Canadians Evelyn Walsh and Trennt Michaud were the 14th team out and the very first one that skated close to their best and were really pleased with their own performance in the mixed zone.
In the last two groups it all came down to the big fight between the Russian pairs against the Chinese paris. While we have seen the Russian pairs quite a lot over the season the condition of the Chinese was rather unknown going into the championships. Multiple World Champions Wending Sui and Cong Han hadn't even competed since the Four Continents Championships 2020 - so it was very unclear what to expect from them.
The first team go give their bit for the medals were World Championship debutants Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, a very powerful young couple skating to as powerful music from the ballet Esmeralda. This short program - when cleanly delivered as today - has some really unique energy and I personally would have rated it even higher than the 75.79 points they earned.
The Chinese defending Champions from 2019 followed up next. Wenjing Sui had a stumble on the Toeloop, the rest of the program was presented passionate and secure and their great program components gave them a close lead over the young Russian pair.
„We did a pretty good job with small mistakes, but since this is the first competition of the year we feel happy with our performance today,“ Sui concluded on their performance.
The only pair that was still able to beat their score of 77.62 were last years European Champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii who debuted their new Short Program to the music „Merry Go Round of Life“ from the movie Howl’s Moving Castle. In my opinion they showed most secure and stable performance of the night and rightly took over the lead with a score of 80.16 points.
Russian Champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov and Cup of China champions Cheng Peng and Yang Jin stayed behind their own expectations and the medal positions by making one major mistake each.
With the Russian and the Chinese pairs far ahead of the rest of the field in positions 1 to 5, the battle of the two leading nations of pair skating has just begun and it will stay exciting who will take the medals home.
A very long day of figure skating has come to an end now, but the second day, the beginning of the mens bid for the worlds crown has almost come: Nathan Chen or Yuzuru Hanyu? Shoma Uno, Mikhail Kolyada or Yuma Kagiyama? Who will keep his nerves together and get the best position for the Free Skate? I couldn’t be more excited!
Photos: Tatjana Flade
Report: Judith Dombrowski