From the lovely campus at the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Centre, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final unleashed day 1 of competition yesterday with the men of America holding their own in both the Senior and Junior divisions.
In the senior field, Nathan Chen edged out Japan’s Shoma Uno and stands in the top spot going into tonight’s Free Skate. Skating to a modern take on Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” Chen drilled a dazzling triple axel and quadruple flip before churning out a squirrelly quad toe combination. Uno, like Chen, had jump issues, particularly his opening quad flip, and wound up in second place, just over a point behind Chen. Michal Březina of the Czech Republic, emerging from an extended career slump, held his own with a solid program to Queen’s “Who Wants to Love Forever” and stands in the third spot. (All are pictured above.)
In the junior ranks, being contested in tandem with the senior field, 18-year-old Arizonan Camden Pulkinen skated a strong and contemplative program to “Oblivion” by Lucia Micarelli to solidify the U.S. chances of medaling in both Men’s junior and senior events.
In senior Ladies, it was a Japanese/Russian blood bath with a surprising Rika Kihira scoring a world record total to best current Olympic medalist Alina Zagitova to place first. The spurting blood bath will continue into the Free Skate tomorrow and may leave judges and audience in a code blue situation.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, favorites for the Ice Dance gold medal, begin their quest today. Pairs will also be on tap. With no U.S. team qualifying for the final, it might be fun to see France’s hip team of Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres best the dour favorites Tarasova and Morosov. Either way, the crowds at the UBC arena will be fervent and fevered. Will cool heads prevail or will upsets occur? Either way, the eclectic crowds gathered for the Final will have plenty to say. And beads to read.
— Coy Covington