This weekend’s ISU (International Skating Union) Grand Prix event took place in Tokyo, Japan. Fan favourite Yuzuru Hanyu who was meant to make his season debut on home ice but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury.
The two Russian teams at this event finished in the gold and silver positions. Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov came away with the gold medal after finishing first in both the short and free skates. This team, who won their first World Championships last season, continues to establish themselves as a team to watch as Russia continues to try to regain their dominance of the pairs event. Their teammates Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov came away with the silver medal.
Hometown favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara came away with the bronze medal, their second of this season’s Grand Prix. Leading up to this competition, the team had said their goal was to reach the total score they achieved at Skate America of 208.20. Even with a few mistakes throughout their program here, they achieved that, and came away with a total score of 209.42. They continue their quest to break into an event dominated so much by the Chinese and Russian teams, however they remain ones to watch heading into the 2022 Winter Olympics. They will likely be a critical component for Team Japan in the Olympic team event.
It was another successful outing for Team Russia in the ice dance event, with the gold-medal winning team of Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. The reigning Russian, European and World champions remain at the absolute top of their game.
Team USA’s first medal of the event went to the ice dance team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates. It was their second silver medal of this year’s Grand Prix. They have shown time and again that they can never be counted out and are definitely contenders for Team USA.
Interestingly, the bronze medal went to the British team of Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson after a seventh place finish at Skate Canada. I’m unsure what to think of their free dance to music from The Lion King, but it was certainly a choice.
Sadly, the home crowd wasn’t able to see Kana Muramoto and Daisuke Takahashi medal, and they finished just ahead of teammates Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto to end in sixth place overall. Muramoto and Takahashi’s rhythm dance is an incredibly unique and refreshing take on this year’s rhythm dance theme “street dance” and was an absolute crowd pleaser on home ice. Takahashi still deserves so much respect for coming out of retirement like this and competing in an entirely new discipline. It’s inspiring to watch.
This was the first Grand Prix event of the season that had no Russian women competing after both Alexandra Trusova and Daria Usacheva withdrew due to injury. Usacheva’s injury was sustained during the six-minute warmup before the short program at this event. While the Russians were away, it was the Japanese skaters’ turn to play.
Kaori Sakamoto of Japan finished in the gold medal position after finishing just out the medal standings at her first Grand Prix outing with a fourth place finish at Skate America. Teammate Mana Kawabe came away with the silver medal after a ninth place finish at Skate Canada. Her free skate to “Miracle” is breathtakingly beautiful.
The bronze medal went to You Young representing Korea. It was her second bronze medal of the season. Even though she can be less consistent than other skaters at this level, she is always a joy to watch. Her free skate this year to music from “Les Miserables” is particularly well suited to her.
Gold medalist Shoma Uno took complete advantage of not having to compete against countryman and teammate Hanyu and skated his “Bolero” free skate to bring the home crowd to its feet. The silver medal went to American Vincent Zhou, Team USA’s second medal at this competition. With the depth of talent in the men’s event this season, Uno and Zhou are two examples of skaters waiting just in the wings, right on the heels of their teammates Yuuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen respectively.
Reigning Korean national champion Cha Jun-hwan finished with a bronze medal, which was sweet redemption after a disappointing fifth-place finish at last week’s Grand Prix of Italy. He still struggled with some elements of his free skate in this competition, but was able to just hold on to his podium finish.
We’re past the halfway point in the Grand Prix, and the Grand Prix Final is already looking to be an impressive match-up of skaters all vying for an Olympic shot in Beijing. Next week, we head to France, where all the drama and pageantry figure skating does so well is guaranteed to continue.
The Internationaux de France will take place November 19-21, 2021.