NHK Trophy 2013

Tokyo, Japan

November 21, 2013
By Atsuko Kuryu
Photos © Keiko Kasai

The fourth of the senior Grand Prix events, the NHK Trophy, started on November 8th at the Yoyogi Gymnastic Hall in Tokyo, Japan. The three days of competition excitement ended on the 10th. The venue was full to capacity every day and there was a long line for tickets hours before opening time each day throughout the event. Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada each won their discipline and lived up to the expectation of the Japanese fans. In Ice Dance and Pairs the reigning World champions won by big margins, as was to be expected.

Pairs

Russians Tatiana Volosozhar / Maxim Trankov won the title by the huge margin of 50 points. They executed their two programs perfectly, and none of the judges awarded them any negative GOE. In the short program Tanya and Max recreated a glamorous nineteenth century masquerade ball on the ice, to the music Masquerade by Khachaturian. Their free skate was performed to modern rock music and knocked the socks off the audience. Tanya and Max scored 236.49 points and the victory was overwhelmingly theirs. Max commented: “We want to keep our good shape until the Olympics and want to win it in my home country because it’s our big dream.”

China’s Cheng Peng/Hao Zhang were third in the short program. Unfortunately Cheng put her hand down in the landing of the throw triple loop, but after their graceful and strong performance in the free skate they ranked second overall receiving 182.18 points. Their harmony as a pair seems to get better and better with every competition and I have a feeling they will make the world top someday.

The other Chinese pair, Wenjing Sui/Cong Han, showed a strong performance in the short program and ranked second, but cracked in the free program. Cong had a hand down on the side-by-side triple toe, and Wenjing fell on the throw triple flip. Then they were unable to carry out the lift at the end of the program. To their disappointment their free program score was only 101.19 points and they finished third. But at least they showed the Japanese fans how they have grown up since they won the Junior Grand Prix Final in Tokyo in 2009.

Americans Marissa Castelli/Simon Shnapir and Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier fought a close match which Marissa and Simon finally won, but only by 1.04 points. They finished fourth with 168.89 points while Haven and Brandon were fifth with 167.85 points.

Japan’s hope Narumi Takahashi / Ryuichi Kihara made their debut in a senior Grand Prix and finished eighths.

Men

The Japanese world star, Daisuke Takahashi, won his fifth title of this event with a season best score of 268.31 points. He struggled in his early season competitions, Japan Open and Skate Canada, however, bounced back at this event with gorgeous and fantastic performances. Daisuke nailed two quadruple toe loops in his programs and also two solid triple Axels. Although he stumbled in the landing of the second triple Axel in the free skate and turned the attempted quad toe into a triple, it was otherwise great technically. His strong come-back swept the crowd off their feet. There was such excitement in the venue, fans roared and swung banners with Daisuke’s name on. “I was not too serious about going to the Olympics,” Daisuke explained about his comeback. “Lots of people gave me candid advice, especially my coach Nikolai Morozov, and it made me reevaluate my situation.”

His team mate Nobunari Oda claimed the silver with 253.16 points. He gave a seemingly perfect performance in the short program, but to the audience’s dismay the score was unexpectedly low and he was only in third place. The reason was his opening quad toe–triple toe combination which was under-rotated. Nobunari looked really disappointed but collected himself in the free skate and offered a fantastic performance. His first quad toe–triple toe turned into a triple–single, but after that he skated a near perfect program except for an edge error on the triple Lutz. He piled up 170.46 points in free skate and totaled 253.16. “After finished my short program the audience gave me a huge applause, which gave me confidence, even though the score was not as good as I expected,” Nobunari said after the free skate. “Then I could nail the free skate.”

Jeremy Abbott, USA, surprisingly ended up in third place. He was only seventh in the short program, but bounced back in the free skate. He didn’t land his quad toe, but secured most of the other planned jumps. He piled up level 4 elements and totaled 237.41 points after the free skate. Jeremy looked pleased at the press conference and said, “I’m very happy that I could finish on the podium at my last Grand Prix event”.

Adam Rippon, USA, who was fourth after the short program but by narrow margin, made some mistakes in the free skate. His total score was 233.71 and he stayed just off the podium. Javier Fernandez of Spain was second in the short program but had a devastating free skate and slid down to fifth place with 230.45 points.

Ladies

Mao Asada from Japan skated to her 10th victory in a Grand Prix event and to her third NHK Trophy win. She landed two triple Axels, although they were not clean, seven triples, four level 4 spins and two level 4 step sequences on the way to it. What a skater! She showed off the lightness in her skating in the short program and her artistic qualities in the free skate. Her back to back victories secured a ticket to the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka this December. Mao once said her goal is to execute eight triples in a competition but it’s still in progress. “I was not satisfied with my performance today, but I’m happy with the overall result,” she said. “I’m planning to include two triple Axels in my free program at the Grand Prix Final or Japan Nationals.”

Russia’s youngster, Elena Radionova, 14 years old, climbed from third to second place in the free skate with a total score of 191.81 points. The only visible mistake during her two programs was her stumbling in the landing of the triple flip in the short program. Elena is so strong technically that no other skater but Mao could top her TES. Especially her spins were outstanding. They were original, very fast, flexible and complicated.

The runner-up in the short program, Akiko Suzuki, Japan, lost her power in the free skate and dropped to third overall. She singled her first triple Lutz and fell on the second one, which was also under-rotated. And she popped her loops. She was only fourth in the free skate, but thanks to the strong short program, she remained on the podium. “I wanted to recover after the failed jump but it made me frustrated,” said the World bronze medalist. “I have to keep my spirit higher to make the Olympic team.”

Gracie Gold, the up-and-coming from USA just barely missed her podium spot. She received 177.81 points as a total score, and the margin between third and fourth place was only 1.51. If only she would have managed to stay on her feet after the opening triple Lutz she would have had a second Grand Prix medal. Japan’s Satoko Miyahara showed a solid performance and finished fifth in her senior Grand Prix debut while Valentina Marchei, Italy, who enchanted the audience with her mature skating slipped down to sixth place.

Ice Dance

As widely predicted, Meryl Davis/Charlie White of the USA, won a great victory. After their stunning short dance the reigning World champions gave another flawless performance in the free dance and totaled 186.65 points. They moved with great speed and fluidity yet really expressive. Their steps were so fast and intricate that their skates seemed to have wings. Their lifts were also spectacular. The audience was so excited and involved in the performance that they gave a huge standing ovation. “We were happy with how everything went. We felt we made lots of improvements here at the NHK,” Charlie said just after their free skate. Both of them expressed their gratitude to the Japanese fans for their knowledge and appreciation. “We are excited to come back in a couple of weeks,” said Meryl.

Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte gave a fine short and free dance to become silver medalists with a total score of 160.06 points. This charming couple from Italy enchanted the Japanese fans with the lightness of their footwork and great speed. All of their lifts got level 4, but it seemed like something was missing from their standard. They said their condition was not too good because of jet lag. “But we are happy with the result,” Anna said. “We will take some days off at home and then start working hard for the Grand Prix Final.”

The American brother-sister team Maia and Alex Shibutani beat Elena Ilinykh/Nikita Katsalapov in a neck to neck battle for the bronze. Their total score was 157.58, just 2.21 points ahead of the Russians. Maia and Alex performed two clean and exciting programs with hardly any negative GOE. Their free dance to Michael Jackson music rocked the crowd and got a standing ovation.

Elena and Nikita showed amazing expressiveness in both programs; especially in their graceful and strong free dance which featured intricate and beautiful lifts. Their total score was 157.58. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier of Canada showed an impressive free dance with very original and innovative choreography and ranked fifth with 140.07 points.

Exhibition

After the three days of hot competition we reached the entertainment part. The NHK Trophy gala was held just after the ice dance was over. All the medalist and the skaters who ranked fourth (Takahito Mura, Satoko Miyahara, Adam Rippon), Mirai Nagasu and two Japanese novice skaters performed their exhibition programs there.

Nobunari Oda’s Last Samurai was a great combination of speed, tranquillo, and dynamism. Akiko’s Love Dance, in which she wanted to portray her own skating life, was also very expressive. Satoko Miyahara’s artistic program appealed to the audience and Takahito Mura’s Tosca received generous applause.

Watching Elena Radionova made many of the middle-aged women in the audience (they were the majority of the audience) feel maternal since she looked so young and tiny. Gracie Gold sold her freshness and must have gotten lots of new Japanese fans.

Mirai Nagasu joined this gala because she had been involved in some computer trouble and had to stay on the ice over 20 minutes before her performance the day before. The competition officials decided to invite her as an apology. Mirai skated a beautiful exhibition program, Carrie, and showed how she deserved to be in the gala regardless.

Before the second act, the Japanese novice skaters showed off their talent. Wakaba Higuchi’s jumps were high and the spins were fast and beautiful. Rinka Watanabe attracted the audience with her bright and joyful performance.

Javier Fernandez’s playful performance entertained the crowds as always while Jeremy Abbott chose a more dramatic theme through his Les Misérables.

There were two reigning World champion couples in this exhibition and they rocked the venue. Skating to James Bond 007 music Tatiana Volosozhar/Maxim Trankov grabbed the heart of crowds. Meryl Davis/Charlie White seemed a bit off, maybe from fatigue, but they were still excellent. Anna Cappellini/Luca Lanotte had a comical program which was definitely fun to watch.

Mao Asada looked so mature in her dress. She skated to Smile through which the audience could enjoy the lightness and fluidness of her skating. Her jumps were consistent and very high. The last of all skaters was Daisuke Takahashi. When he started to skate all the fans were hooked by his El Monbo. Through this program he catered to the audience and they responded well. He involved the whole venue and it ended with excitement.

The young Japanese skaters joined the stars on the ice and skated hand in hand at the gala finale. The 2013 NHK Trophy ended in a warm and friendly mood.

Welcome back next year!

 

 


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