ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Post-Internationaux de France
With the conclusion of the 2021 Internationaux de France, the 2021-22 International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix of Figure Skating is approaching its climax: the ISU Grand Prix Final, scheduled to take place in Osaka, Japan during the second week of December.
Yuma Kagiyama of Japan won his second gold of the series, recording both the highest short program score and the highest free skate score to finish over 20 points ahead of his closest competitor. Having also won the Gran Premio d’Italia earlier this month, Kagiyama moves into the top qualifying position for men’s singles with a total of 30 points, ahead of fellow countryman Shoma Uno and American Vincent Zhou. With Kagiyama, Uno, Zhou, and American Nathan Chen guaranteed to appear in the Grand Prix Final, just two spots remain in the men’s singles category.
American Jason Brown is sitting in the fifth position with 24 points after the Internationaux de France, with Shun Sato of Japan closely behind with 22 points. Neither are fully secure in their current position, however, with Russians Mikhail Kolyada (13 points) and Evgeni Semenenko (11 points) scheduled to compete this week in the Rostelecom Cup. Brown is in a relatively safer spot, as there are only two scenarios where he does not qualify for the Grand Prix Final: either Semenenko winning gold at the Rostelecom Cup as well as Kolyada winning silver, or Kolyada winning gold at the Rostelecom Cup while Semenenko wins silver and puts up a combined score higher than 267.74 points (over nine points better than his current personal best combined-score of 258.45). In contrast, Sato’s chances of making the Grand Prix Final are slim to none. Either a podium finish by Kolyada or a top-two finish by Semenenko at the Rostelecom Cup — both likely events — would displace the Japanese athlete. With Kolyada performing well in recent competition and poised to win gold at the Rostelecom Cup, it seems likely that it will be Kolyada and Brown who join Kagiyama, Uno, Zhou, and Chen in Osaka in December.
In women’s singles, Russian Anna Shcherbakova dominated both the short program and the free skate to win gold. Having also placed first in the Gran Premio d’Italia, she becomes the top qualifier in her category with 30 points. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan’s gold medal performance at the NHK trophy proves to be enough, as she is also now guaranteed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final with 24 points. Russian Alena Kostornaia, having finished second at the Internationaux de France, also sits at 24 points, but her qualification is not guaranteed, as is the situation with You Young of Korea (22 points) and Mai Mihara of Japan (18 points), trailing closely behind.
Russians Kamila Valieva (15 points), Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (13 points), and Maya Khromykh (13 points), as well as Belgian Loena Hendrickx (11 points), are all slated to compete this weekend. With Valieva and Tuktamysheva having gone one-two at Skate Canada, it is likely that these two athletes will perform similarly at the Rostelecom Cup. Khromykh and Hendrickx placed second and third, respectively, at the Gran Premio d’Italia, and are certainly fierce competitors as well. With this being the case, it is unlikely for either Mihara or Young to retain their qualifying positions. If either Tuktamysheva, Khromykh, or Hendrickx win gold at the Rostelecom, Kostornaia will likely not be able to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, as is the case should Valieva take gold, Khromykh the silver, and Tuktamysheva the bronze at the Rostelecom Cup. If Khromykh takes bronze and Tuktamysheva takes silver, it will likely come down to a comparison between Tuktamysheva and Kostornaia’s combined scores across both of their assignments. For women’s singles, it is likely that the lineup in Osaka will be Shcherbakova, Valieva, Sakamoto, Tuktamysheva, Kostornaia, and either Khromykh or Hendrickx.
Russian pair Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii (26 points) join fellow countrymen Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (28 points), as well as China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong (30 points) in guaranteeing their Grand Prix Final qualification after a gold medal performance at the Internationaux de France. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara of Japan, as well as Russia’s Iuliia Artemeva and Mikhail Nazarychev trail close behind at 24 points, followed by Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc at 22 points.
It seems unlikely for either American pair to make the Grand Prix Final, with Russian pairs Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (15 points) and Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin (13 points), as well as Italians Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise (9 points) set to compete at the Rostelecom Cup. Unless Della Monica and Guarise put on a gold medal performance while the two Russian pairs take silver and bronze, Miura and Kihara, as well as Artemeva and Nazarychev, will qualify for the Grand Prix Final. In all likelihood, the pairs appearing in Osaka in December will be Sui and Han, Tarasova and Morozov, Boikova and Kozlovskii, Mishina and Galliamov, Pavliuchenko and Khodykin, and Miura and Kihara.
In the ice dance category, French pair Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron put up a fantastic performance at the Internationaux de France, placing first in both the rhythm dance and the free dance to win gold. With a total of 30 points, they become the top qualifiers for the Grand Prix Final in ice dance. Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier took silver and also guaranteed qualification with a total of 28 points. The Canadians sit shoulder to shoulder with Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donahue, who guaranteed their qualification with a gold medal performance at Skate America, followed by a silver at the Gran Premio d’Italia.
Fellow Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates trail right behind with 26 points, followed by Russian pair Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin (22 points) and Spaniards Olivia Smart and Adrián Díaz (20 points). With Russians Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov (15 points), Italians Charlène Guignard and Marco Fabbri (13 points), and Canadians Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen (11 points) still set to compete at the Rostelecom Cup this weeken. However, it is unlikely for the former three pairs to all qualify for the Grand Prix Final. While Chock and Bates are likely to retain a qualifying position (the only scenario in which they do not qualify hinging on the unlikely scenario of Beaudry and Sørensen winning gold at the Rostelecom Cup while the other two pairs medal), Sinitsina and Katsalapov, as well as Guignard and Marco Fabbri, will almost certainly perform well enough to overtake Stepanova and Bukin, and Smart and Díaz. For ice dance, the Grand Prix Final qualifiers will likely be Papadakis and Cizeron, Hubbell and Donahue, Gilles and Poirier, Sinitsina and Katsalapov, Guignard and Marco Fabbri, and Chock and Bates.
With only the Rostelecom Cup left in this year’s Grand Prix series, it will certainly be interesting to see which athletes will excel and surpass their competitors to claim the last qualifying spots for the ISU Grand Prix Final.