Elena Radionova: a golden girl with a golden future. Elene Gedevanishvili: back to her full potential. Valentina Marchei: what a dress and what a program. Viktoria Helgesson: what a wonderful choice of the music. Ashley Wagner: breathing confidence through every pore of her body. Mao Asada: what a skater she’s become!
by Florentina Tone
These were the highlights of the ladies’ short program at Skate America, in Detroit – and I admit: I’m already a huge fan of Ms. Asada’s “Nocturne” – as if Chopin had composed this particular piece specifically for a skater like Mao. The Japanese ballerina skated her heart out – and I was moved to tears by her performance. It’s time for me to come clean: I do have a soft spot for Mao and I wish her a wonderful (and joyful) end of career next year, in Sochi. And if I may say so, an Olympic gold would be definitely an appropriate ending. At this point, Mao’s short program, with the triple Axel back, looks solid; and, at the same time, delicate, beamful, intricate. As if maturity had brought Mao an aura of confidence, serenity and lightness. She’s in peace with her life and with herself – and I absolutely adore this new face of hers.
As for Ashley Wagner, she’s there every step of the program. She skates with such confidence, sex-appeal and joy, as if she were saying, as an Olympic statement, “Look at me. I’m here. And I’m good. Don’t you dare overlook me”. If Mao is a true Bolshoi ballerina on skates, Ashley is an actress – and I’m truly enthusiastic about the changes made in her and in Adam Rippon by their new coach, Rafael Arutunian.
Third after the short program is the 14-year-old Russian with a beaming smile, Elena Radionova, the winner of Nebelhorn Trophy, three weeks ago, in Oberstdorf. The girl who won everything at Junior level proved to be a tough competitor at her first senior Grand Prix, nailing a wonderful short program and a Season Best of 67.01.
At her very best was also the Georgian Elene Gedevanishvili, skating on “Snowstorm Romance” by Georgi Sviridov. With a new set of coaches, Eduard Pliner and Konstantin Kostin, Elena reminded me of the skater who won the bronze at the 2010 European Championships. May she keep her calm and confidence throughout the entire Olympic season.
Skating consistently at international level for a couple of years now, the Swedish Viktoria Helgesson has been one of the many top skaters; but she hadn’t managed to step out of her comfort zone. She was good – but not that good (to get a medal). At Skate America, for the first time in the last years, Viktoria shined. Her music choice suited her perfectly (“Mistery Waltz” by Laeroport de Biarritz and the famous “Waltz” of by Dmitri Shostakovich) and I’ll definitely remember one of her beautiful pirouettes.
But the particular detail of the ladies’ event, that stayed with me for hours, was the smiling and beautiful face of the Italian Valentina Marchei at the end of her short program. “Torna a Surriento” (Come back to Sorrento) is the name of the Neapolitan song skated by Valentina – and this proved to be a perfect choice for the skater who recently said, in an interview for Absolute Skating: “When I’m in Italy, my heart is warmed”. It was, indeed, a warm and lovely performance coming from Valentina at Skate America; and her routine was accompanied by joyful voices in the Joe Louis Arena: for almost three years now, Valentina has been training in Detroit, with Jason Dungjen and Yuka Sato. As for that wonderful, almost surreal dress for the short program (one of the nicest I have ever seen in figure skating), it was designed by the former figure skater Silvia Fontana (along with her husband John Zimmerman, Silvia has a line of sportswear, Karisma). Valentina is fourth after the short program.