What a start of 2017 Worlds: ladies brought their A game in Hartwall Arena

Top 3 ladies after SP 2017 Worlds Helsinki

It’s really crowded at the top, in the ladies event at 2017 Worlds after the short program – four scores over 70 points, other three in the range of 69, three in the 65-66 area – but Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva took a deciding step in her attempt to win the second World title of her career in only her second trip to the competition. The 17-year-old could be easily called Miss Consistency – no one has seen her making costly mistakes, or mistakes altogether – and these Worlds can also stand as a personal statement for the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang next year.
And though Evgenia is still a child at heart – she likes anime and receiving toys from her fans, as many as possible, and as little, cause “the small ones you can take with you back home” –, she also strikes you as a very mature person on and off the ice. Just look at these answers from yesterday’s press conference: “I never think about expectations that others might have”, “The result of a competition comes from team work – without the experts, my coaches, my sports family, I wouldn’t be able to do all this”. On the intermediate podium at the Worlds in Helsinki, Evgenia is accompanied by Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman.

by Florentina Tone/Helsinki

You can sense the Olympics are approaching even only by the numbers of competitors that entered the short program yesterday in Hartwall Arena: no less than 37 ladies took the ice for their routines, in an event that spanned over 6 hours. And already at 11:20, a former World champion and one of the most decorated female singles skater in the history of the sport entered the ice for the six-minute warm-up, a blue spot in the middle of the rink, practicing her intriguing, beautiful spins. Minutes later, it was exactly a spin that failed her – Carolina Kostner completely missed the entrance into the flying camel spin, a costly mistake that sent her to the 8th place at the end of the ladies’ short program, with 66.33 points.

“Quella trottola”

There’s a lot of buzz in the mixed zone while waiting for the Italian – she first competed in Worlds Championships in 2003, when she was only 16, and she comes back in competition after a considerable break; hence, the huge interest amongst the journalists.

The first one to come in the mixed zone is Mr. Mishin though – he talks to members of the Russian media – and then, after a while, when everyone is asking whether the coach has “pulled” another silenzio stampa for Carolina, as in Ostrava, she finally comes, and she’s surrounded from all sides by journalists voicing their questions. And in the time she’s here, she’s answering in four different languages: Italian, English, German, French. And she smiles a lot the whole time. And when PJ Kwong asks her, and records her, about costuming, you can hear Mr. Mishin from somewhere in the back: “Carolina, Carolina, stop, stop, there’s plenty of time to talk tomorrow…”. She nods and continues to answer: “Together with my choreographer…”, PJ says: “I can hear Mr. Mishin in the back too…”, and Carolina jokes: “Maybe you should ask Mr. Mishin about the costume…”. And she does that with a smile, you see that, she understands the fatherly protection – but she continues to talk and, this time, she answers to a French journalist.

“It’s not so much a medal you chase, it’s much more about the journey”

What did she say? First in Italian: “The preparation was fantastic. The short program itself… but you don’t need to get angry about [the mistake]”. And then the spin, “quella trottola”, enters the talk. “There are days when everything comes easy, and there are other days in which you need to fight. But that’s not a reason to get depressed or angry. Tomorrow is another day”.

German? We don’t understand German, so we switch to English answers instead: “Sometimes it’s just easier to do some things, sometimes it’s harder, but you try to be the best every time. Obviously it’s not easy to be out there and, doing a mistake, you would just wanna get angry, but you stay there and keep on fighting, and you bring your exercise to the end. I think that the mistakes should not bring you down. After all, it’s about how lucky I feel, and how grateful, to be here and compete, and to be able to continue my journey; and to be able to share my big love and the joy that figure skating gives me, and teaches me, and comforts me – and so it’s not so much a medal you chase, it’s much more about the journey…”

A grateful Carolina Kostner at 2017 Worlds in Helsinki

A grateful Carolina Kostner at 2017 Worlds in Helsinki

And then French: “It’s not like I fell on the ice, but you get a bit upset, that’s true. But I think that if I analyze the mistake, I will be able to find the solution. But I feel very happy and inspired by the passion that all athletes show while they’re here, by the work they put into; I feel happy and inspired that I’m a part of this journey“. The lady asking is adding with a smile: “And we are grateful to you… Thank you very much, Carolina”.

And while Alexei Mishin is kept busy by another journalist, Carolina talks to Charlie White for ISU as well: “Well, the short program wasn’t fantastic, but I think it’s on the way…” And Charlie adds with conviction: “It’s on the way!”. They smile a lot, the two, and it’s so nice to hear them talking and sharing a good moment. Later on, during the ladies’ press conference, Olympic champion and ice dancer-turned-into-journalist Charlie White will ask Kaetlyn Osmond a question from a fan, and he’ll honestly admit afterwards: “It’s nice to be the one that asks the questions, and not the one who answers them”.

An emotional journey through the ladies’ short program

At 13:17, you already see Mariah Bell appearing from behind the curtains, a sparkling haze, but she’s sent back until a couple of minutes later. She then takes the ice – and I’ll admit while seeing her that I have soft spot for this Chicago short program, and for the dress. There’s this amazing energy in the routine, and Mariah herself will say later on: “That performance was so exciting because I’ve always wanted to be on the big stage of the World Championships. I’m taking it all in – it’s an amazing experience!”.

The air, the particular air in Laurine Lecavelier routine – you know there’s a story behind. * Zijun Li is also Mishin’s girl, and that’s a good call, to train with such an experienced coach, since jumps have always been the weakest part of Zijun’s competitive self. She always had the artistry, that’s a sure thing * Ivett Toth, now that’s a promising young girl – and this MJ short program suits her great, and she owned the routine. And that Russian split, have you seen it?

Wakaba Higuchi SP 2017 Worlds Helsinki

When Wakaba Higuchi is announced, it’s raining Japanese flags in the arena. And everything works out beautifully for Wakaba, and she lets herself carried away by the music – and the music, “La Califfa” by Ennio Morricone, suits her wonderfully. She’s second at the moment, after Carolina (65.87 points), and only now I notice the perfect position, not at all accidental, that the Japanese team of commentators have, just behind the boards: it’s where most of the jumps happen. And from the elevation that the media tribune gives you, you also see Kiira Korpi at the boards, on some elegant chairs, in another team of commentators.

Mai Mihara has a perfect start, clean and convincing – have you seen the lutz-toe combination? – but the triple flip in the end turns into a double and then she literally flips on the ice, just under the nose of the Japanese commentators, with Daisuke Takahashi on the right. She gets 59.59 points, the Japanese National bronze medalist, and she’s 5th at the moment; she’ll finish 15th. And this girl that you thought she couldn’t make any mistakes, she made one at a deciding competition; and pressure took its toll. In the absence of Satoko Miyahara, Japan’s champion, the mission to bring three Olympic spots for the country falls on the very young shoulders of Higuchi/Mihara/Hongo.

After five groups, and two more to go, Carolina Kostner is still on the lead.

And so Kaetlyn Osmond takes the ice – and throw herself in the air for a huge, amazing flip-toeloop combination – and this turns out to be one of the best programs of the afternoon, and not only jumping-wise. She shows her strengths, Kaetlyn, and the programs itself is loaded with personality and character. And Kiira is impressed, I see her marveling with Kaetlyn’s jumps, and truthfully so. The Canadian is highly appreciated by the audience in the arena, and here comes the first big score of the day: 75.98, a season best for the Canadian.

Dabin Choi is the proof that skaters are already in love with “La La Land” – Ashley Wagner hinted she might use the music for the Olympic season, and Dabin already does. And she also takes a selfie at the end of the program, Dabin, one that goes very well with the story of the program. * Karen Chen is glowing. Literally. You admire that tiny detail on the glove, her wonderful flow, the fact that she nails everything – her moves are just like raindrops on a clear surface of water. Raindrops in a pond. The US champions nails it, and gets 69.98 points, a season best, for her routine; and she’s just behind Kaetlyn Osmond.

I’ll admit having a soft spot for Elizabet Tursynbaeva also – and her short program this season. I think it’s a choreographic masterpiece – hats off to David Wilson for all the details he inserted: this routine it puts her so much into the spotlight. And when in the silenced parts of the program you hear Brian Orser applauding rhythmically, you know that Elizabet is on good hands. And you see the coach wearing Kazakhstan’s jacket – and you can’t help asking yourself how many national jackets Brian Orser has, and how they fit in his luggage. In the Kiss and Cry, Elizabet’s mother is the definition of joy, and the skater herself will talk about that in the mixed zone: “She was just happy for me, because she is always with me, she sees every jump I do and knows how hard it is”.

The time has come

When the final group of ladies shows up on the ice, you’ll know there will be a fight. A symbolic one, of course, and an attempt to unleash the inner strengths, to show the best versions of themselves. You see Ashley’s dress, literally a jewel, you see Gabrielle flying in the air, you hear Coldplay in the background and you’re ready for the joy.

The World champion en titre, Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva, opens the ball at 15:45. And you know what? There’s no room for mistakes in her program, that trained she is, that consistent. Amazing flow, and the music keeps on building. And the routine is playful, and it suits her. And the first seconds of the program, while Evgenia is playing her hopscotch, you only hear the camera’s shutter buttons being pressed – that huge is the interest for this talented, slender girl who’s on her way to 2018 Olympics. The score matches the performance, 79.01, and the speaker of the arena announces victoriously: “First place!” First place it is, and it will remain so until the end of the afternoon.

Just that: Gabrielle Daleman is a powerhouse – you can’t be amazed by the quality of her jumps; and she probably owns the best triple toe-triple toe in the business. She almost needs to slow down at a certain point in order not to enter the boards – she gives you that impression,anyway –and the entire routine is a burst of energy, enthusiasm. Later on, in the press conference, she’ll admit: “My short was absolutely amazing. I was having so much fun with it. I took one element at the time and I’ve been doing exactly that at practice as well. So I am thrilled with how it went today”. And it’s not only about jumping with Gabrielle, her components are to die for, and her short program this season, one of our personal favorites. Her score, 72.19 points, will be the third of the afternoon.

“Awww!”, someone from the arena screams when Ashley Wagner heads to the center of the rink, for the opening pose of her “Sweet Dreams” routine, and that’s about right. Ashley is addictive, hypnotizing, she fully enters the character while on the ice. The head, the shoulders, the pony tale – she makes them all her allies – and she has a fan in Evgenia too. In the press conference after the event, asked about skaters she admires due to their expressiveness, Evgenia will say loud and clear: “I would like to point out Ashley Wagner. She is able to portray any kind of character in the program on the ice. She can be lyrical and she can also be totally different”. With 69.04 points, Ashley will finish this segment of the ladies event on the 7th place.

And then comes the butterfly, Maria Sotskova – a soft, lyrical, beautiful skater, though the announcer has a warrior-like tone (“Next skater is coming from Russia!”); 6th place for Maria after SP in the first Worlds of her career. * And then follows the drama, the intensity in Rika Hongo’s short program to “O Fortuna” by Carl Orff.

When Anna Pogorilaya takes the ice for her tango, the girl besides me screams with joy: “Davai, Anichka!”. And there’s character and charisma to build a house in this wonderful short program that Anna has this season, choreographed by Misha Ge. The sensual mood of the tango embraces her beautifully, and Anna brings the 4th score of the day, one more over 70: 71.52 points.

At the end of this first part of the ladies event, Evgenia, Kaetlyn and Gabrielle sit on the intermediate podium – but the first 6 hours of Worlds 2017 have been a joy from top to finish. There, we said it.

Plenty of photos still to be added to the story – so pay us a visit from time to time.