Status: 29.11.2023, 16:42 PM
By: Isabel Winklbauer
Loena Hendricks hits the judges' table. © IMAGO/Chris Jones
Hello judges, here I am! In this figure skating season, the skaters are drawing a lot of attention to themselves – but not with jumps, but with raids on the jury.
At least a dozen athletes have a passage in the short program or freestyle in which they tackle the strict panel. True to the motto: Bring on the dream note! World Champion Kaori Sakamoto has shown the way, hinting in her 2019 matrix freestyle that she would behead the judges with a swipe of the blade. Now they all imitate. This is impressive with Kevin Aymoz: The soulful Frenchman (he cries when he loses as well as when he wins) skated the best bolero of the last 40 years at the first Grand Prix stop in the USA and ended the freestyle with an attack pose in front of the judges. The Belgian and vice-world champion Loena Hendrickx is provocative, whirling around the barrier in her short program like in pole dancing and flirting with the judges. She wants to become world champion in March, the Grand Prix final from 7 to 10 December is to be the preliminary decision. Haein Lee (Korea) or Kao Miura (Japan), two strong newcomers, keep a little distance, but just as challenging rush towards the jury. The Russian Olympic scandal runner Kamila Valieva even jokes with the judges in her short program "I see red" as if her doping test had never been positive.
Kevin Aymoz at Skate America in his final bolero pose. © IMAGO/Chris Jones
How did the trend come about? Perhaps it's because Valieva and her compatriots are not yet allowed to compete in international competitions again, unlike swimming or fencing, because of the Ukraine war. This lowers the level, the pressure of having to jump quadruple like a Russian teenager is now gone for the women's ice skating team. Nevertheless, there have been many falls recently, often only double jumps instead of triples, and often under-turning. But the judges are still supposed to be impressed and influenced...
Apart from the judges' intimidation, a second trend is emerging, a kind of new cosiness: Germany's Nicole Schott has taken a break from competition, Swiss hopeful Kimmy Repond cancelled her second Grand Prix start due to injury, and South Tyrolean Daniel Grassl withdrew "due to physical and mental stress". American Bradie Tennell and Korean Jun Hwan Cha are also taking a break. At least the foremost men are still showing their teeth and thus providing entertainment – the duel between Ilia "Quadruple God" Malinin (USA) and Adam Siao Him Fa (France) promises an exciting Grand Prix final in Beijing. Malinin is not using his all-purpose weapon, the quadruple Axel, this season because he wants to be recognized artistically. But runners like World Champion Shoma Uno (Japan) are superior to him. And the petite super jumper Yuma Kagiyama (Japan) will also be there.
Kamila Valieva during the thief attack on the jury. © IMAGO/Sofya Sandurskaya
The absence of the Russians has other effects: In the case of the couples, the Germans once again have something to report. Annika Hocke and Robert Kunckel won the Grand Prix in Texas, finishing fourth in the second, so there will be a reunion in the final. Minerva Fabienne Haase and Nikita Volodin had two surprise victories – so two German pairs are in the final! Not to forget the junior ice dancers Darya Grimm and Michail Savitskiy, who also harbor medal hopes in their young division.
Kaori Sakamoto started the trend in 2019 in her matrix freestyle. © Klaus Heydenreich
By the way, another curious trend on the ice is to do a cartwheel. Even if it doesn't score any points as a pure gimmick, if you don't have it in your program, you're not considered ice-capable this winter. Trend number four is driving rare blossoms: In Canada, same-sex couples are now also allowed to compete. The new rule has already inspired some runners to rehearse corresponding choreographies. The world champions Stéphane Lambiel and Guillaume Cizeron, for example, perform on Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony No. 3", which can be seen on Youtube. Unthinkable among Russians. In any case, the following seems to apply to the current season: When the cat is out of the house, the mice dance on the table.