The short program for women at the Grand Prix stage in Japan was full of interesting events. Alena Kostornaya’s world record, the loss of Ricky Kihira, third place Karen Chen and a suspended ticket to the finals for Alina Zagitova - all this happened literally within an hour. What it could turn out to be on the second day in the course of free rentals, the fans could only guess.
After all, it was impossible to say with certainty that Kostornaya would retain leadership, since Kihira had in store for her speech a quadruple salchow. But another world record of the Russian woman was quite likely - for a new achievement in the sum of two rents, she can perform in an arbitrary slightly worse than her personal record. Finally, for Zagitova, not everything was lost, because the clean hire simply could not leave the Olympic champion without a medal.
Before the participants in the strongest warm-up started distributing medals, Sofia Samodurova presented her free program. The champion of Europe didn’t make any breakthrough - she could see undercuts in her jumps. With a total score of 183.27 points, Samodurova took sixth place.
By the time Alina Zagitova went to the ice, the task of entering the Grand Prix finals was simplified for her. It was enough for her to beat the Japanese Johan Yokoi, whose final result was only 189.54 points. Although this would guarantee only fourth place in the competitions in Sapporo, the points accumulated for a trip to Turin would be enough.
But Zagitova decided to get her ticket to the class and to please her fans, who had sunk on the eve. In the image of Cleopatra, she conquered one jump after another, starting with the obstinate cascade of Lutz - Rittberger, who did not succumb to the skater on the eve. In the second half of the program, Zagitova also made a cascade of flip - toe loop - rittberger, which finally convinced everyone that it was too early to discount the Olympic champion.
The judges supported the technical evaluation that was worthy of her with the highest components. Zagitova scored 151.15 points for a free program and 217.99 for two rentals. This result exceeded the one that brought the figure skater silver at the stage in France. In Sapporo, this could only be enough for bronze, but the Russian woman finally secured herself to get into the Grand Prix finals by joining Anna Scherbakova and Alexandra Trusova.
Then Rika Kihira stepped on the ice. The promised fourth salchow in her performance did not follow - the Japanese made three turns and landed cleanly after them. This jump could cost a lot to the skater - after all, the much more complex triple axels had to be moved further when the first signs of fatigue had already accumulated. But Kihira completely coped with this crown element.
In her program, only one shortage on the sheepskin coat caused complaints, but the rest of the Japanese did everything possible to complicate the tournament position for Kostornaya. In the free program, Kihira bypassed Zagitova only 0.8 points, and in total scored 231.84 points - for her this was a new record for the season, exceeding the best results of Shcherbakova and Evgenia Medvedeva.
The unfulfilled quadruple of the Salchi Kihira somewhat reassured Kostornaya. At the beginning of her rental, she very easily performed a cascade of triple axel and double sheepskin coat, gaining more points for him than the Japanese. But the second axel of the Russian woman failed - she landed incorrectly, although she stood on her feet. About the world record for two programs owned by Trusova, had to forget so far.
But the triumph of Kostornaya, which she could no longer take away, did not become less beautiful from this. The 16-year-old skater, the second in history, scored 240 points and scored a winning double at the stages of the Grand Prix, as did Shcherbakova and Trusova. For the first time in history, skaters from one country played the gold of all six stages among themselves. Previously, this only happened in men's skating, when Alexei Yagudin, Evgeni Plushenko and Alexei Urmanov were allowed to perform at three stages in a season, and not at two, as now.
In the final tournament, four Russian women will confront Kihira and American Brady Tennell. Satoko Miyahara, Mariah Bell and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva will become spare. The last time four Russians participated in the Grand Prix finals three years ago, and then Evgenia Medvedeva, Anna Pogorilaya, Elena Radionova and Maria Sotskova were awarded this honor.