According to the results of the short program at the Four Continents Championship 2023, South Korea and the USA took the lead. All six athletes showed a decent roll in Colorado Springs and entered the strongest warm-up for the free program. The Japanese skaters who came in second fell a little behind, but some of the skaters could cut the gap by performing ultra-si elements and move up.
Unfortunately, Hana Yoshida could not make up for the defeat in the short skating. Once again, she failed a triple axel – a twist and a bad fall. At the end of the program Hana began to undercorrect almost all of her jumps. Apparently, she had no strength left for the second half. The 17-year-old Japanese player should be praised for her interesting performance. For her free skating she chose the soundtracks from “Star Wars” and seamlessly blended into the character of Princess Leia.
As for the 20-year-old Rinka Watanabe, she did the tricks even in pre-crunch. But she made a fatal error almost immediately, making only one turn on the lutz. As it turned out later, that mistake cost her the WCF medal. Watanabe had a very beautiful kimono dress, a favorite theme of Japanese women. Rinka struggled for every element, but still managed after the butterfly. Though it was a shame for Lutz. The skater got 134,90 points for free skating and climbed up, but only to the fifth line.
Monae Chiba is the youngest of three Japanese skaters. The 16-year-old trains in Sendai, Yuzuru Hanyu’s hometown, so she knew the future Olympic champion from an early age.
“What I find most amazing about Hanyu is his mental strength to deliver great performances. My condition is still influenced by the tournament and the venue, and I want to learn to give it my all at any competition and in any place like Hanyu. I really respect him with all my heart. And I work hard every day to follow in his footsteps,” Chiba said before the 2022 Olympics.
Fortunately, the figure skater’s labors have paid off. So far she has not mastered the difficult jumps of her older friends, but she is confident and elegant in all three-pieces and 3-3 stunts. Her near-perfect roll earned her a new personal best of 137.70 points. A total of 204.98 for the two programs, and a bronze medal at her first major adult tournament.
Only five skaters took to the ice during the six-minute warm-up. Isabeau Levito, who was in second place after the short program, was absent among the top athletes. The withdrawal was not announced in advance, so the announcer announced Levito along with everyone else. However, Isabeau didn’t show up for the six-minute mark either. Amber Glenn, leaving the ice, wondered, “What’s going on?”
A little later, the U.S. federation confirmed on social media that Levito would not perform in the free program. The official reason for the withdrawal was poor health. Most likely, something happened almost before the performance, because earlier the girl was shown during the warm-up in the hall.
Without Isabeau, all U.S. medal hopes collapsed. Brady Tennell and Amber Glenn couldn’t handle their content at their home WSC. Glenn took a risk with the triple axel and failed, landing on two legs due to an undercurve. And then she fell apart completely – instead of a 3-3 cascade of flip and toeloop only 3-2, a drop on the flip, there was no third cascade at all. Tennell made only a butterfly on a flip, but four undercuts seriously lowered her technical score. However, Brady was just recovering from a serious injury, so a fall-free skate is indeed progress. She plans to be ready for the World Championships in France.
The Korean skaters made as few mistakes as possible. Chae-ng Kim did not do a triple flip this time. She made a step-out on one of them and on the second one she fell down and missed a cascade. She’s in her first sophomore season and she’s already doing well in terms of her components. 131 points in the free skating and she got fourth place in the final set.
Hein Lee had to move up from sixth place. The Korean went through absolutely all the elements of the “Phantom of the Opera” under the powerful “Phantom of the Opera”, not giving a chance to find fault with the technical panel. Until the very end of the program Lee was fully immersed in the image, not forgetting the work of the hands and body. A score of 141.71 is a serious claim to victory.
Yelim Kim finished her free skating program in the women’s singles. She had the gold medal in her hands. After the short program she had the advantage over Hein about four points. If she was clear, the victory was yours. But at the very end of the program, Kim decided to open early on the salchow, one and a half turns instead of the planned three. The last element buried Yelim’s chances for gold. 136.45 – a disappointing silver. And Haeyoung Lee takes home her first win since Kim Eun-ah in 2009.
In Isabeau’s absence, the Americans could not oppose the Asians. And it wasn’t even because of the ultra-si. As it turned out, the key to success is a clean and stable skating. If the Korean skaters have a triple axel, which is very rare, the Japanese team has many skaters who try to do it. But the example of Mone Chiba shows that it is still possible to win medals without it.