Recap: 2023 Grand Prix Espoo
By Matteo Morelli
At its third edition, Metro Arena in Finland hosted Grand Prix of Espoo, the fifth Grand Prix event of the season.
USA’s Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the event, adding to the gold already earned at their first Grand Prix and thus securing their ticket to the Grand Prix Final. In second place and with another silver medal were Canada’s Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen, which are also sure to join the Final in Beijing. Competing at their first Grand Prix assignment this season and winning a bronze medal in front of their home audience were Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis.
Coming back to the rink of their international debut, Madison Chock & Evan Bates add a second Grand Prix gold medal after the one they collected at Skate America.
Their rhythm dance to music by Queen was engaging and full of nice moments, and allowed them to record a new season best.
“The programme went well for us, our training is going in the right direction for the start of our season”, Chock said.
“The 80s in particular has been really fun, feels like we are stepping into character driven pieces a lot more”, Bates said. “The special thing about ice dance is how thematic we are, how fun it can get with costumes and music choices”.
“I really appreciate the ISU’s desire to expand the possibilities for the skaters, especially in these first two new years of the quad it is a great opportunity to experiment with rule changes and different rhythms”, he added.
Their free dance to music by Pink Floyd explores the theme of time, represented in every detail of their programme: from Chock’s costume showing a clock almost melting on her, to the way they move on their music, which also includes the sounds of a ticking clock and alarm bells.
With this being their second competition this season, their programme impressed despite of not clean twizzles for Chock.
“Based on last year experience, we really blurred the pacing required at the start of the Grand Prix”, he added.” We are certainly in a good place, we are very happy with the content and decisions we made, now it is just about training the programmes in every facet, artistically and technically”.
Chock and Bates are guaranteed a place in the Grand Prix Final, the seventh of their career.
In silver medal position, Canada’s Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen managed to successfully deliver two programmes that redeemed them from their shaky start of the season at Finlandia Trophy, in the same arena.
“We keep performing a bit better, competition after competition”, Sørensen said. “The 80s specifically I love, I am really into it, it is important to try new stuff and we are having good time with it”.
Their free on Notre Dame de Paris music keeps growing and showing how it is more and more becoming their own.
“We are really happy to get to train the two programmes” Sørensen shared. “This is our third competition this year and we are really trying to work on every detail, we have really high goals this year”.
“It is really quite special to sit here with our consecutive silver medal this year, I am really happy with what we are building”, he added.
The Canadian team also qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Beijing.
In third place and collecting another bronze Grand Prix medal after having won one at the same event last year, Finland’s Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis charmed the home audiences with their programmes.
Their rhythm dance to music by Taylor Dayne allowed them to record a new personal best.
“It was a big step up from Finlandia Trophy”, Versluis shared. “We have really enjoyed these (80s) themes and pushed us out of our comfort zone”.
Their free programme, choreographed by Massimo Scali, is full of detail and nuances, and shows that they are really able to thrive in it.
“We are very happy with where we are at the moment, we have been able to progress every competition and show better performances”, Versluis shared. “There is still a lot of room to grow and do a lot better”.
Turkkila and Versluis had a late start to their Grand Prix season, competing at this event in Espoo and then flying to Japan immediately after for the sixth and last Grand Prix, NHK Trophy.
Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko of the USA ended in fourth place, but improved their rhythm dance and overall results from Grand Prix de France. They both felt that this event was a step up from their first Grand Prix and they are eager to keep this momentum going.
Second Grand Prix and fifth-place finish for Emilea Zingas & Vadym Kolesnik, which were the third America team at this event finishing in the top five spots. At their second year together, this team presented their rhythm dance on Michael Jackson’s music and free dance on music from the Beauty and the Beast.
Yuka Orihara and Juho Pirinen competed at their only Grand Prix season, in front of their home audiences which always show great support for them. With a sixth-place finish, this vibrant team skated on their rhythm dance on music by pop legend Madonna and their original free dance on music from “Chicago”, for which they earned a new personal best.
Junior World Champions Kateřina Mrázková & Daniel Mrázek of the Czech Republic went to their second Grand Prix after having competed at Skate America. They improved their rhythm dance results with a first score over seventy points in their senior career, but suffered a couple of mistakes in their free dance that pushed them back by one place, although still a place higher than Skate America.
Canada’s Nadiia Bashynska & Peter Beaumont attended their first (and only for this season) Grand Prix of their first senior career. They were excited to kick off the senior career in such an important competition. They shared that they are excited to compete at Nationals in Canada, a field they consider inspiring and that allows them to get that push to keep improving.
Jennifer Janse van Rensburg & Benjamin Steffan of Germany ended in ninth place, and probably not very happy with their results and few mistakes made. They said that they will keep working on improving their programmes.
In last place, Mariia Ignateva & Danijil Szemko debuted at their first Grand Prix. The Hungarian team didn’t have the skate they were looking for, but they shared that they got into this event with both having suffered injuries recently that compromised their training.
We are only one Grand Prix event away to find out the six teams that will face each other in this year’s Grand Prix Final! After five Gran Prix, the qualification standings for the Grand Prix Final are:
30 points: Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier (Canada), Madison Chock & Evan Bates (USA)
26 points: Laurence Fournier-Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen (Canada), Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha (Canada)
15 points: Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (Italy)
13 points: Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson (Great Britain)
Next Grand Prix
NHK Trophy is going to be the last Grand Prix event of this season, after which all six top teams qualified to the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, China, will be confirmed. This event will see a very European field contending the medals: Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri of Italy will be back trying to win another gold; Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson of Great Britain come back after Skate Canada, where they won a silver medal; it will also be interesting to see what Lithuania’s Allison Reed & Saulius Ambrulevicious and Finland’s Juulia Turkkila & Matthias Versluis will do, both coming into the event with a bronze medal.
NHK Trophy takes place from November 24-26.