Recap: 2023 Grand Prix Final
by Matteo Morelli
This year’s Grand Prix Final took place in Beijing, China, inside the National Indoor Stadium, the prestigious venue that hosted Olympic events in both Summer and Winter games. After six Senior Grand Prix and seven Junior Grand Prix events, the top qualified ice dance teams competed for the top spots at this Final.
In the senior field, Madison Chock & Evan Bates finally won their first gold medal at their seventh Grand Prix Final attendance, adding to the other four silver medals they collected so far; Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri followed them in second place, and Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier in third place.
In the junior field, Leah Neset & Artem Markelov of the USA won the gold medal, followed by Elizabeth Tkachenko & Alexei Kiliakov of Israel in second place, and Germany’s Darya Grimm & Michail Savitskiy in third.
Let’s look into both categories in more detail, including what the medallists shared after their performances.
Senior Ice Dance Final
The three very experienced teams that ended on the podium also medalled at last year’s Grand Prix Final. They are also the current world medallists, and in fact this event replicated the same order of the podium finish at Worlds 2023.
USA’s Madison Chock & Evan Bates won the event with a total score of 221.61. They led in both segments of the event with some points of margin from the second place, showing great confidence in delivering their programmes. This was their seventh Grand Prix Final, where they finally achieved that gold medal they were craving after having won four silvers in past events. With their victories at Skate America, Grand Prix of Espoo, and now this Final, they are currently the only undefeated team this season.
Their rhythm dance to music by Queen delivered and entertained, with Bates being the only skater at this event to achieve a level four in the midline step sequence.
“We felt we were really well prepared for this event, and it is definitely the best performance of the season so far,” Bates said.
“The key is not having expectations,” Chock added. “We are well trained, we know what we need to do and how we need to prepare ourselves to execute our job to the best of our ability”.
Their free dance is developing more and more throughout this season, with their representing of the concept of time becoming very nuanced in every aspect of the programme. Winning their first gold at the Grand Prix Final was a big achievement for them.
“This has been a goal of ours for a long time,” Chock said. “We have been to seven finals and all of them have been wonderful, but I think this one is the best one so far”.
Chock and Bates recorded a new season best, and the highest score of the season so far.
“You know you are competing against the very best in the world, which means that we just have to up our level”, Bates shared. “This week, we really skated our best, so we are really pleased with the way everything went”.
Italy’s Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri added a silver medal to the bronze they won at last year’s Grand Prix Final. They skated with high precision, showing that, despite of the two-week gap between NHK Trophy and this Final, they managed to put a lot of hard work in and improve. They ended with a combined total of 215.51, a season best for them.
Their rhythm dance allowed them to end the segment in second place, just less then a point away from the Canadians in third place.
“It has been a very good performance for us and we are happy, because it is always unpredictable when you skate quite late at night (the rhythm dance started at 9:00pm)”, Fabbri shared. “I think we are not used to skate that late when we are practicing at home, so you never know how your body and your mind will react to the competition, but tonight it was a very good performance.”
Their free dance to music from ‘The theory of everything’ was delivered with emotional depth and intensity and technical quality, allowing them to improve their score and margin to secure their second-place finish.
“We are very proud about our performances and our free dance tonight and how we managed this competition” Fabbri said. “We didn’t have lot of time between NHK (Trophy) and the Grand Prix Final, but overall it was the best performance of the season so far”.
After winning last year’s Grand Prix Final, Piper Gilles & Paul Poirier of Canada earned a bronze medal at this Final, with an overall total of 213.58 points.
After the rhythm dance, they were almost ten points away from the team in fourth place, but only a fraction of a point away from the second place.
“We have made some changes since our last Grand Prix, to up the level of energy and flow in the second half of the program” Poirier said. “I think that really allows us to live in the moment, and I think those changes were really successful”.
Their free dance based on “Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights” showed that they are growing into the programme, with increased interpretation and characterisation.
“I think there is so much character development in that story, and I think a lot of people can relate to it in so many different ways”, Gilles shared.
Lilah Fear & Lewis Gibson competed at their second Grand Prix Final. They ended in fourth place with a total of 202.27 points, paying the price of an error in the twizzles of their rhythm dance, but redeeming themselves in their free dance with their highly entertaining Rocky programme. The British team competed at their third back to back competition, after winning NHK Trophy two weeks prior and earning their sixth national title just the week before the Final.
Laurence Fournier Beaudry & Nikolaj Sørensen of Canada ended in fifth place. They also had to pay the price of an error in the twizzles of their rhythm dance, with Sørensen touching Fournier Beaudry half way through the element. Their ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ confirmed their fifth-place finish, earning 195.57 points in total.
Marjorie Lajoie & Zachary Lagha were the third Canadian team at this event. They shared they entered their first Grand Prix Final with a bit of stress, ending in sixth place with 193.63 points, but still managed to entertain with their rhythm dance on Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and to enchant with their free programme.
Junior Ice Dance Final
USA’s Leah Neset & Artem Markelov won the gold medal, with a total score of 177.09, a new personal best. They entered this event with two wins in Thailand and Japan, confirming their lead throughout this season.
“We have been working really hard on improving our performance and the technical aspect”, Neset said.
They confidently won the event, with some margin from the team in second place.
“We just try to stay in the present and focus on getting the job done”, Neset shared. “We are really grateful and happy that we are able to put out a good skate that we are proud of”.
In silver medal position were Elizabeth Tkachenko & Alexei Kiliakov of Israel, with a total of 168.78 points.
“It was a goal of mine to compete at the Grand Prix Final and it feels good to have it come true”, Tkachenko shared.
“We are extremely grateful that all of our hard work has paid off and we have been able to made this progress for the Israeli Federation,” Kiliakov added.
In third place, Germany’s Darya Grimm & Michail Savitskiy earned 159.41 points. This was their second Junior Grand Prix Final, after having ended in firth place last year.
“It is an honour to have won the bronze medal”, Savitskiy shared. “We can be proud and hopefully we can set an example for future generations of German skaters and for the German Federation to continue to support the athletes”.
In fourth place and also at their second Grand Prix Final were France’s Celina Fradji & Jean-Hans Fourneaux, which earned 153.42 points, a season best for them. Following them, in fifth place were Mariia Pinchuk & Mykyta Pogorielov of Ukraine, with 147.23 points in total, and the other team from the USA, Yahli Pedersen & Jeffrey Chen, in sixth place overall with 144.57 points.