In interviews for my recent story on the potential impact of the quad revolution on women’s skating, international judge Samuel Auxier told me he saw the possibility of a sport in which female skaters without a quad or triple Axel will not be able to rely on component scores and other triples to overcome the big jumpers’ big tech scores.
And Russian quad phenom Alexandra Trusova provided a stunningly clear example of that possibility becoming reality in outscoring compatriot Alina Zagitova at Saturday’s Japan Open in Saitama.
Zagitova, the reigning Olympic and world champion, skated at a level not far from absolute perfection and simply was no match for Trusova’s flawed, landmark four-quad performance in the free-skate-only team event.
Although the comparison is not exact because the two women did different jumps, Zagitova had higher raw grade of execution scores for each of the 12 elements they did. According to Skating Scores, Zagitova’s mean GOE for all elements was 3.20, while Trusova’s was 1.45.
All Zagitova’s averaged GOEs were positive, and she had no negative marks; two of Trusova’s were not, with 13 negative marks, and she also was penalized for an under-rotated jump.
Made no difference.
The successful quads gave Trusova a whopping 17.43-point margin in the technical element score. (Her base value was 24.37 points higher than that of Zagitova, who did seven clean triple jumps, the highest valued her two triple lutzes.)
Zagitova’s 45 component scores, which included two perfect 10s and just two below 9.0 (both 8.75), were 11.31 points better than those of Trusova, whose highest was 8.5 and who got less than eight on 21 of her 45 marks.
It wasn’t enough. The result was an overall margin of 6.12 for Trusova over Zagitova. (Their full scoresheets are below.)
Interested to see what marks Zagitova would have needed for her program to beat Trusova’s, Skating Scores calculated that even a mean GOE of 4 and a mean PCS pf 9.5, a combined feat never achieved by any skater, would not have been enough.
And Trusova’s technical margin over Japan’s Rika Kihira, the reigning Grand Prix Final champion, was just as startling: 20.18, even though Kihira landed two triple axels. Overall, Kihira trailed Trusova by 15.77.
Since women cannot (yet?) do quads in the short program, Zagitova’s best chance - and that of Kihira and others - is to build a big lead over Trusova in the short, where their jumps will have relatively similar value, so both GOE and PCS differences could be decisive.
“The ISU (international Skating Union) has to decide which way ladies need to go,” Auxier, a former U.S. Figure Skating president, said in a text message Monday. “Four quads is so far beyond every other lady it may discourage many from continuing unless components can be weighted equal to technical somehow. We’ll see.”
The 15-year-old Trusova, in her first senior season, clearly is, at this point, sui generis, one of a kind among current women’s skaters in her ability to land multiple quads. She did a quad lutz, quad salchow and two quad toe loops Saturday, a performance that left men’s quad king Nathan Chen to post an awed video on Instagram.
But it also seems clear that her coaching team, led by Eteri Tutberidze, will produce many more Trusovas in the future.
It was barely 18 months ago that Trusova sparked conversation by landing her first quad in competition.
For figure skating, it now is future shock.