In each season, new faces emerge on the scene and skaters are making a breakthrough. The exciting 2018/19 season was no exception. Let’s have a look at some of the newcomers.
Rika Kihira (JPN) at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Internationaux de France (FRA) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
Rika Kihira (JPN) is the shooting star of the year. The 16-year-old debuted on the senior level and took the scene by storm by striking gold on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating events NHK Trophy and Internationaux de France, the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. At the ISU World Figure Skating Championships she finished a respectable fourth and capped the season off by setting a new record score in the Short Program at the ISU World Team Trophy.
Kihira didn’t come out of nowhere, the teenager has been known in the skating world for her triple Axel, but it wasn’t consistent enough and as a result, she didn’t reach the top at the junior level. “At the time I just felt that I was a weak skater, but thinking back on it now, I guess I did not have confidence in myself, and I could not believe in myself. I was convinced that my abilities were simply not there, and that I was the type of person who just got nervous. So that led me to be even less successful,” she said. With more confidence and consistency, Rika was able to break through in seniors. “Somehow I had this thought in me that once you are at the senior level you are not allowed to make even one mistake. So in order for me to skate as a senior, I had to gain a lot of experience and practice hard to bring myself to that level,” she noticed. Kihira also has been working on a quadruple toeloop, so we might see that in the upcoming season from her, too.
Sofia Samodurova (RSU) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Sofia Samodurova (RUS) jumped from the junior ranks right into the world elite as well. With a silver and a bronze from the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, she proceeded to the Final and then skated to victory at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk. “It is hard to answer, where this success comes from, but maybe it is the hard work, the love for my work and my commitment,” the 16-year-old said.
Matteo Rizzo (ITA) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Italy has a rich history of successful Ice Dance teams and obviously, everyone knows figure skating icon Carolina Kostner. The men have been a bit in the shadow in the past, but Matteo Rizzo and Daniel Grassl drew attention now. Rizzo grabbed the bronze medal at NHK Trophy, becoming the first Italian man to win an ISU Grand Prix medal at the senior level and then went on to earn another bronze medal at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships, the first one for an Italian man since Samuel Contesti skated to silver ten years ago in 2009. “All the results during the season were really, really good. I think it is a good improvement looking forward to the Olympic Games because you always have to look at the Olympic Games,” Matteo shared. “I think I have started last year with a few results and then kept going this year. It was a big step.”
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Teammate Grassl impressed by becoming the first European skater to land a quadruple loop in competition, claiming the bronze at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships and finishing a strong sixth in his debut at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships.
Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitri Kozlovskii (RUS) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
In the Pairs, two young Russian teams coming from the junior level had a lot of success right away. Following their silver medal at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2017, Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitri Kozlovskii struggled a bit in the following season in juniors and didn’t even qualify for Junior Worlds inside Russia. However, with their senior-level debut things changed. The young team skated off with the bronze medal at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships and ranked sixth in their debut at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama. “This whole season we discovered a new level for us. First of all we tried to show our best skating – cleaner, more precise, more synchronized – to present ourselves at the world level,” Kozlovskii shared. “We skated in a more mature way,” added Boikova. 2018 ISU World Junior Figure Skating Champions Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin qualified for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final with two bronze medals in their first year on the senior circuit and placed a respectable fifth at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships.
Daria Pavliuchenki and Denis Khodykin (RUS) at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)