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Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani take home second Grand Prix gold in China

By Johanna Bear

The Grand Prix series continued with the Cup of China in Beijing Nov. 18-20, 2016. Though the U.S. only took home one medal , that medal was gold, courtesy of reigning U.S. Champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani, who qualified for the Grand Prix Final with their second victory on the Grand Prix circuit this season.

Though he came into the free skate in third place, Canada’s Patrick Chan put together a strong free skate to take home the gold medal. Skating to “A Journey” composed by tw0-time World Champion pair skater
Eric Radford, of Canada, Chan’s program was highlighted by a beautiful quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and his only mistake was a fall on a quadruple Salchow. Chan received a total score of 279.72 points for the event and qualified for the Grand Prix final by virtue of his victory in Beijing and his victory at Skate Canada International last month. 
The winner of the short program, 2016 World bronze medalist Boyang Jin, of China, had to settle for the silver medal in his home country after a free skate that included an impressive quadruple Lutz but also
featured a fall on an underrotated quadruple toe loop. Jin also lost ground in the components score where Chan, known for his artistry, bested him by over 14 points. Jin accumulated a new season’s best score in the free skate and a score of 278.54 points for the competition.
Russia’s Sergei Voronov took home the bronze medal in Beijing with a competition score of 243.76 points. Voronov moved up from fourth after the short program to third after the free skate with a performance of “Exogenesis Symphony” by Muse that included a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination. However, he was penalized for completing too many triple toe loops by having the second jump in his triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination marked invalidated. The bronze medal marked Voronov’s first medal on the Grand Prix circuit since the 2014-2015 season when he won silver at both the Rostelecom Cup and the NHK trophy.
Despite not coming home with a medal, 2013 U.S. Champion Max Aaron put together two solid skates to finish in fourth place with a total competition score of 242.74 points. Fellow American Ross Miner continued his struggles this season, doubling a planned quadruple Salchow and singling a planned triple
Axel in the free skate, putting him in ninth place with a total score of 213.34 points.
Just two weeks after winning silver in her home country of Russia, Elena Radionova booked her ticket to the Grand Prix Final by winning the gold medal in Beijing. Despite coming into the free skate in second place, she was able to capitalize on the mistakes of her competitors for the victory. Skating to the ever-popular “Nessun Dorma,” Radionova earned 205.90 points overall, putting her almost 10 points ahead of Kaetlyn Osmond who took home the silver medal.
Osmond, who has come into form following a broken leg that kept her out of competition for the entirety of the 2014-2015 season, won her second silver medal of the Grand Prix season in China. The downgraded triple Lutz in her free skate, along with two other  underrotated triples prevented her from taking home the title, but nevertheless she was able to amass a total score of 196.00. Osmond also officially qualified for the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France where she will face World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva and Radionova along with the other top six qualifiers who still have yet to be determined going into the NHK Trophy.
2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva also experienced a resurgence in Beijing, winning her first
medal of the Grand Prix season by claiming the bronze at the Cup of China. After having one of the most dominant seasons in recent memory in the 2014-2015 season where she took home eight gold medals, her consistency seemed to wane and she had struggled to find her form. She came into the free skate in fourth place but put together a strong free skate with minimal mistakes to move into third with a total competition score of 192.57 points.
It was a disappointing competition for Ashley Wagner who finished in sixth place with 181.38 points after six triple jumps were deemed to have been underrotated. It is still mathematically possible for Wagner to make the Grand Prix final, but she will have to see what happens at NHK Trophy.
Karen Chen has also struggled to find her form since winning the bronze medal at the U.S. National
Championships in 2015, but she took several steps forward in China, finishing in seventh place with a total score of 179.39. Courtney Hicks, who was coming off a bronze medal at the Rostelecom Cup, received a total score of 163.64, which put her in ninth place for the event.
It was a good day for Chinese pairs skaters as the host country took home two of the three available medals. Xiaoyu Yu and Hao Zhang took home the gold, building off of their silver medal at Skate Canada earlier in the season. Their winning free skate featured their trademark huge triple twist and despite Zhang’s fall on their triple toe loop combination, they amassed a total score of 203.76 points overall. Yu and Zhang also qualified for the Grand Prix Final as a result of their victory in Beijing.
Cheng Peng and Yang Jin won the silver medal in their home country with a free skate that included only a minor mistake on their triple toe loop combination, giving them a total score of 197.96 points. Interestingly both teams that Chinese federation forced to switch partners in the off-season ended up winning medals at Cup of China, with Peng and Jin and Yu and Zhang on the podium. Peng and Jin will be competing at the NHK Trophy and are still in the running for one of the six spots at the Grand Prix Final.
Though they entered the free skate in second place, Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch of Canada had to settle for the bronze medal after a free skate in which they struggled on the side-by-side jumps. Their total score was 191.54 giving them their fourth medal since they teamed up in 2014.
Team U.S.A.’s Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan came in eighth place in their second Grand Prix appearance with a total score of 142.41.
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The Grand Prix series will continue on November 25 with the NHK Trophy.