Isabeau Levito wins Grand Prix France, ends U.S. figure skating’s 7-year wait
Isabeau Levito earned her first Grand Prix win and the most prestigious international title for a U.S. women’s singles figure skater in seven years.
Levito, the 16-year-old national champion, tallied 203.22 points between two programs at Grand Prix France on Friday and Saturday. She won by 4.42 over Nina Pinzarrone of Belgium.
Levito prevailed on the power of a 5.1-point lead from a clean short program. She was third in the free skate, getting no credit for a closing spin that she fell out of and having two negatively graded jumping passes. She had the highest artistic score by 2.72.
“I guess we’ll call this screwing up the second half of my spin a dramatic finish,” she said, according to the International Skating Union. “I’m just glad that I did the first half very nicely.”
Levito became the first American woman to win a full-fledged Grand Prix since Ashley Wagner took 2016 Skate America, ending the U.S.’ longest drought since the annual series began in 1995.
An American woman had not won any top-level international event in the last seven years when also including the Olympics, world championships and Four Continents Championships. (Mariah Bell won 2020 Skate America, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, 11 of 12 women in that field were American.)
Levito continued her precocious ascent, becoming the youngest U.S. woman to win a Grand Prix since Sarah Hughes in 2001, four months before she won the Olympics.
Levito also qualified for December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, which will be the best indicator for medal prospects for March’s world championships.
Last year, Levito placed second in all three of her Grand Prix starts, including the Final, in her first senior international season.
She then won her first senior U.S. title and placed fourth at worlds, matching the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut over the last 32 years.
Levito opened her Grand Prix season with a runner-up finish at Skate America two weeks ago.
She ranks third among senior women by best total score this season behind two-time world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan and two-time world medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium.
Later Saturday, France’s Adam Siao Him Fa overtook American Ilia Malinin for the men’s title.
Siao Him Fa, a 22-year-old who was 10th at last season’s worlds, recorded the world’s second-best total score this season of 306.78.
The only man to score higher this season is the 18-year-old Malinin, who had 310.47 at Skate America two weeks ago.
Malinin led Siao Him Fa by a scant 51 hundredths of a point after Friday’s short program.
Siao Him Fa then threw down a personal-best free skate to prevail by 2.1 points over Malinin, who had the same number of quadruple jumps (four) but had one negatively graded jumping pass to Siao Him Fa’s clean program.
Still, Malinin accomplished his goal this fall of qualifying for the Grand Prix Final.
He did not attempt a quad Axel in either of his Grand Prix starts but said last month he may bring it back for the Final. Last season, Malinin became the first skater to land a clean quad Axel in competition and tried it at all eight of his events.
In ice dance, world silver medalists Charlène Guignard won Marco Fabbri of Italy prevailed with the world’s second-best score this season behind Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.
In pairs, Canadians Lia Pereira and Trennt Michaud won their first Grand Prix and rank fourth in the world this season by best score.
The Grand Prix Series continues next week with Cup of China, featuring two-time world champion Shoma Uno in his season debut, live on Peacock.