There will be a confrontation between the best figure skaters in Belgium on Friday in the National Indoor Stadium in Beijing. It is completely unique that Loena Hendrickx and Nina Pinzarrone meet in the final of the Grand Prix, the most prestigious competition in this sport after the international championships.
Today at 11:34
The two young Belgian women are among the six who have qualified for the final. The 24-year-old Hendrickx is returning from illness that prevented her from participating in the Belgian championship in Mechelen two weeks ago. Pinzarrone, 17 years old, won the national title there for the first time. The two hardly know each other. Their last mutual match was the world title battle nine months ago in Saitama, Japan. Hendrickx finished third, Pinzarrone eleventh.
In Beijing, the Belgians have competition from sixteen-year-old American Isabeau Levito and three Japanese skaters: Kaori Sakamoto (23), Hana Yoshida (18) and Rion Sumiyoshi (20). Hendrickx, the oldest of the six participants, has his sights mainly on world champion Sakamoto, who is the top favorite in Beijing. “I look up to her,” she told Olympics.com last month. The rider from Arendonk acknowledges that Sakamoto has better technique (jumping and skating), but knows that her presentation (appearance) is very strong. Sakamoto is only six months younger than Hendrickx. “As you get older, it is mentally and physically more difficult. The workout just hurts. That’s why I admire older female drivers.” She considers Sakamoto “a friend”, although communication is difficult due to language problems.
Pinzarrone, who has developed spectacularly, is the surprising finalist. She let slip last month that Hendrickx “may be a little afraid of her”. Uninhibited, the Brussels native skated to a second (Grand Prix de France) and third place (NHK Trophy Osaka) in the Grands Prix, Hendrickx recorded a victory (Skate America) and a third place (Cup of China).
About ten kilometers from the competition hall in the Chinese capital is the Capital Indoor Stadium, where eight Belgian short trackers will continue their World Cup cycle on Friday. Not many countries have absolute top athletes in three branches of skating (artistic, short track and long track). According to Corné Lepoeter, the chairman of the KBSF, they can hardly be counted on the fingers of one hand. “Canada, United States, China, Japan, South Korea. And Belgium,” Lepoeter grins.