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2015 Four Continents Championships

Polina Edmunds Upsets Favorites, Takes Gold

by Tatjana Flade

(17 February 2015)  The Japanese skaters Satoko Miyahara and Rika Hongo as well as Gracie Gold were touted as the favorites in the Ladies event, but eventually Polina Edmunds came from fourth to grab the gold medal. The Japanese took silver and bronze while Gold finished off the podium.

The Ladies event had a good level but was not as spectacular as the Men’s and the girls from Russia should have to say one or two words about the medals at Worlds. The only missing top skater in Seoul was Ashley Wagner, who decided to skip the event in order to focus on Worlds. 

There were only 19 entries. The minimum score keeps a lot of the Americans girls with Asian roots out that used to compete in this event. At least the majority of these skaters that represent the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei or Thailand was born and raised in the USA, sometimes in Canada. Only three were left: Melissa Bulanhagui (Philippines) and Isadora Williams (Brazil) live in the USA (Bulanhagui even represented the USA internationally until 2010) while Alisson Perticheto was brought up in Switzerland. Interesting enough, the situation is a bit different in the Men’s. Chih-I Tsao and Jui-Shu Chen from Chinese Taipei, Harry Hau Yin Lee and Ronald Lam from Hong Kong as well as Julian Zhi Jie Yee from Malaysia actually were born, live and train at least partially in their respective country.

Edmunds started with a clean short to “Buleria” and “Tango Serenata” into the competition and hit her triple Lutz-triple toe. She collected 61.03 points. “Today was a really good performance for me to finally skate a clean short program internationally. I’m really happy that I was able to fight through everything.  That was the main goal of this event to try to get through a great program here. It was only two weeks since nationals so there wasn’t a lot of time to improve the choreography, but we’ve been working hard and I’m happy I was able to show that”, the 16-year-old commented.

The Californian continued like that in her “Tinkerbell” free program, reeling off a triple Lutz-triple toe and five more triple jumps. She looks still a bit unpolished and like a junior compared to some of the other ladies, but she has developed in a positive way since last season. Polina picked up 122.99 points for her long, setting a new seasons best, and overtook the top three after the short program with a total score of 184.02 points.  “This competition I wanted to skate well to gain momentum going into worlds. I knew that I had a shot (at the title) if I skated two clean programs. We have the same or more elements than everyone in the top five that were in the warm up. It was not unexpected. In the short program, we were held close together and I knew if I relaxed and skated like I knew I could, it was possible. I’m happy it came true”, the teenager commented. She is not afraid of the Russians. “I don’t think that the Russians are stronger than anyone of us. We all have the same elements, everyone has different skating styles. If everyone skates clean, that’s when you can nitpick whose style you like more. Otherwise, it’s going to come down to elements and how we perform. But going into worlds, I’m optimistic that it’s not going to be ‘the Russians are coming.’ I’m excited to go home and train hard. I want to improve on my artistry and choreography to raise my second mark. I’m feeling happy going into worlds as the Four Continents champion”, she pointed out.

Miyahara won the short program. Her “Magic Flute” was highlighted by triple Lutz-triple toe and beautiful spins and her musicality stands out. The Japanese Champion scored 64.84 points, which was a new personal best. “I am surprised and happy to get a higher score than I expected I would be able to get. Although I executed my triple-triple combination well I thought I could have had a better performance. It was not a 100 percent satisfactory. I didn’t feel any pressure to come to this competition as Japanese champion, my practice was going very well, that’s why I thought I could have done better”, Satoko offered.

Although she said she didn’t feel particularily nervous in the long program, she made errors that cost her the title. Skating to “Miss Saigon”, the 2014 Four Continents silver medalist produced four clean triples but fell on an under-rotated triple Lutz and stumbled on the triple flip. The 16-year-old earned 116.75 points which added up to 181.59 points and she repeated as silver medalist. “In this competition I didn’t have enough speed and I feel sorry I couldn’t put out everything I have. I think I had to go with more speed and more power. I hope to improve myself a lot towards worlds”, Miyahara noted.

Rika Hongo has had a good debut at the senior circuit this season and continued with the bronze medal in Seoul. The 18-year-old delivered a strong short with triple toe-triple toe and slightly improved her personal best with 61.28 points. “I was really nervous to compete for the first time at Four Continents. But I was trying to have fun and I did. It was exciting to see other faces that I never met at the Grand Prix series”, Hongo said. She made no major error in the “Carmen” free except for under-rotating two triples in her combinations and remained in third with 177.44 points. “This is the first time to get a medal at an ISU event (Championship). I got the small medal in the short program and I was so happy. Today I got an even bigger medal so I’m very happy”, Rika said. “Today’s triple flip- triple toe was one of the best this season in competition. I was able to get confidence, because I skated clean in both short and free, however I didn’t get 180 points which was my aim. To achieve this score, I have to improve several details. I will keep training hard for that and try to accomplish my goal at the world championships”, the Japanese silver medalist added.

Gracie Gold seems to love her role as the true ice princess and she can be gorgeous on the ice with her high jumps and diva-like skating style, but she tends to make silly mistakes. It started in the short program when she came too close to the boards on her triple Lutz-triple toe and touched the barrier. Then she singled the Axel. “It happens in practice a lot that I get very close to the boards on triple Lutz-triple toe. I have a lot of speed coming around the edge and sometimes if the triple Lutz-triple toe gets too much distance it’s very close to the wall. Frank (Carroll, coach) always said that if I’m going to be that close to the wall just to do it the best I can. I didn’t under-rotate it, I didn’t put down my foot down. I tried to save it the best I could. I still completed the elements and that was the most important”, Gold, who stood in second following the short, commented. “The Axel was unfortunate. I train clean short program run throughs and that’s the easiest jump in the program. But even great skaters mess up sometimes. So I’ll just have to do better in the free program.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t. Already in the morning practice the 2014 U.S. Champion appeared nervous and made many mistakes. She had a rough start into the “Phantom of the Opera” long when she singled the Lutz (added a double toe) and then reduced the next combo to double Axel-double toe, and the toe was on two feet. Gracie did seem to recover after this and still landed four triples, but she singled a toe and a loop in a combination and that sealed her fate. One mistake less and she would have remained on the podium, but so she dropped to fourth (176.58 points).

Gold was so disappointed that she first disappeared in the locker room before facing the press briefly in the mixed zone. “It was a difficult competition for me. I skated poorly in both segments of competition. I’m sorry about that“, she said.

Zijun Li of China came back with two solid performances and finished fifth (175.92 points). She reduced her combo in the short to triple flip-double toe but pulled off a triple-triple in the long to “Moon River”. “I am quite satisfied with today’s performance. I landed my elements, but maybe at the end I run out of energy a little. The six minutes warm up did not go well, and I was skating fourth and I got nervous. So I am happy that I did the jumps in the program. I am very excited about Worlds being held in China and I hope that I can skate better than I did here for the home crowd and that I can surpass myself”, the 18-year-old told the press.

Yuka Nagai of Japan came sixth in her debut at an ISU Championship with 168.09 points. She stepped out of the triple toe-triple toe in the short program. In the free the 16-year-old showed guts when she first did a triple Lutz-single toe just to repeat the combo as triple-triple seconds later. “As I made mistakes, it was not a good skate. However, I could learn a lot of things at this event. I had a good experience here and I want to use it for the future”, she commented.

Gabrielle Daleman lost precious points by doubling the Lutz in the short, but the free went much better with five triples. She finished 7th (167.09 points). ”I had the short program on my mind and was quite upset with it. So I said, ok, you put this anger into the long, you don’t want to do a bad long. I used the anger and the passion I have for skating and put those two combined to get the long program I did today”, the Canadian Champion explained.

Samantha Cesario (USA) is great to watch but struggles with under-rotations. Two triples in the long and the triple loop-triple loop in the short were under-rotated (8th/166.76 points). She now will put her famous “Carmen” program to rest. “It wasn’t my best performance but I fought through everything and I’m happy with how it went. I really feel the character (of Carmen) and am comfortable skating to the music. This was my last time doing Carmen and it felt good. I’m happy it ended with this program. My next step is to go home, evaluate my season and go from there”, the 21-year-old said.

So Youn Park was the best Korean skater in 9th place. Both programs went quite well, but she fell on a triple loop in the long. “At this competition many famous skaters showed up, which seems to have helped the younger skaters, and I think it will help them to skate even better at national competitions. Anyway, today I made a mistake with a jump, because I was very nervous. I practiced tirelessly, but in this competition I may have been a little bit too excited. There was something very convenient about having this competition in our country. But with it comes the nervousness. In the short program I couldn't win against it, but today I tried to control my mind somehow and had a lot of confidence in myself”, the Korean Champion shared.

Alaine Chartrand of Canada under-rotated her triple Lutz-triple toe in the short and made mistakes on several jump landings in the free skating to drop from sixth to tenth. “It didn’t come easy today. It was not bad, but not how I wanted to go. That score is low for me. I just want to take the positive things and work towards Worlds. There were just a lot of messy landings. Because my Lutz in the beginning didn’t land very well I couldn’t get the 3T on the end. The second Lutz I was going to do it again with the triple toe loop, again it was the same landing. Normally have seven triples in my long program, but I didn’t have them today”, the Canadian silver medalist admitted.