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2015 Four Continents Championships

Historic Victory for Denis Ten

by Tatjana Flade

(17 February 2015)  Denis Ten has set many records in his career, although he is only 21 years old. He is the first figure skater from his country to win medals at ISU events, including a silver medal at the 2013 World Championships, as well as at the Olympic Games, the bronze in 2014. Now he became the first to win an ISU Championship title. And he won with almost 30 points to spare and two very strong performances.

The Men’s event at Four Continents overall was exciting and at a very high level with many excellent performances.  There were 26 men competing (as opposed to only 19 ladies).

Ten stormed to the lead in his short program to “Caruso”. He looked confident in practice and put it out in competition: quad toe, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe, level-four spins and level-four footwork. All judges gave him a +3 for the step sequence, the final element in his program. The reward was a new personal best of 97.51 points. “I am relieved that I was able to show high quality skating. The progress is quite obvious and I think that’s what is important for me and for my coach. It is a great start, but the competition isn’t over yet”, the Olympic bronze medalist said. “It never was my goal to get as many points as possible. The important thing for me is to bring across the feeling to the audience, but I am glad to achieve a personal best score. The short program has been progressing quite well and in each event I am getting more points. I feel I am on the right track”, he continued.

The long program to avant-garde music from the “Silk Road Ensemble” featured excellent two quads toes and five triples, just the second triple Axel was shaky plus again strong spins and footwork. Ten said that the triple Axel is painful at the moment and therefore he limits his attempts in practice and the jump is not a 100 percent consistent. At the end, the skater collapsed on the ice and laid there for a couple of seconds. He had given all he had. The 2013 World silver medalist picked up 191.85 points, not only another personal best, but the third highest score ever achieved. The same goes for his total score of 289.46 points. Only Patrick Chan and Yuzuru Hanyu have scored higher. Ten not only combines finest technical skills with quality skating and expression but also explores new directions in his choreography and music choices. As he is ethnic Korean, Denis was thrilled to have performed so well at Four Continents. “I have to admit that this competition indeed was my second Olympics, because when I decided I keep skating for the next few years my major goal for this season was to perform well at this competition in Korea, because as I mentioned it is not a foreign place for me. It was important to me to do well here, in my second home country. I felt pressure, but also the support and I was ready. I didn’t think much about a medal when I was coming here, honestly. My goal was to perform well and bring to the audience what they were looking forward to. This day today was quite stressful, the whole event was not an easy one like for everybody”, the 21-year-old told the post-event press conference.

Joshua Farris is one of those skaters that have shown a lot of promise early on but tend to succumb to nerves in competition. Finally at this event the 20-year-old from Colorado Springs was able to put together two strong performances which got him the silver medal (260.01 points). In the short to “Give Me Love”, the 2013 World Junior Champion skated clean without a quad, in the long to “Schindler’s List” he two-footed the quad toe but all eight triples including two Axels were good, just the last Salchow a little scratchy. Farris feels the music very well and although he is a more introverted skater he is able to transmit the emotions of his programs.  This medal is a great achievement for Joshua. “Number one, it puts me in a great position going into the world championships. I’m much more confident that I can achieve a much higher ranking than I was expecting before this competition. Getting second here, I can’t articulate how much it means to me. Coming from two sprained ankles in the span of a month and being off the ice for two months, having the skate I did at NHK was awful, the worst of my career. So coming back and getting third at nationals and doing what I did here, I’ve matured a lot here and learned so much. I’m going to keep learning and getting better”, he shared.

Han Yan of China, too, has had his difficulties this season. He was injured in the horrible crash with Yuzuru Hanyu in the warm up for the free skating at Cup of China last November and also had some other injuries. So the bronze medal at Four Continents was a nice comeback for the 18-year-old (259.47 points). The programs, “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Fly Me to the Moon” are somewhat similar in style, cute and funny, but they suit him well. Yan stumbled out of his quad toe in the short, but the triple Axel was gorgeous. In the free, he did a three-turn out of the quad toe and stepped out of a triple Salchow, but everything else was good or very good. “It was the best performance of the season but not yet my best level. My training has been going well therefore I was able to land the jumps. This gives me confidence for the World Championships. There I want to beat myself and be the best I can possibly be”, the 2012 World Junior Champion commented.

The whole podium actually had competed against each other at Junior Worlds in 2012, as Ten pointed out. Yan edged out Farris for the gold and Ten, who had won the short program, slipped to fourth. The bronze at the time went to Jason Brown, who also competed in Seoul. It means that this generation now has established themselves at the senior level.

At age 24, Daisuke Murakami is a little bit older. He had dropped off the radar when he dislocated his shoulder at NHK Trophy in 2012, but he started to draw attention when he won NHK this season. At Four Continents Murakami turned in two clean performances that included three quadruple Salchows. He was ranked third in the free but overall missed out on a medal, finishing fourth at 256.47 points. “I feel like if I had done a little bit better I could have been on the podium. But it’s a learning experience and I want to take this to my next competition and not how I feel tonight. Everyone skated phenomenal before me, everyone skated perfect without any errors and I knew when I was getting on the ice that I had to skate perfect so I feel like I achieved that tonight but it wasn’t enough”, he said. Murakami, who lives in the USA since he is nine years old, was the highest ranked Japanese man in this competition. For the first time in eight year, the Japanese men won no medal.

Murakami’s teammate Shoma Uno competed in his first senior-level championship. The ISU Junior Grand Prix Final Champion shone in the short program with a quad toe, triple Axel and his musicality and ranked second in this segment. However, he seemed tired and insecure in the free (“Don Juan de Marco”) and made a few errors, notably a bad crash on the triple flip. The 17-year-old dropped to fifth with 256.45 points, just behind Murakami. The score seemed a bit generous. “I was sad even before this performance, because I felt that I can’t do anything as I have been training in Japan.

My practice sessions didn’t go well at all. I felt unsatisfied and felt sad. I learn from this experience, no matter what condition, I should put out everything on the ice”, Shoma told the press. He will now go to Junior Worlds and is the top favorite.

There has been a lot of talk about Jason Brown and the quad, if he is going to do it and when. Brown and his coach Kori Ade decided right after the U.S. Championships to go for the quad toe in the short program. Although the attempts in practice did not look too promising, Jason went for it in the short. He landed forward on two feet and the jumps was downgraded and worth only two points. On top of that, the 20-year-old underrotated the triple Axel. “My goal was that I wanted to integrate a quad and do it to the best of my ability in that moment and once it was over, leave it there and continue on. I’m really proud of that and I’m proud that I tried it”, Brown commented. “It’s one of those jumps that’s really coming along and at home it’s getting more and more consistent. There is no better time to try it than right now and leading up to worlds and try to see how it goes. If it does get more consistent for worlds, I can look back and know that I’ve tried it before in competition.  We weren’t really focused on score today. We were focused on what I can do with what we’re putting out. We had no idea where I would stand. For the long it’s a new day to start fresh”, he added. Indeed he did and gave a strong performance of his “Tristan and Isolde” long program, not quad, but all triples (just one Lutz was called underrotated). The two-time World Junior medalist moved up from 9th to 6th with 243.21 points.

Defending Four Continents Champion Takahito Mura did not have his best days. His jumps were a little rough in both programs, although he stood up on them. In another field on another day this might have been enough for a podium finish, but not in Seoul. Mura came 7th (235.75 points). “I am not happy with today’s performance. I made so many mistakes at the key elements. I felt that I need to improve more and more. Especially the big jumps like quad toe and triple Axel are key elements, so I don’t want to mess them up. I know that Han Yan had a great skate before me and that gave me pressure”, the 24-year-old explained.

The always popular Misha Ge turned in solid performances without a quad attempt and earned high component scores for his expressiveness (8th/226.20 points). “Especially these two months preparing for competition were very tough and very rough. We've travelled a lot and did a lot of shows and a lot of location changing and the body condition wasn't good. So I think it was really hard for me to compete this time. And I was really glad that the short program was done well. And overall to me it was well, but of course there were a few mistakes. That's what we'll keep work on, when we're going back. So I think it was a good performance, but not the best. I didn’t feel my legs anymore in the second half of the program”, the Uzbek skater noted. He was invited to perform in the gala and delivered a great show.

Yi Wang of China skated also well without major mistakes to come 9th. Adam Rippon (USA) went for his quad Lutz, but it was unsuccessful both times. He also made a few other mistakes to finish 10th. “It’s mostly about getting the experience of trying it in competition. I landed some really nice ones this morning and yesterday in practice. I know it’s right there. I feel like the quad Lutz can be my signature move. I love doing the Lutz, it’s my favorite jump”, the 2010 Four Continents Champion said. “It was difficult to come here from the U.S. Championships because there were a lot of emotions. I wanted to do my best to be on this team and the world team. I came here to get more experience with the quad Lutz and the programs. I was proud of myself for fighting but I know that Rafael (Arutyunyan) is going to kick my butt when I get home so I don’t make any mistakes when we go to worlds”, he added.

Nam Nguyen tried the quad Salchow in the short program but doubled and also missed the triple Axel. The free skating went much better and he moved up to 11th. “In the short program I was completely like dead. I wasn’t active and I didn’t push myself hard enough. I’m really happy that we had a day off yesterday, because I was able to regroup and focus more on speed and attack in the practices yesterday and just maintaining it for today. Today was much better than the short program and I’m really happy with how hard I pushed through. It was definitely not my best performance, but it’s Four Continents and this competition for me is just trying some new stuff and I’m going to work really hard for Worlds. When I go back home I’m going to focus more on the short program, quad Sal-triple toe, because it’s a lot different than the one in the long”, the 16-year-old Canadian Champion said.

Jin Seo Kim of Korea delivered a clean free skate with two triple Axels and finished 15th. “This time I showed a performance that I can be pleased with. I'm really happy about that and want to preserve this for the next competition as well. In between I had very exhausting practice time, even though the start into this season was rather good. In the big competitions in the middle of this season I made many mistakes. I practiced really a lot and that it finally worked in this competition made me really happy. So happy, that it moved me to tears in a way that I've never experienced before”, Kim told the media.

Argentina was represented for the first time at Four Continents with Denis Margalik. The 16-year-old was born in Buenos Aires but the family immigrated to Canada when he was three years old. Denis produced a solid free skate without a triple Axel to place 16th in his debut at Four Continents. “We moved to Canada, my parents decided that, to give more possibilities for me and my brother. When I moved to my new coaches Andrei Berezintsev and Inga Zusev and we told them that I have citizenship from there, they had the idea of why not representing them, because it would be a great to chance to expand the skating world over there and let everybody know that there can be skating in Argentina as well”, he explained.