by Tatiana Flade
Javier Fernandez has made figure skating history more than once already, but now the Spaniard added a historic first World title for his country to his record. He had come in as the European Champion and one of the top contenders, but Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Four Continents Champion Denis Ten seemed to have a slight edge over him.
Fernandez started with an excellent short program to “Black Betty” into the competition that featured a textbook-perfect quad Salchow, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe. The energetic performance got the crowd going and not only the skater was a bit disappointed with his score. “We were expecting a little bit more, just because in another competition I did this program with a triple-double, and today I did with a triple-triple, and it (the other program) got a higher score. So we are expecting with a clean program, (a score) a little bit more than 92 (points) - 95 or 98 (points), something like that. It did happen, but we have to take it”, the three-time European Champion said.
Hanyu had taken the lead, although he almost fell on the quad toe. However, he rallied back with a beautiful triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe in his lyrical program to a ballade by Frederic Chopin. “I made an error on the quad toeloop, but my physical condition is nothing to worry about. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but I could gain extra points on other elements than the quad toe which is a good progress”, the 2014 World Champion commented.
Ten on the other hand had a rough start when his music “Caruso” wasn’t played from the beginning and he needed to restart. This seemed to throw him off as he fell on the quad toe and stepped out of the triple Lutz-triple toe combo. He stood in third place. “It is a pity about the incident. It distracted me a bit but it was an experience and I learned from it. I did mistakes that I didn’t do in practice, that was a surprise as well”, the Olympic bronze medalist noted.
In the free, Fernandez skated after Hanyu and Ten. He nailed a quad toe in the first seconds of his program to “The Barber of Seville” but then he had to overcome a fall on the first quad Salchow. The two-time World bronze medalist then made no further error, landing a quad Salchow-double toe as well as five triples including an Axel. This time he achieved a seasons best and was ranked second in the free skating. So he saw first the “2” next to his name when the free skating score came up. “I thought that fall would take my chance to win the gold medal. I didn’t know how these guys skated. I was surprised in the Kiss and Cry when I saw my marks and I was second in the free skating. For some reason I thought Yuzu was first in free skating and then I looked at Brian (Orser) and said ‘I’m second, okay, I’ll take it. Then the screen (with the final result) came up and I was first and I told Brian how, what happened?”, he recalled. “I have no words. I train hard, really, really hard, but I was not expecting to be the gold medalist. This medal will help me to keep going for the next years, will give me a lot of energy to practice hard and to keep competing and trying my best in every single competition”, the 23-year-old said.
Hanyu lost many points in his “Phantom of the Opera” program when he popped the planned quad Salchow into a double and fell on the quad toe. The 20-year-old completed all the other elements, though and ranked third in free, but overall slipped to second. He now has a complete set of World medals with gold from 2014, silver from 2015 and bronze from 2012. A lot has been said about Hanyu and Fernandez training together and supporting each other and they are also asked the same questions about it all the time. And it is true, you can see that these are not just empty words, but it is real. Yuzuru stood up in the Kiss & Cry to watch at least Javier’s first quad and applauded before he was ushered to the “Green Room” and later his first comments were more about his training mate than about himself. “As I had a few mistakes I feel really regretful. The crowd reaction was excellent and I felt if I was skating at home. I predict that Javier (Fernandez) will win the title and I’m really happy for him as a training mate. He always supports me and I know how he felt when he didn’t win over me a few times. Now finally he wins I’m really proud of him”, the Japanese Champion said.
Ten had come out and fought in his program to “Ambush from 10 sides”. From all the men, he had the most innovative concept with music and choreography and is taking risks with new things. The Four Continents Champion hit a quadruple-triple toeloop combination and five triple jumps, but he stumbled on the first quad toe and a triple Axel. The skater from Kazakhstan won the free skating (like he had in 2013) but overall didn’t move up and claimed the bronze. “I’m pleased with my performance today. It was much better than yesterday. Finally the season is over and I realized there is a lot of work ahead. I hope there will be more good performances especially in Pyeongchang in 2018, because this is my goal”, the 21-year-old said. It was Ten’s second World medal after a silver in 2013.
It is good to see how skaters such as Fernandez and Ten from “new countries” with no tradition in figure skating made their way to the top, because they can be a source of inspiration for others that come from a similar background. Both started under poor conditions. Javier mentioned that he started skating on a rink not bigger than the press conference room and Denis recalled skating outside in the cold (and it does get really cold in Kazakhstan) as there was no indoor ice rink when he took up the sport.
There are others like them already, not yet at the same level, but working their way up, such as Michael Christian Martinez from the Philippines. You cannot count Ronald Lam from Hong Kong so much into this category as he was mainly raised in Canada and is also training there, but he, too, spent time in Hong Kong and skated under rather poor conditions. Martinez and Lam made it to the Final in Shanghai while more established skaters from countries with better conditions failed to qualify like Peter Liebers from Germany, Ivan Righini (Bariev) from Italy and Nan Song from China.
Hanyu actually can also be a source of inspiration, because he showed true fighting spirit this season and never gave up although he had to overcome injuries, the accident at Cup of China and finally a bladder surgery.
New faces in the top 10
After the unsuccessful attempt at Four Continents Jason Brown took out the quad toe that is just not ready yet for competition and convinced with a flawless short and strong free, the only glitch being one underrotated triple Axel. The U.S. Champion finished fourth. “I wish that second Axel could have been a little better. I’m so proud that the U.S. men have three spots going into worlds next year in Boston. It’s crazy to be fourth in the world. I couldn’t ask for anything more right now. I skated the best that I could in those moments and it’s nice to walk away as fourth in the world”, he commented.
Nam Nguyen did the almost same – the Canadian Champion put out a clean short without a quad and then moved up from ninth to fifth with an excellent free that included a flawless quad Salchow. The 16-year-old, still the youngest male skater in the competition, completed another successful season for Brian Orser, who also coaches Fernandez and Hanyu. “I was pretty nervous, I worried about my quad sal because it’s my hardest jump, but I landed that and I’m just so happy, and then I continued to the rest of my program. I medaled at Skate America, my Four Continents was a really bit down, but I’m really happy that happened because I wanted to come back from that and do this competition with my good skates. My next goal is to add the quad back to my short program for next season and also to work on my quad toeloop”, Nam said.
Misha Ge is another “quadless” skater that stands his ground thanks to other strengths. The Russian-born Ge, who grew up in China and is still training there part time, is a great performer and put out two clean programs with triple Axels and strong interpretation to finish sixth. This is the best result for a male skater from Uzbekistan. Last year he didn’t even qualify for the free skating. “This is my best performance in years. I overcame a lot of difficulties. And I am so happy to compete at home. It made me feel nervous as well. Perseverance and hard training made me successful today”, Misha told the press.
Maxim Kovtun bombed in the short program, doubling the toe and singling the Axel which left him in 16th place. The Russian Champion is still not very consistent. The free went much better, he risked three quads (he fell on a quad toe) and he moved up to 7th. “I want to thank my team to pull me out of such a bad condition I was in yesterday. I was pleased with the program and I did most of the major elements. If I hadn’t fallen on the toeloop, I would have had more power of course. I had nothing to lose and I skated calmly. I went for the risk and if something hadn’t worked I could have made many mistakes. I did the triple Axel-triple Salchow and two quad Salchows, I’m happy with that”, the European silver medalist offered.
USA’s Adam Rippon was determined to do the quad Lutz, but it didn’t happen. The attempt in the short was downgraded (Adam was not happy with that) and in the long he doubled the jump. He also doubled a flip and underrotated a 3S to finish eighth. “It definitely wasn’t my best today. I had a few troubles with the jumps but after my short program, I wanted to perform and give a nice long program performance. I felt free out there. Maybe a little bit too free, making that mistake on the quad. I never gave up throughout the program. Coming away, I’m happy to be in the top 10”, the 2010 Four Continents Champion commented.
Florent Amodio came back from a few ups and down this season and finished Worlds with decent performances in ninth place. While his transitions might not be the best, a 0.75 from one judge must have been a mistake. “I’m think it’s good to finish like this, to this level. I know it’s not perfect for sure but I’m very happy to finish the season like this. It is bliss for me to have given my two best performances (of the season) here. There were still many errors, but I got almost 230 points and it has been a while since I had skated at this level and fought for the top ten in the world. I am very proud to have defended the French colours in Men’s figure skating”, the Frenchman said.
China’s Han Yan succumbed to his nerves once again. He missed the quad toe in short, but his other elements were strong so that he was sixth, but then he fell more or less apart in the free and dropped to tenth. “I was a bit nervous and I made a lot of mistakes. But the audience was very passionate and I feel very grateful for that”, the 2015 Four Continents bronze medalist said.
Japan loses third spot
Joshua Farris (USA) took a painful looking fall in the short program on the triple Axel and also had a few problems in the long to finish 11th in his Worlds debut. “I have had a lot of good skates and a lot of bad skates so after I skated my short program I talked to my coaches Christy (Krall) and Damon (Allen) on the bus. Christy sat next to me and I starting crying a little bit. She shared some incredible words of wisdom and really helped me prepare for today. I didn’t want to replicate what I’ve done in past competitions after a bad short program. It was far from perfect but it was a step”, the 2013 World Junior Champion shared.
Team Japan lost their third spot as Takahiko Kozuka and Takahito Mura both skated poorly in the short program and even ended up in the first warm up group in the free. The long went a bit better, but it was still not good enough to save the third spot. Kozuka pulled up from 19th to 12th and Mura from 23rd to 16th. In fact both have been not very consistent this year and the Japanese Federation might have been better off to select Daisuke Murakami after he beat Mura at the Four Continents with strong performances. Mura anyway only got into the World team after the unexpected retirement of Tatsuki Machida. But you are always smarter afterwards. Kozuka might retire now, but didn’t make any announcement about his future in Shanghai.
Sergei Voronov of Russia and Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic also were disappointing, especially in the free skating. They both repeated one double toe too many which cost them many points. Voronov had wobbled on his quad toe in the short, but stood in fourth place. He doubled the quad and singled an Axel in the long and faded to 13th. “I really don’t have anything to say. It was a complete failure. I’ll have to draw my conclusions from it”, was his short comment.
Brezina struggled with his quad Salchow, but landed one in the free. He finished 15th. “My performance today wasn’t very good. It can happen (that you repeat a double toe too many) but it’s already the second time that it happened, so I have to learn from that. I didn’t realize it and I wanted to do the triple Axel-triple toe combination, but I think I chickened out. That’s why I got only double and the whole combination was gone”, the Czech Champion explained.