by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(2 April 2016) The free program of the men at the 2016 World championship in Boston had a clearly better level than most of the men’s free programs at Grand Prix or ISU championships in the last couple of years. Like always there were really bad programs as well, but the general impression was much more positive. This is a positive contrast to the short program where you could see more mistakes than usually.
Last year Javier Fernandez won gold at Worlds because Yuzuru Hanyu did not have a good day. But this time the skater from Spain won because he showed the best program of his career up to now, earning 314.93 points. This is still far from Yuzuru Hanyu’s world record of 330 points, but still excellent. Skating to “Guys and Dolls” performed by Frank Sinatra in a very entertaining way, he had three outstanding quads (two Salchows and one toe loop) in his program plus two triple Axels, more jumps and very good spins and steps as well. His program components had an average of 9.8, with no less than 26 (of possible 45) perfect 10.0. This outstanding performance had nevertheless been in limbo after the Short Program because he suffered from a sudden inflammed bursa on his right heel since the short program, and did not know if he would be able to skate at all.
Later he said: “It was not an easy day, it was not an easy month, a couple of injuries, I couldn’t do practice yesterday or today. I went to the medical room today and they helped me so much that now I can have my skate on and I can actually skate. I knew that to have a chance to beat Yuzuru. I need to do the best program of my life, a clean program. To go to do the competition, to have this in your brain knowing you have so many problems before, is something not easy to do. I kept my mind really set and just think about “it was the last competition of the season and after this I was done” and it helped me a lot (laughs). Being world champion for the second time is as if somebody told me that I was going to be four times European champion in a row it would be exactly the same “you’re out of your mind!” I have a right heel inflammation but not something to worry about. I had a good padding to cover the area, they gave me ultrasound, they treated me very well.” Fernandez also spoke about Brian Orser’s role: “Brian is the person with us every single day, it doesn’t matter if we are in a good mood or a bad mood or if we do a good practice or a terrible practice -- he is the person there helping you no matter what.”
Yuzuru Hanyu had been in the lead with a distance of 12 points to the rest of the field after a phenomenal short program. But this was not enough to defend his first place because he had 32 points less in the free than his training mate Fernandez. The Olympic champion from Japan began with a quad Salchow but with a touch-down. His quad toe loop was good, the triple flip very good, but later he fell on the second quad Salchow. Then he pulled together and continued with an excellent combination of triple axel and triple toe loop. But the second triple axel was overturned, so that he did not combine it in a sequence with a triple Salchow, but a double one. He touched his hand down on the triple Lutz. Because of these mistakes, the whole performance to Asian folk music was not that good and his components were only around 9.2, which is low for him. During practice the day before the free, he would have nearly collided with Denis Ten from Kazakhstan and accused him in the Japanese media to have stood in his way intentionally, which Ten denied. These verbal fights are common for some Asian skaters, but sometimes they like to make a story for some of the media. Maybe this fight prevented him from concentration on his free program.
After his free program he explained: “I can’t explain my feelings. I am really a little regretful about my long program. I want to do it again. I am really sad, and I am really happy for Javi’s program. I think that I was very calm before the free skate, but it’s not only this calmness that affects a performance. Of course, there is my physical condition and my mental condition, and I think that the balance between these two is very important. I do not think that I was able to achieve this balance today, and I felt that as I skated. I was nervous throughout my performance. I was unsure about the quadruple Salchow in the second half, and I also had a mistake on one of my best jumps, the triple Axel, so I am disappointed by that. At the same time, the free skate aside, I was able to put out a good performance in the short program, so I want to take pride in that.”
Boyang Jin from China won the bronze medal with 270.99 points, but it was no glamorous performance for the public because he is more a jumper than an artist. He stepped out of his planned quadruple Lutz, continued with a clean quad Salchow and a good sequence of triple axel and triple Salchow. The first quad toe loop was shaky, the second one clean. The rest of the program was good, but not outstanding. His components were around 7.6, which was very generous.
He commented: “For my performance today, I think it was not bad. The landing of my first jump was not good, but I was able to adjust my mindset right after that, and I was able to execute the rest of my difficult elements with ease and thus the execution was pretty good. Before this competition, there was a time that I couldn’t do systematic training. It wasn’t until I came to the U.S. that I restarted routine training. Because of this, I feel quite satisfied with my performance today. As for today’s result, I think I really need to learn a lot from the champion and the second place. I have learned a lot from them in the competitions, and I still think I can learn much more from them in the future. For me, those quads were challenges. I conquered the first quad, got consistent, and then I continued to do another, one by one. I just want to challenge them. For me, competition is all about challenge. I know that it is very difficult, and very risky, but I love to try, I love to challenge. The two skaters are much more experienced than me, and they know better how to pull out the best of yourself in real competition at big stage. From now on I still need to learn a lot from them to be consistent in competitions. I feel very excited to be the first man to win a bronze medal for China. For me, the meaning of it is really huge. It made my goal clearer for next season.”
The new Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada finished in a surprising fourth place, mainly thanks to good jumps, to a flamboyant style and to his visible joy of skating. In the free program he skated to the soundtrack “The Nightmare before Christmas” by Danny Elfman. He began with an excellent quad toe loop, which was rewarded with four GOEs of +3 and five +2. After two very good triple axels five other triple jumps followed and the spins and steps were first class as well. His components had an average of 8.5. He commented: “I just didn’t think too much and wanted to do what I can do. I was watching what Hanyu was doing, he is great. It is very hard what he is doing and you have to work very hard for this, physically. But I try not to think about anything and anyone. It’s just the ice and me, that’s it. It was great that the arena was full, but I don’t think about it and everything works out. It helped me to skate first in the group. I don’t like to wait and to get nervous.” The Russian champion Maxim Kovtun, however, showed bad nerves and skated one of the worst programs in recent years and dropped to 18th place.
Patrick Chan from Canada finished in a disappointing fifth position with 266.75 after making several serious mistakes in his free program. He tripled his opening toe loop which was planned quadruple. After a good triple axel he performed a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but came too close to the border and had to lean his hands on the board. Next came his step sequence which was as outstanding as usual. But then he singled his second triple axel and later doubled a flip. These mistakes did not influence much his obvious performance. Therefore his components stayed high and had an average of 9.3.
He said: “My skate was not good. That’s pretty obvious. It could be a lot better. I am just not happy with the conditions I am being in, skating last after two groups of men, the ice just wasn’t to my desire. I don’t think anyone really understands that – it’s because of how I skate. The skating just didn’t feel good. I like to enjoy my skating and today I wasn’t able to do that. I thought I felt good, but actually I felt like I was fighting my skates or my feet all the time. As a whole, my comeback year was very successful. Back at Worlds after two years of not competing there is a big step. My plan is to go to the Olympics - and that is still two years away – if everything goes well and I’m healthy and still feel motivated after the summer, I think it would be wise to keep going.”
The three Americans gave excellent performances, fought to the end in good physical condition and all got standing ovations. They showed how strong U.S. skaters are mentally, compared to many Europeans. None of the U.S. men won a medal and they even missed the third spot for the USA in the next year by one placement. The best two scored 14 together (sixth and eighth), but the limit for three spots is 13. Adam Rippon on sixth positon with 264.44 points was the best of them. For the first time he landed a quadruple Lutz in an important competition, which was deeply landed and under-rotated, but it was not downgraded and he did not fall. Afterwards he performed eight clean triple jumps, two of them with both hands of his heads. The rest of his program and his interpretation of a Beatles medley were very convincing as well. It really was the best program he ever competed in his career.
“It feels like all the hard work that I’ve put in going into this competition I was able to put forward into this performance”, he explained. “I knew as soon as I landed the quad Lutz that it was under-rotated, but I kept going and I didn‘t let that change anything that I had to do the rest of the program. I‘m really satisfied with what I did today because right before I went out I was like, oh my God, I’m going to do a long program but I feel like I could take a nap. I just let my training kick in, that’s what Rafael (Arutunian) told me before I went out. I looked at my other coach Derrick (Delmore), I looked at Rafael, I was ready and I went out and I laid down one of my best long programs and I‘m so happy it was at Worlds in Boston. It was awesome! I was really nervous going into today. I felt a little shaky in my warmup. I fought through everything but at the same time I tried to have the best time ever and I did.”
Max Aaron finished eighth with 254.14 points. Two quad Salchows and six triple jumps were his highlights and his interpretation of the “Black Swan” was better than in previous years. After his competition he said: “Skating in front of a home crowd, I’m telling you, there’s nothing like this. I’ve never been to Olympic Games, but if this is anything like the Olympic Games, I can’t tell you how much fun I would have out there if I can make it. This is truly special. It’s a moment I will never forget. I’ve always wanted this on home soil. The short program was a little bit of a bummer, but to come out here and give everything I got, it was fun. My goal was just to deliver. I came up short, didn’t get a clean short program, but close to a clean long.”
Grant Hochstein, alternate for the injured Nathan Chen, also gave a very good performance and finished tenth, earning 237.25 points. He began with a clean quad toe loop followed by eight triple jumps, among them two axels. His interpretation of the French musical “Les Miserables” was strong and his components were around 7.7. He explained: “I received a standing ovation. I‘m like what is it cloud 9? I‘m like on cloud 11. It‘s what I‘ve been working towards. When you get to a big competition like this, it‘s kind of surprising, but I was prepared to skate that way. Gosh, it felt good. Just being at worlds is a dream and after I got here I don‘t even know how far my dreams extended. I think it’s pretty close to everything I wanted it to be. In other countries people don‘t really know who I am yet -- Yuzuru Hanyu gets these big screams and I kind of get nice little claps, so it‘s nice to have the home crowd behind me.”
Shoma Uno from Japan made several mistakes and dropped from fourth to seventh place, earning 264.25 points. Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic fell on a quad Salchow but could land all triple jumps in his best performance of the season and finished ninth with 237.99 points. Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten was still out of shape after his injuries and finished only 11th with 230.13 points.