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2016 World Championships

Hanyu Gives Short Program Performance Near His World Record

by Klaus Reinhold Kany

(31 March 2016)  The short program of the 30 men at the World championships in Boston was a bit disappointing overall because many good skaters made serious mistakes. In the last few years, the men’s short program has often been a highlight of ISU championships in spite of the high risk which many skaters take with quads and triple Axels. Only for two years, two quad jumps are allowed in a short program, and more and more men do risk them.

But there was one positive exception: The winner Yuzuru Hanyu skated a phenomenal short program which was rewarded with 110.56 points, which came very near his world record of the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona three months ago where he had gained 110.95 points.

 In Boston he opened with a superb quad Salchow which was rewarded with eight GOEs of +3, only one “black sheep” gave only a +2, but this is acceptable. The combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was brilliant as well; the triple Axel and the three level 4 spins no less. All nine judges gave him a GOE of +3 for his easy-looking step sequence (level 3). The etherical Chopin music, the ballade number 1, opus 23 in G minor, underlined his style. When he is skating you don’t hear any noise on in the ice, he seems to fly over the ice like an angel or a cloud. Therefore his components had an average of 9.8, with 17 (of 45 possible) perfect 10.0. After Japanese Nationals he had stayed in Japan until the end of February, waiting a small foot injury to heal. In the last four weeks he trained again with Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson, Jeffrey Buttle and Shae-Lynn Bourne in Toronto.

He commented: “First of all, I was very nervous today, or rather the quality of this nervousness felt different from usual. My mental state was all over the place, but the fact that I could pull my emotions together in the middle of all of this and put out a great performance on this biggest stage that is the World Championships, I think, is a good thing. I still have things I need to work on, such as the quad toe and the step sequence, and I would like to focus on improving for the free skate rather than thinking about next season. Of course as everyone’s expectations rise, the pressure I feel rises as well, but the quality I strive for in my skating has not changed at all. Regardless of what anyone says, I felt that I was able to skate with confidence and joy today, and I am happy about this."

"Javier, sitting next to me, won the title last year, and Patrick has won three times, so I respect them both very much. And of course, I also respect the athletes who are not at this press conference. It is because I respect everyone so much that my desire to become number one is so strong, and I trained with the goal of becoming World Champion again. But today during the short program, I was able to focus on my skating rather than on this feeling, and I think that maybe this was the right answer and a way for me to focus. Even though this is my fifth World Championships, I go in each time with the same focus and the desire to perform well.”

2015 world champion Javier Fernandez from Spain sits in second place with 98.52 points, performing to a vocal Malaguena version. Although he has performed quad Salchows and quad toe loops in his long programs for years, he started doing both of them in the short program only at the Grand Prix Final of this season. He said he felt it was necessary to stay competitive with the other best skaters in the world. During the short program in Boston, he began with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but then he fell on the quad Salchow which normally is his better quad jump. The other elements were excellent. His components were around 9.3, with some 9.75 as highest ones.

“There was a little mistake in the quad Sal I’ve got to say”, he said. “I felt great going into it, but on the landing I lost my balance. But the program felt great. I tried not to give any points away in the steps and spins. Other than the mistake everything else was good. That’s why I got a big score even having a fall on the second quad. To do two quads in the short program is hard, there are more risks to make mistakes. Hopefully in the free skating keep more concentrated. Yuzuru is ten points ahead and I just want to skate the best I can. There are so many good skaters in the competition and there are so many surprises. You never know what’s going to happen. Every competition, every season is different. That’s why I think to get a world title for the second time sometimes is even more difficult. If you are World Champion one time and follow your life to get it again maybe that’s going to put you off in other ways. Honestly today when I was skating I didn’t remember I was defending or I had to defend my title. It was not in my mind. It is true that during the season in some competitions I was thinking about myself if I do something wrong - the World Champion is doing mistakes. Today I didn’t have this feeling at all and I hope to keep this for the free skating, because it kind of calms you down a little bit and you focus on what you really have to do.”

Patrick Chan is third, earning 94.84 points. Skating to “Mack the Knife”, he began with an excellent combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop. But then he fell on the triple Axel. The other five elements were brilliant again, including a step sequence which was rewarded with eight GOEs of +3. The steps and his general skating skills are the main reason anyway for his success in skating. Bus he has no other quad in his repertoire, so he gets around seven technical points less in technical value only because of that.

He commented: “Good performance, I felt happy getting off the ice and of course part of it is because I’m relieved. There’s a lot of pressure that I haven’t had in two seasons. If I look at how I felt, mentally and physically, going into the short program from Skate Canada to now, I’m very happy with how much I’ve improved already, this year being a comeback year. For me, I look at the bigger picture. I can leave tomorrow and live a life that I will forever be happy with and extremely successful. Coming here and competing, and putting myself through this kind of stress and pressure, competing against the best, is a tough situation. So I have to find a reason why to do it. It’s the reason why the greats have a hard time leaving because they feel like they always have more to give. For me, giving more isn’t necessarily about the jumps but it’s about how the performance makes me feel. I’m here because the feeling and the sheer joy, that feeling – my free skate at 2016 Four Continents, for example - is beyond any kind of feeling you get standing on any kind of podium, Olympics or Worlds. That performance was so exhilarating and that’s what I want to strive for. Kathy (Johnson), David (Wilson) and I work every year to experiment, try to emote something different within the audience and myself. Being away from two world championships, this one feels a bit like my first one again just because I’m a different skater and person now. It was a fresh start and it’s refreshing to be back at worlds, especially one in Boston, in North America, which will probably be my last in North America. I just enjoyed it.”

Shoma Uno from Japan, Junior World Champion one year ago, is currently fourth with 90.74 points. His quad toe loop was good, his triple Axel as well, but in the combination he doubled a shaky toe loop after the triple flip. He skated to “Legends” by Sacred Spirits, with deep edges and soft knees. His components were around 8.7. “I am first of all not satisfied with my jumps, and secondly with the transitions”, he said. “I went into these World Championships as a way to test and show why I had practiced so hard, but I could not perform to my satisfaction. I am particularly disappointed that I made a mistake on the jump with the lowest degree of difficulty. But, the fact that I landed the 4T and 3A well is the one positive thing.”

Boyang Jin from China sits in fifth place, winning 89.86 points. He began with a combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop and landed the Lutz on one foot, but overturned it. The triple Axel was good, but the quad toe loop a bit shaky. “I didn’t do well in my first jump, the landing of the quad Lutz was not very good. But I think my overall performance today was not bad. I feel very excited and proud to be the first man to land a quad Lutz at a World championship. The World Figure Skating Championships has a very long history, and being the first man to have done something feels great.”

The new Russian star Mikhail Kolyada finished sixth in spite of having to skate in the first group, earning 89.66 points after a clean and stylish Tango program which included a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a Biellmann spin. He said: “This was my best performance in an international competition so far. When I stepped onto the ice, I felt such a drive and this is how I skated. I came to the USA (to West Orange in New Jersey) two weeks ago and adjusted to the time difference and the rink size. Now I will watch the others, I’ve never seen Yuzuru Hanyu live before.”

U.S. Champion Adam Rippon of Artesia, California, was the best of the three American skaters and is currently on seventh position after a clean program without quad, but with four good triple jumps and 85.72 points. He recently has not only worked with Rafael Arutunian and his wife Nadesha Kanaeva, but also with Derrick Delmore. He said: “My goal today was to skate a clean solid program, get a good score and set myself up so that I can relax and skate a clean long and to bring the house down. It’s such an incredible experience to skate at a world championship at home and it’s unlike anything I’ve done before and I’m definitely one of the luckiest guys in the world to have that experience.”

Max Aaron sits on eighth place, earning 81.28 points. He touched down his hand on the quad Salchow and could not add a triple toe loop, but later he added this toe loop to the triple Lutz, which is allowed in seniors. “It’s great to be back and skating here in the US at the World Championships is just unreal”, he commented. “I enjoyed every second of it, and the crowd was amazing. It was not my best skate, I made a lot of small mistakes, those add up quickly. But I’m still in the game.”

Ivan Righini is ninth with 81.17 points after performing a very emotional and showy program to “You raise me up” by Josh Groban. Like Adam Rippon, he put both arms over his head during the triple flip and the triple Lutz. He motivated the spectators to give him more applause during his performance. “I skated for my second coach Igor Pashkevich (who died some days ago for still not published reasons (suicide because of depressions?). It was also for everybody, for kids, for people who skate. It‘s really emotional; it‘s not just a sport, it‘s life. We live, eat, sleep with this sport and think every minute and second about it. When we lose somebody I was trying to show this in my skating tonight. I fell on a gift for the skater before me pretty hard and actually I woke up I heard the people start to scream watch out but it was already too late and I fell pretty hard, pain in my left leg but I put it behind me. It actually worked for me.”

The 16-year-old super talent Deniss Vasilievs from Latvia is tenth with 81.07 points after a clean program with four triple jumps. He said: “When I stepped out on the ice I saw all these people and I felt their energy. It really boosted me. I just love performing in front of a big audience. I wanted to perform well for this audience and when I heard their applause it was great and when I saw some people standing at the end of the performance it was the best ever for me. I am so happy that my coach Alexei Urmanov finally had time for me and came to Boston with me. He is a kind of god for me”

Michal Brezina fell on his quad Salchow as usual, made two other mistakes and therefore is only eleventh with 79.29 points in spite of high components.

 Denis Ten has suffered from several injuries this season and still is not in very good shape. The Olympic Bronze medalist from Sotchi is 12th ( 78.55 points) after a program with a step-out on the quad toe loop and a fall on the double toe loop after the triple Lutz of his combination.

The Russian champion Maxim Kovtun is only 13th mainly due to a silly mistake. After a good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop he tripled the second toe loop which was also planned quadruple. But in the short program it is forbidden to repeat any jump. Therefore his second toe loop got zero points. He explained: “It was a lack of focus. It was just my mistake, I didn’t rotate the toe.”

Grant Hochstein of Artesia sits on 16th place with 74.81 points. He is in Boston as alternate for Nathan Chen. He fell on his opening quad toe loop and the triple Axel was a hit shaky, but the other elements were good. He explained: “The magnitude of my first world championship didn‘t really hit me until right before the warm-up started. The best part of the experience for me so far was when they called my name. It was so cool. This the first time ever competed internationally in the U.S. and to have it be Worlds and have the audience behind me was just amazing. I haven‘t missed the quad combo in practice all week. I thought I had that quad, I really did. Even though the short didn’t go exactly as I wanted, I’m just loving every second of it all.”

Han Yan from China, third at the Four Continents Championships in February and tenth at last year’s Worlds, is 26th after three mistakes on the jumps and missed the final. Nam Nguyen from Canada finished only 27th and therefore did not reach the final of the 24 best skaters either. He had been nominated for Canada’s second spot even he was only fourth at Nationals this season. But the second placed skater Liam Firus has never skated very well in other countries and was only not good at Four Continents. Therefore he says that he suggested to his federation to nominate Nguyen because as fifth in Worlds last year he has a better chance to help Canada to get three spots for the pre-Olympic Worlds next year in Helsinki when the majority of the Olympic spots are decided.

 Canadian officials confirmed that it was Firus’ own decision not to skate in Boston, but doubts are allowed if the federation did not “help” him to take this decision. If Nguyen had been in a good shape, it would have been a decision which made sense. But due to another growth spurt, Nguyen had problems all season, fell on the quad toe loop in Boston and singled the triple Axel. The bronze medal winner at Canadian Nationals, Kevin Reynolds, tried to get the ISU minimum for Worlds in vain and therefore could not be nominated.