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2017 World Championships: Men's Free Skate

by Klaus Reinhold Kany


(2 April 2017)  The men’s competition at Worlds 2017 had a good,though not excellent level but ended with a surprise.  2014 Olympic Champion Yuruzu Hanyu had been fifth in the short program and almost nine points behind Fernandez. But with a stellar free program the Japanese super star moved up to first place to become World Champion a second time after 2014, winning 312.59 overall points. For his free program alone, he got 223.20 points which is a new world record, but he did not beat his overall world record from the Grand Prix Final in December 2015.

All 13 elements in his free program were excellent. He began with a quad loop which he learnt only last summer. Four judges awarded it with GOEs of +3, five with +2. Next was a quad Salchow, followed by a second quad Salchow and a quad toe loop. So he had four clean quads, more than ever. The two triple Axels and other elements got mainly GOEs of +2 and some +3. He skated to the heavy Japanese music called „Hope and Legacy“ by Jo Hisaishi, which is not ideal for him. Nevertheless his components had an average of 9.7, with 12 perfect 10.0 from seven different judges. At the end the fans threw hundreds of presents on the ice. In Japan he is as popular as pop stars or famous actors and makes millions of dollars per year with commercials.

Later he commented: “After the short program I was so deeply depressed but I think my fans and my team believed in me so I was able to pull off this performance today. Of course I'm happy with the scores. My free program music is rather quiet, it's not the type of music that makes people excited too much, but I could hear the audience cheer for me. Last season I performed a clean program at NHK Trophy and at the Grand Prix Final. I have upgraded my program now and it's technically more challenging. Under the current contents of my programs I feel very happy that I was able to skate clean, especially having all the combination jumps in the second half. Still, I feel it's very difficult to put out two clean programs. Scientifically someone told me that five rotations in the air is a possibility but the ISU doesn’t even have a score for that yet. For myself, I like to try a quad Axel in the future.”

Hanyu’s younger countryman Shoma Uno won the silver medal with 319.31 points, only two points less than Hanyu. He also performed four quad jumps: loop, flip and two toe loops. Everything was good except a stepped-out triple Lutz. He skated to a dark Tango medley and had components around 9.4, with three 10.0. For the first time had had more than 200 points in the free skate. “I'm very happy with the results,” he explained. “Last year I finished my season with tears at Worlds, but I here I was able to finish with a smile. There were so many people and so much support.  Hearing the applause at the end of the program was just incredible, I loved it. I have been practicing hard, and my only motivation was to exceed Yuzuru's skating. I think the performance gave me confidence for the Olympic season that it is also possible to add another quad and skate clean.”

The third Asian skaters on the podium was Boyang Jin from China, earning 303.58 points. Like the two Japanese he had four good quads in his program: a Lutz, a Salchow and two toe loops. The two triple Axels and everything else was clean as well, he skated to the soundtrack of “La Strada” and had components of around 8.6. He said: “I feel very satisfied with my performance here. I don't think too much about the medals but I just want to focus on my program and make it perfect, and I did it today. I can feel that the spectators are very excited about my performance, and their cheering and applause for me just lifted me up.”

2015 and 2016 World Champion Javier Fernandez from Spain finished only fourth, earning 301.19 points. He began with an outstanding quad toe loop for which all nine judges gave him GOEs of +3. But his combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was a bit wobbly, then he fell on the second quad Salchow and made two more mistakes on triple jumps. The other elements were as excellent as usual. He commented: “It’s fine. We know, figure skating is a hard sport. We have to take this as a positive thing heading into the Olympic season. Maybe it means there won’t be so much pressure.”

Patrick Chan from Canada finished fifth with 295.16 points. A quad toe loop and a quad Salchow at the beginning were excellent, but later he stepped out of two other jumps. His style was as stellar as usual and therefore he had components around 9.5.

Nathan Chen ended up a disappointing sixth place with 290.72 points. He tried six quads, more than anybody else. But he fell on the opening Lutz. His toe loop was deeply landed, then he fell again on the Salchow and the second toe loop combination was not clean. Only the two quad flips were good. His components were around 8.5, which was too high. Especially the 9.25 for performance from the British judges were ridiculous. A performance with so many mistakes cannot be excellent. One reason for his mistakes were boot problems because the boots he had been wearing for less than a month began to fall apart, no wonder with all his quad practice. He taped them, but did not feel well.

“This wasn't the program I wanted to perform,” he said. “This first World Championships was a totally new experience for me and it was cool and exhilarating. I need to make sure I have extra boots and blades at home so I don't lose valuable training time before Worlds.”

Jason Brown placed seventh after a free program with a fall on the quad toe loop at the beginning, but an otherwise excellent program with outstanding spins and steps (eight times GOEs of +3 for the step sequence) and two good triple Axels. He said: “I performed it the best that I could. Regarding the performance aspect I gave it my absolute all. The crowd was absolutely incredible and I tried to perform to them the entire time. It's one of my best scores of the season and my best score combined.”

The two Russian skaters Mikhail Kolyada and Maxim Kovtun were so-so and finished eighth and eleventh. Misha Ge from Uzbekistan (12th) got a huge standing ovation for his classical Nutcracker farewell program with eight clean triple jumps, because he wants to finish his career.

The 24 Olympic spots go to the following countries: Japan 3 (because of placement points 1 and 2), China 2 (because of third place), Spain 2, Canada 2 (5 and 9 are more than 13), USA 3 ( 6 and 7 are exactly 13), Russia 2 (8 and 11 are more than 13), Israel 2. One spot goes to Uzbekistan, Georgia, Latvia, Australia, Kazakhstan, France, Czech Republic and Germany. Skates from the other countries, including Jorik Hendrickx from Belgium may get the remaining six spots at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany in September. If countries do not take their spots, more than six countries from Nebelhorn may compete at the Olympics. This may come true for Uzbekistan because Misha Ge announced his retirement and the country has no other skater at the moment who is good enough to get the ISU minimum for the Olympics.