Hanyu completes the “Golden Slam”
by Tatiana Flade
(11 February 2020) Yuzuru Hanyu has won it all – the Olympic Games, World Championships, ISU Grand Prix Final, National Championships, Junior World Championships - and only one title was missing on his impressive resume: The Four Continents. The Japanese star had competed three times at Four Continents before, in 2011, 2013 and 2017, and each time finished second. Now he finally captured this last missing jewel in his crown.
The two-time World Champion started his quest with an excellent Short Program. Following the National Championships where he lost to Shoma Uno, Hanyu had gone back to the programs he had used in 2017/18 and in 2015/16 “Ballade No.1”by Frederic Chopin for the Short Program and the Japanese themed “Seimei”. Some people criticized him for recycling these programs one more time, but Hanyu explained why he did it: “I feel that these programs are really my own, I feel comfortable with them. Otonal and Origins were tributes to Johnny Weir and Evgeni Plushenko and I felt something like they were a copy.” Probably there simply was not enough to make two completely new programs for the rest of the season, so he decided to return to these popular ones, although he admitted it made him nervous, because these programs are connected to his second Olympic victory.
The Short was perfect with quad Salchow, triple Axel and quad toe-triple toe and Hanyu posted a new personal best and record score with 111.82 points. He led with 16 points to spare over Boyang Jin, who produced a quad Lutz-triple toe combination, a quad toe and a wobbly triple Axel in his routine to “First Light”.
“Overall my performance was OK but it could have been better,” Jin said. “The quad Lutz and the triple Axel were not as good as they could have been and I hope to do better. My goal is to take another medal here. I have been practicing really well and I want to perform as well as I can do in practice and meet my goal.”
Jason Brown came third with a clean and expressive performance to “I Can’t Go On Without You” and a season’s best of 94.71 points. “Breaking my season’s best was my goal coming into Four Continents. As the season goes on you always want to improve your score,” the 2018 Four Continents bronze medalist commented. “I’ve had a rough early start of the season. To be able to really learn from those events and come out and do a strong program at this Four Continents Championship makes me really proud of that.”
In the Free Skating, Hanyu went for the quad Lutz, an element he has been fighting with over the years but that he really wants to tackle. He rotated, but stumbled out of it. The following quad Salchow was good, and he also pulled off a shaky quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow, a triple Axel, a triple flip, but he fell on an under-rotated quad toe. His victory nevertheless was not in danger. The 25-year-old scored 187.60 points and for a total of 299.42 points. When he knew he had won, you could see how happy and excited he was.
“There was a little bit of a problem with the ice in before I skated (some holes had to be patched up). Because of that problem, I was unusually nervous. But I think I tried my best,” Hanyu said. “I was disappointed (with my mistakes), but I will be able to prepare for the World Championship by analyzing today’s mistakes and I would like to improve my skating to not to repeat these mistakes in other competitions.”
The super star found nice words for the Korean audience: “Every time I visit to Korea, I am always amazed by the support and cheering of the Korean Fans. I am really thankful to all Korean Fans who give me warm support even though I am Japanese. I am even more grateful because I know that such a heartful and deep cheering from the Korean Fans is something that transcends all relationships between Japan and Korea. So I want to say “thank you very much” to all fans in Korea.”
Brown skated last in the event and put out an emotional performance to “Schindler’s List”, nailing a triple Axel-double toe, another triple Axel as well as six triples and his trademark exquisite spins and footwork. There was just one error when he doubled his planned quad toe. The National silver medalist achieved a personal best score of 180.11 and moved up to second place at 274.82 points overall.
“I’m super excited, I was really focused on going out there and skating my best performance that I could,” Brown shared. “I’m disappointed with my little blip, I was so close to skating completely clean, so that’s a little bit of a bummer. I think I was rewarded for what I did, So I’m really excited heading into the World Championships because I left a good 12 points on the table that I hope to get in Montreal.”
Yuma Kagiyama is a new big talent from Japan that had a breakthrough this season. The 16-year-old qualified for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final, captured bronze at the senior-level Nationals and then won the Youth Olympic Games in January. In Seoul, Kagiyama put out two clean performances that featured a quad toe in the short and two quad toes in the long program. He not only has jumps, but shows good overall quality in his elements and skating and has good speed throughout. The Japanese Junior Champion was fifth in the Short Program but then overtook two skaters to claim the bronze in his first ISU Championship. The only glitch in his dynamic performance to the jazzy “Tucker” soundtrack was a step out of the second triple Axel which is by the way the last jump in his program. Kagiyama scored a personal best in both programs and accumulated 270.61 points.
“I never could have imagined getting a medal here and I’m still in shock. I am surprised with this good result,” he commented. “I’m happy with my performance, I was able to skate without thinking too much. The (mistake on the) Axel was a problem of my stamina, but I enjoyed to skate and to make the audience happy.”
Jin dropped to fourth as he popped the planned quad Salchow and second toe into doubles, but he landed a quad Lutz and a quad toe-double toe as well as two triple Axels. However, although the two-time World bronze medalist has been improving, he is still lacking in the components department and when he makes mistakes, the judges are quick to penalize him (267.67 points).
“Except for the two pops in my quad jumps, the rest of my performance was good. When I go back home I will concentrate on my quads jumps. Not only my landings, but on the overall quality. Especially the jumps I popped today, I will not let the same mistake happen again,” Jin noted.
Junhwan Cha seems back on track and came fifth with two solid performances (265.43 points). The Korean Champion still has some problems with under-rotations that cost him points. In the Tango Short Program, the 18-year-old under-rotated the triple Axel and in the Free Skating to “The Fire Within” by Jennifer Thomas, the Technical Panel called a triple Axel, triple flip and a double toe under-rotated. On the other hand, Cha landed a quad toe and a quad Salchow. The Free Skating music actually does not have much fire – unlike the title suggests – and is a bit monotonous. It is risky if the skater has to carry the music, especially when making mistakes the overall impression suffers a lot. This time there were no visible mistakes, but still the program is not so captivating.
For the three Canadian men Nam Nguyen, Keegan Messing and Roman Sadovsky, a spot on the World team was on the line as Skate Canada decided to use Four Continents as qualifier to determine the team for the Men and also the Ladies. All three felt this additional pressure, because all three were dreaming of competing in Montreal on home ice. In the end, Nguyen dealt best with it and came out on top. Most likely he will be nominated for Worlds. In the short to “Blues for Klook”, the National silver medalist skated clean with a quad Salchow-triple toe, triple Axel and triple flip, but lost some points on the grades of execution and he ranked 9th. Nguyen delivered again in the Beatles Free Skating that included a quad Salchow-triple toe, a quad Salchow as well as five triples. The Canadian skater showed fighting spirit when he popped his first Axel into a single and then threw in another triple Axel later in the program. He moved up to sixth place (251.60 points).
“The crowd was great, especially in the choreographic step sequence, they really worked with me there. I’m really happy with the recovery from that mistake (popped triple Axel) and then I just focused on trying to push to the end,” the 21-year-old said. “The selection for Worlds is not from the skaters’ side, it’s the executive and officials’ side, our job as skaters it to do our work,” he added.
Nguyen’s team mate Keegan Messing stood in fourth place after a strong Short Program to “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran with a quad toe-triple toe. However, he struggled in the long, falling on a triple Lutz and doubling the Axel in two attempts. He finished eighth on 243.93 points.
“I felt very, very good about my short program. As many know, it is dedicated to my wife. The free skate – I’m very disappointed with how it went out. I thought I was training very well at home with it back home or at least putting in the work. I’m not really sure what attributed to it here, whether it was lack of training, whether it was jet lag or time change. I felt like I was skating pretty well here, but I was never able to feel my legs get underneath. It just really felt like it came through in the long program. I did the first two elements and after that I felt my legs and I just got tired and more tired and it went downhill from there,” Messing said.
Canadian Champion Roman Sadovsky lost his chance for a ticket to Worlds in the Short Program where he ranked 17th after doubling the Salchow and missing the triple Axel. He fared not much better in the Free Skating where he fell on two jumps and under-rotated a total of four jumps (16th).
Kazuki Tomono of Japan, who had replaced Shoma Uno on the team, finished seventh. He nailed the quad toe-triple toe, quad Salchow and triple Axel in the Short Program. Except for a double Salchow instead of a quad, the Japanese skater made no major error in his routine to “Tango de Roxanne”, but some landings were a bit shaky. He remained in 7th place (251.05 points). "Before the performance I was not really ready, I wasn’t warmed up. So I was worried I was not able to perform properly and to my full potential. I tried to remain calm throughout my performance. I kept on imagining my training in my mind and that helped me perform better than usual. I’m proud that I’m developing and getting better with every competition. My goal actually was to get over 250 points overall and I’m glad I achieved that,“ Tomono commented.
Tomoki Hiwatashi (USA) turned in a dynamic and clean Short Program with a quad toe and landed two quad toes in the Free Skating, but crashed on a triple Axel to finish ninth. China’s Han Yan continued his comeback this season with two decent performances. He did not risk a quad, but most of his other elements were of good quality and he came 10th.
"I enjoyed skating so much that makes me wonder why did not I skate last season. I should have come back earlier. Although I did mistakes I will probably have a chance to go to Worlds but I did not make any plans specifically for it because for me I think I just want to do as I had thought I just can do training and just make every step I can. I felt really great after the short program and even today I felt great. Skating in front of the crowd always really motivated me. And although I did a few mistakes I feel I have done what I could right now,” the Chinese said.
Camden Pulkinen (USA) placed 11th in his debut at the Four Continents Championships. He saved the landing of the quad toe in the short, but made some errors in the long.
“It could have gone a bit smoother but I am happy that I have fought through the last three elements”, the 19-year-old noted. “There are a lot more people in the audience (than at junior events) and I feel like I have a little bit more pressure because it is towards the end of the season and everybody is skating very well. And that is what I was happy for I could deal with today. Skating with the best skaters in the world, it is always very motivating to see what experienced seniors are doing and to see where I want in the future.”