Home Archive Photos Slideshows Database


2021 World Championships: Men's Free Skate

by Liz Leamy and George Rossano

Chen Triumphs to Take World Championship Men’s Title

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Nathan Chen, the fierce and ever-spirited two-time World champion and five-time U.S. titlist, claimed his third World crown in triumphant fashion, catapulting from third in the short to a resounding first-place finish overall with a superb free skate netting him 222.03 points for a 320.88 total, numbers that put him nearly 30 points ahead of the rest of the 33-member men’s roster.

Skating to music by Philip Glass, a composer of whom Chen said he has been very much inspired, the 21 year-old Salt Lake City native skated with true warrior-like spirit throughout the entire program, as he reeled off a quad Lutz, quad flip-triple toe loop, quad Salchow, quad toe loop-1/2 Euler-triple flip, quad toe-triple toe loop and triple Axel, along with several triples with great power, strength and command. It was the only fully clean program of the top six free skates.

After a third place result in the short program and finding himself eight point back going into the free skate it was a dramatic accomplishment to rise to the top.

Going into the free skate it was his mindset he said that, “I just didn't want to lose that [quad] Lutz again. I had struggled on that Lutz a little bit at Nationals as well to start off my free program and I always don't like starting with an error; it's hard to regroup after that. My intent was 'hit the Lutz, move on.' In theory I can come back, but realistically I know these guys (his competition) are going to lay [it] down [and I wanted] to be able to leave this competition satisfied with how I skated in the free. I was able to do that so I'm pretty thrilled. As an athlete we train and live for these moments, and without competitions and these major events it's pointless to be at the rink every single day training, right? Having reminded myself of all of that I think I put myself in a much more pleasant mental state heading into the free.”

“It’s amazing; the fact that I’m able to be here at this world championship after that unprecedented year -- I’m very happy to be here. I’m very elated right now. … I just tried to remind myself to enjoy being here. The fact that I don’t know how many more world championships I’ll be able to compete in. I tried to embrace this moment and remember that. It’s such a cool experience for me to be here; I’m really lucky and I tried to remind myself of that. … I was a lot more calm the way that it went today so I’m pretty happy,” he revealed.

This program, choreographed by Shae-Lynn Bourne, the 2003 Canadian World Dance Champion with Victor Kraatz, seemed to be an inspirational factor for his outstanding performance.

“The music is beautiful and [it’s important] to have music you love as you skate,” said Chen, who is enrolled at Yale University where he plans to resume studies in 2022 following competition next season. “I’m happy with this music and I’m happy Shae-Lynn chose this music for me.”

Chen, who trains in Irvine, California with Rafael Arutyunyan, was awarded a 125.89 technical score, marks that put him more than 23 points for technical elements above the rest of the competition.

Notably, Chen skated with tremendous heart, involvement and presence, performing all his elements and connecting moves with confidence while at the same time, expressing the compelling narrative of the music. In turn, he earned a high 96.14 component score.

For Chen, it was just an honor to have an opportunity to compete at this celebrated event, which was held in the Ericsson Globe Arena, the largest spherical structure in the world that seats up to 16,000 people.

“Being present at this huge arena, I sort of did imagine people being there,” said Chen. “The fact that we’re here at Worlds is pretty incredible. We’re here, we’re competing and we have this great opportunity.”

Chen said he is looking forward to building on all aspects of his skating going forward into the next season.

“There’s so much passion and energy that comes from all different parts of the sport,” said Chen. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how skating develops in the next year.”

His immediate plans he said were, “Get home, see my family, nothing crazy right now. I’m really happy at this moment.” He also commented that for next season having two new programs was “Highly likely.”

Commenting on competing against Yuzuru Hanyo he remarked, “Of course he didn't have the [free] skate that I think he wanted to but still, he always raises the bar at competitions. His presence just changes the atmosphere and environment of a competition. He's truly a skating legend and someone who has revolutionized the sport. Hopefully I'll have more opportunities to learn from him.”

Yuma Kagiyama, the 17 year-old Japanese jumping dynamo who is the 2020 World Junior silver medalist, powered his way to a stellar silver-medal finish with a high-octane free skate to the ‘Avatar’ film score, which helped him net him a 291.77 total.

This high-energy athlete, who placed second in the short program, flew across the ice with power and confidence and knocked out a quad Salchow, quad toe loop-triple toe loop, quad toe loop and other jumps that were all performed from fast confident entries.

In particular, each one of Kagiyama’s jumps seemed to cover nearly half the rink length and went as high as three feet or more, much to the delight of onlookers.

Kagiyama, the son of Masakazu Kagiyama, a two-time Olympic figure skater who is also his coach, was awarded a 102.39 technical score and 88.42 for components, generating a 190.81 free skate total.

Kagiyama, however, tiring near the end of the program, stepped out on the landing of a triple loop in a triple Lutz-triple loop combination and the immediately following triple Axel, errors that had only minor impact on the overall presentation of the program which was so strong throughout its entirety.

For this driven athlete, who lives and trains in Yokohama, it’s all about continually raising the bar while at the same time, remembering to always appreciate what it means to have the opportunity to get on the ice.

Competing in the last warm-up group in his World debut, he described his feelings saying, “Of course just thinking of the Worlds makes me nervous, and also practicing and competing in the final group was really making me nervous, I started to wonder whether I should be here or not, but as soon as I realized I was here representing Japan, I knew I had to get the job done. So I was very focused.”

Elaborating on his performance he said, “Today I had a little bit of mistakes, I wasn’t coordinated well with my jumps, so I need to train on my adjustment and should be skating more like a senior skater.” Further he added, “To be honest, I was really surprised how well I did after my performance. So, of course, as for the outcome, I’m very happy. And being here, I wanted to make sure I landed on the podium. That’s what I’ve trained for. And I guess my work has paid off. Of course I couldn’t put out everything I wanted out there on the ice here in Stockholm. Having said that, I’m really happy with the results that I received.”

“This season it made me realize how each session is so important to us. Each practice session is so important to me and hopefully we’ll see the growth through that,” he said later. “When I go back to Japan, I want to practice more, because today I have seen so many things I have to work on. With that takeaway, I want to go home and work immediately.”

In regard to next season, Kagiyama said he is going to train with the idea of doing a program that is clean, stable and of a high quality.

“My priority would be that stability,” said Kagiyama. “The first thing I’ll do [when I get home] is to train hard to [try] and win the ticket to the Olympic Games and if I make the Olympic Games, I’m going to aim for the podium.”

Yuzuru Hanyu, the legendary Japanese 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion who placed first in the short, claimed the bronze medal with a 289.18 total.

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Skating to “Ten to Chi To,” a lovely and engaging selection from the Heaven and Earth film soundtrack, Hanyu reeled off a beautiful quad toe-triple toe loop, quad toe loop-1/2 Euler-triple Salchow and triple loop with the skill, focus and confidence of a premiere Olympic champion.

Although Hanyu put his hand down on the landing of a quad loop and stepped out of a quad Salchow, he was outstanding in all other respects as he skated this compelling free skate in comprehensive and breathtaking fashion.

For his efforts, Hanyu earned 89.78 points for the technical elements and 92.42 for components for a free skate score of 182.20.

“With this program I wanted to bring out something that brings out the best I am and therefore I chose this piece,” said Hanyu, who is coached by Brian Orser, the famed two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist, Tracy Wilson and Ghislane Briand. “I cherish each moment on the ice.”

Hanyu, who said he has been praying in regard to the betterment of the whole pandemic situation for everyone worldwide, said he plans to do a quad Axel in his program next season.

“I personally want to make sure I jump my quad Axel,” said Hanyu, who has been training at his hometown, Sendai, where he has been working with his coaches virtually during the past year. “Our sport will continue to evolve. Making that challenge is something we athletes welcome and I look forward to that challenge.”

While Hanyu finished third overall, on the free skate he placed fourth, with his two Japanese teammates, Shoma Uno and Yuma Kagiyama, scoring immediately above him.

On quad loop he put a hand down, and on the Salchow he stepped with a hand down and called at the quarter. His first triple Axel was landed on the toe with a reach for stability. It was supposed to be in combination. When he executed his second triple Axel he again stepped out and was unable to add a second jump, costing himself 30% of the base value. Even a simple double toe loop added to the second Axel would have moved him up one spot on the podium.

With an average value of 9.42, his component scores were second best of the segment.

It was very exhausting and it was like I was losing my balance one by one, but I tried to make sure that I don’t fall, so I did work hard to make sure I kept it together. I realized that there were a lot of jumps one after another that were not clean. (on what he needs to improve) I don’t know when the next competition might be, but I just want to go back to practice to train on my quad Axel and continue to work to land it, so that I can use it in a real competition. Overall, I wasn’t feeling that bad. And in the practice, it wasn’t that bad either. But all of a sudden going into my program, my balance started to crumble. That’s the sense that I got. Maybe, yes, practicing the quad Axel might have had some effect, but rather than that, it’s more like I was losing balance one by one. And I couldn't bring back the right equilibrium and maybe the axis was a little bit off. Having said all of that, it’s not a major issue. But what I worked hard in training, and what I was mindful during the training, all of that, I was able to put on the ice anyway.

Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion and five-time U.S. medalist, finished in seventh with a 262.17 total.

Brown, a Chicago area native who trains in Toronto with Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson, performed his dramatic and enthralling program to the ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’ film score with attack, aptitude and conviction, executing a quad Salchow (called under), triple Axel-double toe loop, triple Axel, triple flip, triple flip-double toe loop, triple loop and triple Lutz-half Euler-triple Salchow along with some gorgeous spins and steps to garner 80.12 for his technical elements and 90.80 for his components, the third-highest PCS marks of this showdown, for an impressive 170.92 for his free skate.

As he stepped off the ice after completing his performance he said to his coach Tracy Wilson, “I gave it all I got” to which she replied “You sure did!”

Later for the press he said, “I was very proud of today’s skate. I fought for every second out on the ice. It’s so great to be back performing. I just tried to stay calm, take it step-by-step and I think that helped me accomplish my goals.”

“I’ve been working so hard on my quad jumps in training, so to be able to put one into my program today, even though it was a bit [under-rotated] really makes me happy and motivates me to keep working,” said Brown. “This was a goal of mine this season.”

Brown’s programs in this competition were designed by the renowned choreographers, Rohene Ward and David Wilson, respectively.

By standing up on the quad Salchow for the first tie in competition and then following it with two triple Axels, this may be a breakthrough program for Brown. His component scores are in podium range. Now he needs to find ten more points in his element scores. He has the potential for that with a clean quad, and converting his two triple toes in jump combinations to triples.

About his performance he said, “My face said it all -- it was a mix of grateful, relieved and proud. As you know it’s been a crazy season, this has been a crazy event and I wanted to pull my weight and do the best I possibly could for Team USA. I wanted to go out there and give it my all.  I said Tracy (Wilson) to give it my all and not hold back. When I got off the ice there was that sense of pride that I was able to accomplish that goal and stay as focused as I possibly could.”

Describing his reaction on landing his first quad alchow in competition he said, “Tears of relief, joy -- it was a huge goal of mine. Just as you (the press) are not shy asking about the quad I’m not shy telling you how much I want it. I’m drilling it as much as I can. This year I was talking to Tracy about everything being cancelled and an opportunity, last season my quads were getting stronger, the pre-Olympic year is a great time to do that and we didn’t have that opportunity. I rotated, I’m getting closer. It was not downgraded so it’s a huge first step.”

After the completion his plans, he described his immediate plans.

“I’m going to be going home to see my family so I’ll be in the U.S. for a while and, depending on restrictions in Canada, the plan is to go back [to Toronto] in May at some point. I can relax a little bit knowing I will be going back to an old program most likely so there is a little bit of sense of calm knowing the program is ready in the wings to work on when I’m in Chicago.”