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2021 World Championships, Men's Short Program

by Liz George Rossano and Leamy

Hanyu Catapults to First in Men’s Short with Sensational Rock-Inspired Program

© International Skating Union (ISU)

Yuzuru Hanyu , the Japanese two-time Olympic Champion and two-time World titlist skated with his famous golden flare to claim a substantial lead in the Men’s short program showdown at the 2021 World Championships in Stockholm.  This extraordinary athlete, who has spent most of the last year training in his hometown of Sendai, Japan, racked up 106.98 points for a high-energy, action-packed program to Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You.’

In the two minutes and 40 seconds of this program, Hanyu, wearing shiny black neoprene-like pants and black top with gold accents, reeled off a quad Salchow, quad toe loop-triple toe loop and triple Axel with remarkable ease and command and in turn, rocketed right into first place.

“About today’s performance, I’m overall satisfied,” said Hanyu, who earned a 59.02 for his technical marks and 47.96 for components, the highest numbers in these two categories of the competition. “The music is full of life and choreography and I think I put all of that out today.”

For Hanyu, the primary purpose of doing this program was to convey joy, happiness and energy to everyone, something that means a great deal to him.

“It’s something we (he and his choreographer Jeffrey Buttle, the 2006 Canadian Olympic bronze medalist) wanted everybody to enjoy. This rock music kind of hits the bottom of my heart and I actually enjoy expressing all of that,” said Hanyu, who is coached by Brian Orser, the two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist. “Everybody’s tuning in on the internet and TV and I can feel that when I’m on the ice skating this program.”

For Hanyu, being able to compete at the World Championships this year was something that meant a great deal to him, as he viewed this global event as an undertaking of hope and renewal during these pandemic times.

The judges amply rewarded his performance with no negative GoEs and an average component mark of 9.59, with two 10.0s for good measure.  The only place he came up short was his step sequence was called level 3, the other leveled elements being called level 4.  Skating second in the last warm-up group Hanyu skated a committed solid performance, took a commanding lead and held it to the end.

Yuma Kagiyama, 17, the 2020 Japanese World Junior silver medalist competing in his first-ever World Championships in Stockholm, threw down the proverbial hammer and put out the second-best program in this portion of the competition, for which he was awarded a 100.96.

Skating to ‘Vocussion’ by Yo-Yo Ma, the Silkroad Ensemble and Rabih Abou-Khalil, with a program that was designed by Lori Nichol, Kagiyama reeled off a soaring quad Salchow-triple toe loop, quad toe loop and triple Axel with the attack, strength and confidence of a premiere world contender.

For Kagiyama, who racked up a 57.86 technical score, it was all about going for it here in this competition.

“It’s my first World Championships and because it’s my first, I had nothing to lose and I could just go and enjoy myself,” said Kagiyama, who trains in Yokohama. “It was really ‘I want to go on the ice as soon as possible and enjoy each moment.’ I was just so excited.”

Kagiyama, son of Masakazu Kagiyama, the two-time Olympian, also added that his primary intention was to convey his love of skating in his performance.

“I think in the short program I was able to convey that joy of skating to everyone,” he said. “So I’m very happy about that.”

Skating 17th, near the middle of the segment, Kagiyama put out a personal best that made him far and away the leader at that point, after which it was nearly a two and one-half hour wait until he found out it had held up for a second place finish.  Compared to his countryman Hanyu, his base value was 0.6 higher thanks to all four leveled elements called level 4.  In quality of execution and program components he gave up a few points each.  But considering he was going up against the far more seasoned and polished Hanyu his result was a great accomplishment. 

Nathan Chen, the two-time World champion and five-time U.S. titlist, claimed third with a solid program that strongly showcased his well established technical acumen.

Skating to the ‘Desperado’ soundtrack, the accomplished 21 year-old Salt Lake City native, who trains in Irvine, California with Rafael Arutyunyan, executed a rock-solid triple flip-triple toe loop and triple Axel as well as high-speed spins and artful footwork, earning a 98.85.

Chen, who had a 53.42 technical and 46.43 components score, missed his opening quad Lutz, yet the overall quality of his program was exceptional and demonstrated why he has been ranked as one of the top skaters in the world for the past several years.

According to Chen, having the opportunity to be at this competition with all that has occurred over the past year was something that he was grateful about.

“It’s incredible to have this level of skating and I’m just happy to be here,” he said.  “Skating is ultimately my identity and something I’ve spent my entire life doing. It’s my passion and I love it.”

Chen skated after Hanyu as the penultimate skater, and knew he had to deliver the goods.

On his opening element he fell on quad Lutz which was called missing one-quarter rotation.  Two elements later he has a small control error at the end of his change foot sit spin, which led to that element called level 2.  His other elements were rock solid; with the three other leveled elements called level 4 and his average component score 9.29.  Despite the many strong aspects of most of the elements and his great skating skills, his performance was lethargic and did not displayed the energy his programs do when he is completely at the top of his game.

Chen’s teammate, Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. titlist and five-time U.S. medalist, skated a clean, artful and fluid program to Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ for which he was awarded a 91.25, putting him at seventh.

In this compelling program, crafted by Rohene Ward, Brown, a suburban Chicago native, did notable elements such as a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe loop and triple flip with the command, execution and power of a seasoned top-seeded international contender.

Brown also performed his signature collection of memorable spins and footwork, which helped him to rack up the third-highest component scores of this segment of the competition, a 46.39.

This Worlds appearance is only the third time he has competed in an arena this season.  He remarked about this saying, “Having that opportunity of Las Vegas (2021 US Nationals) to be without an audience definitely was helpful coming into this event. I tried to keep it contained, really focused, taking it element by element because without having an audience you don't get that energy coming back at you the same way.  Also, because the program is so new, I don't have that experience to know how to perform it, where to push, where not to push, how to fill out the ice in the different arenas."

For his season goals, he said, “Besides skating clean, since I haven't competed so many times (this season) to know the in and outs of energy management, it's really about keeping that training mentality of 'this is how we trained it, this is how it's we're competing it',” and looking to the free skate he said, “I’m thrilled to have put out a program I’m proud of and I look forward to the free skate on Saturday.”

Except for the triple Axel, landed with one-quarter missing rotation, he skater a clean program with good speed and energy in a program with complex and engaging choreography.  His average program component score was 9.28.

The third member of the U.S. Men’s team, Vincent Zhou, meanwhile, had a different kind of day due to missing the landing on his quads and slipped out of a triple Axel. He wound up in 25th place, a result that meant he did not qualify for the free skate.

As we overheard another coach tell there skater who did not have the best of skates, his task now is to learn from the experience in preparing for the future.

Immediately following his performance he said, “I did have a pretty good 6 minute warm-up. I felt strong and grounded. When I went out on the ice for my pre announcement I was really nervous, I had stomach butterflies in my whole body, my boots felt stiff -- those are not excuses -- but my mental script was just going 'shut up, do your job, you're fine.' I did a great 4Lz+3T (in warm up), everything was going to plan, I was in the zone. When the music started, sometimes things just don't happen the way you want them to. You can train and prepare as much as you want, physically and mentally  ... (but) sometimes it's just not your day. Today is probably the worst day for that to happen but life throws curveballs at you sometimes so I'm just going to use today to grow from it and come out stronger next time.”

All three of Zhou’s jump elements were seriously flawed, consisting of a downgrade and fall on quad Lutz, an under on quad Salchow with a triple toe loop at one-quarter short, and triple Axel one quarter-short with a fall.  Despite these errors he kept his composure, completing solid executions of the other elements, and delivering an expressive and lyrical program.  His average program component score was 8.09.