by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
The two superstars Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu were not present at the World Championships 2022 in France. But there were still excellent skaters who merited a medal. The general level, however, was mixed because there were many falls and other mistakes.
After being second at many international championships and second and third at two Olympic Games, 24-year-old Shoma Uno from Japan finally won a well-merited gold medal in Montpellier, this time with 312.48 points. The student of the 2005 Swiss World Champion Stephane Lambiel opened his dynamic free program to a modern version of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero with an outstanding quad loop, followed by a very good quad Salchow. His combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop was so-so, his triple Axel and his quad flip outstanding again. The second quad toe loop was under-rotated and overturned. In his final sequence, the second triple Axel was excellent with both arms over his head, but he singled the flip after the Euler which was planned triple. His spins were excellent and his step sequence got even six GOEs of +5. His components had an average of 9.5, with two 10.0.
He said, “This was my last short and free program for this season, so I wanted to have a performance that made my coach Stephane Lambiel proud. I was able to achieve that and I haven’t won too often, so I’m very happy about that. The choreography of this program is very challenging and I had to challenge myself for five quads. The fact that I came here under these circumstances makes me really happy and I’m grateful for my score. During my steps I thought I was doing enough and I was really getting tired, but I wanted to do justice to Stephane. All my emotions went into a smile at the end of my program.”
Like in 2021, Uno’s countryman Yuma Kagiyama won the silver medal, this time with 297.60 points in a free program to the soundtrack of “Gladiator“. One quad Salchow and two quad toe loops were outstanding, but he landed the quad loop forward and popped the second triple Axel. Two spins and his step sequences were outstanding and his components were around 9.3.
Kagiyama explained, “Today it didn't go as well as at the Olympics. I made some really bad mistakes on the loop and the Axel. Emotionally I was really nervous and that's the reason why I couldn't do so well. The tension was maybe because I had a great opportunity to win and I was trying to put on a perfect performance, so maybe that fed my tension. But I was able to regain my focus in the end and that was a big growth factor for me in this season.“
In spite of being exposed to a lot of frustrating things at the Olympic Games, U.S. skater Vincent Zhou won the bronze medal with 277.38 points. In Beijing he had helped the U.S. team to win a silver medal, but he still could not celebrate a victory ceremony because it is delayed maybe for months because of the Valieva case, in which Zhou is not involved at all. The day before his individual event he was tested positive of Covid-19 and was not allowed to compete, but had to stay in quarantine. After being tested negative again two or three times for the closing ceremony, he seemed to be allowed to participate there. But when he went to the bus for the ceremony he was told that he might be a close Covid contact person of somebody else and was not allowed to go there. In the Mixed Zone in France he said he had told his agent and coaches in a mood of frustration that his whole career has been a failure. But they seemed to convince him not to drop out of Worlds. He finally felt that he would regret for his whole life not to have tried again. So he pulled together and came to France.
By winning even a World medal, the second one after bronze in 2019, he proved he is a role model of sportsmanship. He skated his free program to the Asian-oriented soundtrack of “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” and to “Rising Sun“. His opening quad Lutz was good, his quad Salchow excellent, but then he stepped out of the triple Axel and his quad toe loop was near an under-rotation. Two more jumps were under-rotated, but his steps and spins excellent. He ranked sixth in the short and fourth in the free, but it was enough to win a medal.
He commented, “The Covid itself was not that bad but the mental hell I went through afterwards was infinitely worse than anything it could do to me. I think about 11 or 12 days I woke up in that bottomless pit. The one thing that got me here to France was the feeling inside me that I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with the regret that I didn’t even try and so that was the only thing that I guess kept me somewhat invested in my step by step journey of coming here. That medal definitely was very difficult for me to come by and one of the most meaningful and significant moments of my career.”
Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia took fourth place with 272.03 points after performing three good quad jumps, but receiving lower components in his program. The second American Camden Pulkinen of Colorado Springs placed fifth with 271.69 points and the third best free program after being 12th in the short. He was second alternate of the U.S. team and was nominated after Nathan Chen pulled out because of injury and first alternate Jason Brown did not want to come because he held a seminar in Peru. Pulkinen began his program to the Rhumba "Besame Mucho“ with two very good quad toe loops and added five excellent triples, none of them with any under-rotation. Two of his three spins and his step sequences were excellent.
Kazuki Tomo from Japan dropped from third to sixth place, earning 269.37 points after making several big errors. Daniel Grassl from Italy also made mistakes and finished in seventh position with 266.66 points. Adam Siao Him Fa was the better of the two French skaters and is eighth with 266.12 points. The third U.S. skater Ilia Malinin dropped from fourth to ninth place with 263.79 points, mainly because two quad jumps were downgraded. Matteo Rizzo from Italy is tenth with 255.75 points. Junhwan Cha from South Korea could not skate the free program because his right boot broke the day before the free program.