by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(24 March 2022) In the men’s competition of Worlds 2002 in Montpellier, a lot of well-known skaters were not present. The two superstars Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen were absent in order to heal injuries. The three Russian and the Belorussian skater were not allowed to come for political reasons. Boyang Jin from China had to go to quarantine for three weeks after the Olympic Games. Brendan Kerry from Australia had a stress fracture which plagued him since the Olympic Games. Lukas Britschgi from Switzerland had a positive Covid-19 test when he arrived in Montpellier. Donovan Carillo from Mexico had to withdraw because his luggage with the skates got lost on his flights from Mexico to France. Czech skater Michal Brezina and Israeli Alexei Bychenko finished their career and the Czech did not replace him.
There was a Japanese small medal sweep, which had hardly ever occured in international competitions before. Olympic bronze medalist Shoma Uno took the lead with 109.63 points. Skating to two baroque oboe concertos in a sovereign and elegant way, he opened his program with an excellent quad flip, followed by a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and an outstanding triple Axel (which got three GOEs of +5). The spins and the step sequence were outstanding as well and his components were around 9.5. He is mainly coached by Stephane Lambiel in Switzerland if Covid-19 restrictions allow travelling, otherwise sometimes online.
He said, “I could pull of my performance exactly as I always do in practice. It is a really difficult thing to put all the power I have in my training into the competition, so I'm glad it worked out. Of course the jumps are important, but also the other elements are significant. It was choreographed by my coach Stephane Lambiel, so I really want to make the best out of it to make him proud.“
Uno’s countryman and Olympic silver medalist Yuma Kagiyama sits second with 105.69 points. Skating to "When You Are Smiling“ by Canadian singer Michael Buble, he started with a fabulous quad Salchow which got six GOEs of +5. The combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was excellent as well, but the triple Axel a bit shaky. The four other elements were outstanding and his components around 9.4.
He commented, “My triple Axel was a little bit prudent and I couldn't perform as good as during my practice, but the two quads were like the best ever, so I'm very happy about that. I'm tired from the Olympic Games, but this is the last opportunity for performing this season, so I want to show my best. Looking around the stadium, I saw many Japanese flags and I was so happy to be the focus of attention and got geared up to show my best.“
The third Japanese skater Kazuki Tomono is on third place with 101.12 points. He was fifth at Worlds 2018 and second at Four Continents 2022. He is the second alternate for Yuzuru Hanyu who said he wanted to get his ankle injury healed. Tomono’s jump combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and the triple Axel were excellent, the quad Salchow very good and his other elements as well. His components had an average of 8.7. He came directly from a small international competition in Luxemburg the weekend before which he had won.
He explained, “When I first heard the news about competing at Worlds, I was very surprised, but I immediately agreed to participate. So I changed gears and was able to focus on preparing for this competition. I was on my way to Coupe de Printemps when I heard about Worlds, so I used the competition to tune up my mental state since I had already worked on the technique throughout the season.“
17-year old Ilia Malinin of Reston in Virginia was the best of the three Americans and placed fourth with 100.16 points. He skated to “Billie Jean“ by David Cook and is coached by his parents Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov who competed on the world level for Uzbekistan about 25 years ago as single skaters. Malinin opened with an outstanding quad Lutz, followed by a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a good triple Axel. His components were around 8.2 and there is still room for improvement because his style is still a bit junior-like.
He commented, “I definitely felt relieved and excited that I’m here and representing Team USA. I delivered it today and I hope to deliver it on Saturday for the long. My mom gets nervous a lot so she didn’t really want to come. But she’ll definitely be happy with this skate when I see her at the hotel. I get to choose who goes with me - usually it’s my dad because he calms me a lot and I feel a lot more relaxed when he’s there. My quad Lutz was better than the one I did at Nationals because I felt I had better air time, my landing was a lot cleaner and I had a lot more speed coming out.“
Daniel Grassl from Italy finished on fifth position with 97.62 points. His quad Lutz was good, the triple Axel very good and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop as well. His spins are always innovative. The second American Vincent Zhou of Colorado Springs is currently sixth with 95.84 points. He performed a combination of quad Lutz (with a q) and triple toe loop as well as a quad Salchow, which was under-rotated. He was happy to be allowed to compete after being tested positive of Covid-19 the day before his individual competition at the Olympic Games.
Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia, who had to come without his Russian coaches, sits seventh with 92.61 points ahead of Matteo Rizzo from Italy who won 91.67 points. Keegsn Messing from Canada is ninth with 91.18 points ahead of Adam Siao Him Fa, the better of two French skaters, with 90.97 points. The third U.S skater Camden Pulkinen came as an alternate for Olympic champion Nathan Chen who wanted to get a hip injury healed. Pulkinen sits twelfth with 89.50 points after a program with a quad toe loop and no serious mistake.