by Alexandra Stevenson
(Paris, November 16)
Patrick Chan at His Best, U.S. Newcomer Jason Brown Takes Giant Step Forward
1. Overall 295.27; Patrick Chan, Canada; 1.SP 98.52 (52.34+46.18); 1. FS 196.75 (100.25+96.50).
When you’ve earned three consecutive world titles, what do you do next? Well, of course, the pressure escalates because everyone else is out to dethrone you, and it gets hard to keep pushing yourself. Patrick Chan was obviously over-the-moon when he set new ISU world records in both sections of this event, but he is aware that the Olympics are another kettle of fish. Strangely, Chan did not skate his Short Program, last, which is determined by ISU standings. Yazuru Hanu got that honor.
Chan’s routine was set to Rachmaninov’s “Elergie in E Flat Minor”. He opened with a perfectly executed quad toe loop to triple toe loop jump. One judge even gave him the maximum Grade of Execution of +3, while six others punched in the next highest award, +2, and the remaining two contented themselves with a +1. That earned him a total of 16.26 points! Then he nailed a triple Axel, gaining five +2s and four +1s. His change foot camel spin was “only” Level 3, with three +2s and the rest +1s.
His triple Lutz, set at the halfway mark, got two +3s, six +2s and a +1.Then came his Flying sit spin, straight line steps and a change foot combination spin. All three elements received the maximum Level 4 from the Tech panel. The sit spin was given two +3s, six +2s and a +1. The steps got a waterfall of seven +3s with only two of the nine judges punching in +2. His final spin had unanimous +2s. The component marks included two 10.00 for “Interpretation”. There were two 8.50s and six 8.75. But the rest of the 36 marks were in the nines. Apart from one judge who did not give any +3s, the panel obviously enjoyed the performance and thought it was Olympic gold medal material. Amazingly, Chan did not win on the Technical score for the SP. Yuzuru Hanyu received 52.72, while Chan got 52.34. However, on the component score, the Canadian was 3.53 points ahead of his young Japanese rival.
“I was ecstatic at the way I skated,” Chan said. “I didn’t even know I broke the record. If I can make a world record at the Olympics it would be amazing. I’m looking at the Olympics, so I’m really focused on that. A world record is a nice thing to say and a nice thing to have. But the Olympics are a total different game.” Chan, who turned 22 on New Year’s Eve, and is trained by Kathy Johnson at the Detroit SC, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, praised the OmniSport Arena in Bercy, which is right on the Seine. “It was nice to be in a big space, because that’s where I can really flow and push.” (Arenas in North America are the smaller hockey size.) “I didn’t feel perfect in the air on a lot of the jumps, but that’s where training comes into play. When you don’t have the best air position e in a jump, it’s practice that gives you the ability to let the automatic pilot kick in.”
The next day Chan also beat the Free Skate and overall record score. Chan skated to music he has used in the past. “I went back to my old programs to see which music pieces I felt most comfortable with and we made our decision on that. Music, of course, is very important in skatin, and it’s even more important to find pieces which push you and don’t work against you.” He is using a combination of pieces from “The Four Seasons” and “Concerto Grosso”.
He again opened with a quad toe loop to triple toe loop, which this time inspired five of the judges to punch in +3 and the other four to give +2. That difference meant he earned slightly more over the move’s base value of 14.40, than he did in the SP, and banked a total of 16.97 for this incredibly difficult element.
The following quad toe loop was superior and earned four +2s and five +1s for a total score of 11.73. The triple Axel, which followed, received two +3s, five +2s and two +1s. His Level 4 steps gained seven +3s and two +2s, while his Level 4 flying sit spin received one +3, seven +2s and a +1. At the halfway mark, his three jump combo of triple Lutz to single loop to triple Salchow received six +1s and three +2s. Including the 10% bonus, he banked a total of 12.67 marks for this element. Next, he did three jumping passes, receiving 7.70 for his second triple Lutz, 6.51 for his triple loop, and 8.46 for his triple flip to double toe loop. His change foot camel spin was “only” Level 3 and he banked 3.66. His double Axel got 4.56. His choreographed section, which has only Level 1, received five +3s and four +2s. He wrapped the routine up with a change foot combination Level 3 spin earning 3.79.
One judge gave him 10 for three of the five component fields. Two others gave 10 for two of the fields and one other gave 10 for Performance & Execution. Four judges failed to award a 10, but the other scores were all in the 9’s but one judge gave only 9.0 for transitions and linking footwork! His total score for this section was 196.75, and his overall score was 295.27, smashing his previous best combined score (280.98) and his free record (187.96) from the 2011 worlds. The crowd gave him a standing, deafening ovation and he blew kisses back to them.
The marks don’t impress Chan. He’s been in skating too long, to not know success in one competition doesn’t mean the next will be easier. “Obviously, there will be a much fiercer challenge in Sochi,” he said. “But, it's going to be a goal of mine to be able to click and think about moments like today and yesterday and to envision the same performances at the Olympics.
“Music is really important. This is a piece of music that that I’ve used before. It really meshed well with me. I could time my knee bends, and my breathing to the music and that makes it easier overall.” His next competition will be hard since the Grand Prix Final is in Japan, Dec 5-8. Chan has said he doesn’t do well with jetlag. (Dec. 5-8 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka.)
In Paris, Chan said, "I felt truly free and I was really able to have ownership of every moment I could skate. That's why we compete, - not for the medals or the money. When you skate like this, it’s just incomparable. Today, was a challenge because I've done very well in the short program in the past but haven't had a good track record with the long. So this was a marvelous moment.
"A score like that — if I put that up at the Olympics, I think it will be very, very hard to beat. But this is a Grand Prix that I've been to many times. The Olympics is only the second time for me (he finished fifth in Vancouver) and I'm competing against the best skaters in the world so it's a very different circumstance, a very different, much more stressful atmosphere." Chan pointed out he felt very comfortable in Paris. He speaks French and he has been to this event several times. In fact, he made his Grand Prix debut here in 2006 when he finished fifth. He’s been back four times, winning in 2007, 2008, 2011 & now 2013.
2. Overall 263.59 Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan, 2.SP 95.37 (52.72+42.65); 2.FS 168.22 (87.28+81.94 -1).
Hanyu, who will turn 19 on December 7, was skating in his hometown ice rink in Sendai, when the earthquake struck in 2011, a terrifying situation but he was not hurt. The world championship had to be relocated to Moscow from Japan. He now trains in Canada with twice Olympic silver medalist, Brian Orser, with Tracy Wilson doing his choreography.
Skating to “Parisian Walkways” by Gary Moore, he earned two of the maximum +3s for his opening quad toe loop, which was also awarded five +2s and two +1s. His flying camel and change foot sit spins were both the maximum Level 4 with the first receiving one +3 (which was thrown out as one of the highest scores. The two lowest scores are also dismissed.) That gave him an average GoE of +0.86 on the camel and +0.71 on the sit.
His triple Axel, at the halfway mark, earned six +3s and three +2s from the judges and he banked a total of 12.06 points for this spectacular jump. His triple Lutz to triple toe loop was also set in the second half to take advantage of the 10% bonus, and that combination of jumps earned him a total of 12.01. His Level 3 steps received two +3s, six +2s and a +1 which gave him a total of 4.21 points. He concluded with a Level 4 change foot combo spin, which elicited five +1s and four +2s for a total of 4.21. He beat Chan by a small margin of 0.38 on the Elements score but he was 3.53 behind on the components.
Hanyu said he had been inspired by the huge reception Chan’s SP performance received, and that energized him. His score of 95.37 was a personal-best 95.37 points. He explained, “It’s been a while since I have had an error-free short program so I am delighted.” His score was the third highest in the world. “By being able to put everything I have built up in practice out there, I have taken a step forward.I can go into the free program with a bit of breathing space.”
He began his Free nervously, singling his intended quad Salchow, and earning only 0.17. Then he fell on his quad toe loop, although he made the four turns and banked 7.30, less the one point deduction for the fall. But he recovered brilliantly. His eleven other elements all received good Grades of Execution despite an “e” for wrong edge take-off on his triple flip.
He even got a +3 for his combination of triple Axel to triple toe loop set at the halfway stage, which earned a total of 15.86 points. He was rewarded with two more +3 GoEs, one for his choreographed section and one for his Level 4 flying change foot sit spin. His other jumps, all in the second half, included a second triple Axel, which was combined with a double toe loop; a triple loop; a triple Axel-single loop-triple Salchow; and a second triple Lutz. All three spins were Level 4 with good GoEs, and his step sequence, which was his fourth element, was Level 3 with +0.50.
He shook his head as he left the ice as the crowd warmly cheered him. He also finished second in his first Grand Prix this season, in Skate Canada.
3. Overall 243.09 Jason Brown, USA, 3.SP 84.77 (45.98+38.79); 3.FS 158.32 (78.28+80.12).
The 18-year old, who will turn 19 on December 15, is from the Chicago area but now trains in Monument, Colorado, with Kori Ade. Although he has placed 7th, 3rd, and 2nd, in the world junior championships, he is not, yet, a well-known figure in this sport. But the superb artistic showing he gave in Paris has everyone talking about him. (In the United States, he has placed ninth twice and was eighth in the last three U.S. Senior championships.)
He was second to skate in the SP, which was set to “The Question of U” by Prince, which suited his appearance. He has long “hippie” hair tied back. He opened with a +1.14 triple Axel, followed by a +1.10 triple flip to triple toe loop. His triple Lutz was set at the halfway stage to take advantage of the 10% bonus marks for jumps in the second half. All four moves, which are given Levels, gained the maximum “4”. The flying camel spin gained eight +2s and one of the maximum +3 Grade of Execution. His change foot sit spin was not as spectacular but still good enough to bank an extra +0.57. His steps gained three +3s, and his final move the change foot combination spin received two +3s with the rest of the judging panel giving +2. His components ranged from a low of one 7.00 up to a high of one 8.50. It was a hugely favorable impression for his first senior Grand Prix.
After this section, speaking in the Press Conference for the top three, he looked somewhat over-awed. He said, “To be sitting here in the same event as these guys (Chan & Hanyu) is AMAZING! I hope this is just the beginning for the rest of my career.” Although he explains that he does practice quads every day, they are not yet in his competitive repertoire.
His Free Skate was to Irish music, “Reel Around the Sun” by Bill Whelan. Irish dance consists of very fast footwork, which is difficult to translate onto the ice, but Brown did exceedingly well. He opened with a double Axel. Some thought this was supposed to be a triple, but that was NOT the case. He likes to ease into the routine. His second element was planned as a triple Axel to triple toe loop, but the first jump was slightly flawed and he did only a double on second jump. It was the only flaw in the routine and he lost just -0.14 from the element’s base value of 9.80.
His change foot camel spin was Level 4 and gained three of the maximum +3 GoEs. Five of the other judges gave +2 and one only +1, which still means superior. (The scale goes down to -3 for a fall. To get 0, which means the full base value, the move must be done correctly in all aspects.) But, because of the previous problem, Brown approached his planned second triple Lutz a little tightly, and singled it.
However, from then on, he didn’t put a foot wrong. His other two spins were Level 4 with the change foot combination getting a +3, and his Level 4 steps received one +3 with the rest of the panel punching in +2. At the halfway mark, he earned +0.60 GoE for a triple Lutz to loop to triple Salchow, which, including the 10% bonus, earned him a total of 12.37 points. Then came a +0.20 triple flip to triple toe loop and another double Axel, which gained +0.43. The following triple Lutz gained unanimous +2s and his choreographed steps received +3 from seven of the nine judges, with the other two punching in +2. His last jump was a +0.70 triple loop, and he wrapped it up with his final spin, a change foot combination, which was rewarded with Level 4 and an extra +0.57. His components rose from seven 7.50 up to eight 8.50s.
As do many skaters, Brown started going to the rink, tagging along with his older sister, and just got hooked on the sport. He is currently working on a quad, making special trips to use a harness in Colorado Springs. “I practice quads on the ice everyday, but they weren’t quite ready for this event,” he says. “I know at this level I need to do them. I’ve made good steps forward recently. I haven’t had my triple Axel that long in good enough shape to do in the programs, and I’m hoping, soon, to be at that point with the quad.”
4. Overall 214.23 Han Yan, China, 4.SP 84.34 (46.38+37.96); 6.FS 129.89 (61.39+69.50 -1).
Han Yan made a splash winning the Cup of China this season, in his first Senior Grand Prix. Both his Short and long routines were choreographed by Lori Nichol. The SP was set to “Minor Waltz” from Double Jeux by Michel Portal performed by Laurent Korcia, and Fats Waller’s “Viper’s Drag” by performed by Nigel Kennedy
The 17-year-old from Harbin opened with his very unique triple Axel. The style of normally doing this 3˝ revolution jump is to get as much height as possible and to heck with the length! But this boy’s Axels cover a lot of ground, and that, no doubt, is why six of the nine judges gave him +3 for this move. (The other three punched in +2.) That was followed by a +1.57 quad toe loop. His spins, however, are not in the same league. The flying camel was Level 3 but with only +0.07 added. (Seven judges punched in 0 and two +1.) The change foot sit spin was also Level 3 and received better GoEs, and he got +0.57 added to the base value. His triple Lutz to triple toe loop lost -0.50. His steps were Level 3 and gained +0.64 GoE. But his final element, the change foot combination was only level 2 with +0.21. His components ranged from five 6.50s up to two 8.50.
His Free was set to “The Blue Danube” and “Gourmet Valse Tartare”. Skating immediately after the second warm-up, he had a bad fall on his initial move, a triple Axel, which was meant to be a combination. He still banked 5.50 less the 1 point for the fall, and quickly pulled himself together to execute a +0.43 quad toe loop to triple toe loop, which earned a total of 14.83. That was followed by a triple Axel to double toe loop. The second jump was not planned and, though the combination earned a total of 7.2, it was to cause him major grief.
His step sequence and flying camel spin were both Level 3 and both received a GoE of +0.21. The following triple loop at the halfway point was badly landed and lost -1.60. Then came the planned triple Lutz to two double toe loops, but he singled the last one. His next planned move was a triple flip to double toe loop, and though he singled the second jump, the combination received no points at all. It was classed as a fourth and, therefore, invalid element, and his score for it was ZERO.
He followed that with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which earned an extra +0.21. Then he singled his planned second triple Lutz. He recovered with a +0.60 triple Salchow. After his choreographed section, exhausted, he concluded with a Level 2 change foot sit spin which earned a total of 2.73. His components included three 8.00s but went down to one 5.50 for Performance/Execution.
It was a day to learn the lesson of watching the number of combinations!
5. Overall 206.22; Michal Brezina, Czech Republic, 6.SP 71.91 (36.31+36.60 -1); 4.FS 134.31 (66.13+70.18 -2).
Skating sixth, the 23-year-old Czech, who now calls Hackensack, NJ, home, opened his SP, set to Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” with a Quad Salchow. The landing wasn’t perfect, but he earned 9.79. That was followed by a triple flip to triple toe loop, in which he had to do a double three turn between the jumps, which lost him a full point. He fell on his triple Axel, which got an arrow for slight under-rotation. However, all three spins and his steps were Level 4. The change foot camel received an extra +0.43. The flying sit spin just got its base value, which meant the move was satisfactory in every aspect. His steps were rewarded with +0.80 and his final move, the change foot combination spin received an extra +0.29. He was sixth on both the element and component scores.
He played Sherlock Holmes in the Free, which was a good idea. (He is trained by Olympic champion Victor Petrenko.) He opened with a quad Salchow to double toe loop but had to put a double three turn between the two jumps and lost -1.29. His triple Axel was good and got an extra 1.29. Then he tried a second quad Salchow but fell and got an arrow for slight under-rotation. His flying sit spin was Level 4 with +0.50, and his steps were Level 3 with +0.86. At the halfway point, he presented a triple Axel to triple toe loop but fell again, on the second jump which got an arrow for slight under-rotation. That upset him and he singled the next move meant to be a triple flip.
The following triple loop was nice and received +0.70, while a triple Lutz made only the base value. After his choreographed section, which was rewarded with +0.30, he messed up again, doing a single Salchow to double toe loop, and losing -0.03 from that combination’s base value plus 10% of 1.87. He sprang back with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which gained an extra +0.43, but his closing move, a Level 2 change foot sit spin received only its base value. Despite the mistakes, the overall impression was that this could be a very good vehicle for him. Even with two falls, he was fourth in the Free, but that served to pull him up only one place to fifth overall.
6. Overall 204.73; Nan Song, China, 7.SP 71.36 (39.93+31.43); 5.FS 133.37 (70.85+62.52).
The 23-year-old Song is from Beijing. He was the Chinese champion in 2009, 2012 & 2013. He won the 2010 World Junior Championships. He won silver in the Trophy Bompart GP in 2011, but the following season, he had a bad collision with Adam Rippon in Skate Canada and spent overnight in hospital with a concussion. Despite advice to withdraw from his next Grand Prix, which was a trip back to France, he insisted on going and finished fifth. This time he was even lower, 6th, although he did climb a place from his original 7th with a fifth ranked Free.
He was first to skate his Short Program. The routine was set to Michael Kamen’s Guitar Concerto. He opened well with a +0.71 quad toe loop to triple toe loop, which banked him 15.11 points. But then he was forced to put a hand on the ice to keep from falling on his triple Axel. Although his flying camel and change foot sit spin were both Level 4, they lost -0.09 and -0.04 respectively from the base values of 3.20 and 3.00. And then he stepped out of his triple Lutz. He did work at saving some points. His Level 3 steps gained +0.29 and the final move, a Level 4 change foot combination, gained +0.36. Although his elements scored the fifth highest marks, he got last place on the components.
His Free was set to “The Mission”. He got off to a poor start, tripling his planned quad toe loop although he was able to get air-born for the second jump, a triple toe loop. The move earned 8.70. Then he made a second try at the Quad toe and badly stepped out of it. Interestingly, although that was a messy step out landing, because he did the four revolutions, he ended up with 8.16, not that far behind his score for his the initial move of two triple toes, which shows how important quads are.
He then presented a good triple Axel to double toe loop for which he banked 10.37. His Level 4 flying camel spin lost -0.26 but his Level 4 steps received +0.50. His second triple Axel at the halfway mark lost a full point. The following triple Lutz to double toe had a small -0.10 removed from the base value plus 10% of 8.03. His triple loop got an arrow for slight under-rotation, but everything else was good. His Level 4 change foot sit spin received an extra +0.14. His triple Salchow received +0.40 GoE and a double Axel earned an extra +0.14. The choreographed section got +0.30 extra, and he finished with a change foot combination spin which earned +0.21 over the Level 4 base value of 3.50. His element score was fourth highest and his components were seventh best. That put him in fifth in the Free but it pulled him up only to sixth overall.
7. Overall 191.13; Florent Amodio, France, 5.SP 73.65 (35.08+38.57); 8.FS 117.48 (48.90+70.58 -2).
This was the 23-year-old’s fourth entry in this event, and his worst placement. In 2010, he earned silver. In 2011 he was 5th and then won bronze the following season. To now finish 7th with a last place in the Free was a disaster for not only him but the French Association. There is a strain between Didier Gailhaguet, the top official in the sport in this country, and their charismatic but aging star, former world champion Brian Joubert. Obviously, Gailhaguet was hoping for a good performance from Amodio, who is now back in France, being trained by Karia Krier. Amodio is the current 2012 French champion. (This season’s contest has not taken place yet.) He first won the title in 2009. He was runner-up in the two years between that success and last December’s . Amodio won the European title in 2011 and was fifth in the world championship in 2012, but his performances in this year Trophee Bompart were just awful. The flamboyant Amodio has had an up and down career. He was only 12th in the last Olympics, and the nature of the sport nowadays, with its emphasis on jumps, mean no one is assured of an easy ride.
His Short was set to “La Cumparsita” arranged by Sebastier Damiani and F. Larage. He opened with a quad Salchow which had a messy landing and got an arrow for slight under-rotation. He scored only 5.40. But the following triple Axel was good and earned 10.07. However, the following flying camel spin was only Level 1 and the judges awarded three zeros and six +1s, which resulted in a total score for this element of only 2.26 points. His steps, though performed really well, were only Level 2. Although he received a +3 from one judge, and six gave +2 along with two +1s, he banked only 3.53 for that element. Then he did double instead of triple Lutz which was combined with a triple toe loop. That resulted in 7.21 points. He did pull himself together for the last two spins which both got Level 4, with +0.21 for the change foot combination, and -0.01 for the change foot sit. His components ranged from one 6.50 up to one 8.50. He was in fourth on the components, but his element score was only seventh best. He was, collectively, in fifth going into the Free Skate.
His many fans were hoping it was just a bad day, but the Free proved to be even worse. He wore cute red suspenders over a pale blue shirt. The routine was set to “Under the Moon” by Sebastien Damiani, “Happy” by “C2C”, and Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie en Rose”. His initial move, a planned Quad Salchow, turned into a perfectly OK triple and he banked 5.30. He tried again and fell. Since he had accomplished the full rotation in the first jump, although he couldn’t do the planned second jump, he still banked 7.50 less -1 for the fall. Immediately afterwards he fell again on a triple Axel. Again, because he had completed the full rotation he banked 6.07 less a point for the fall.
The following flying camel spin was only Level 2 but he did get +0.50 and so earned 2.8. He did much better with his steps, gaining Level 4 with seven judges giving +2 and the remaining two +1. He doubled instead of tripled his Axel, which was meant to be combined with triple toe loop, at the halfway point, He earned only 3.70. Then, just like the previous day, he did a double instead of triple Lutz, earning 2.27. He then did a second triple Salchow (earning 4.400 followed by a second double Lutz which had -0.09 removed from its base value plus 10% of 2.31. Then he presented a Level 2 change foot combination spin which gained 3.07. His choreographed section received seven +2s and two +1s, for a total of 3.30. he concluded with a Level 4 flying camel spin which gained only 0.07 over its base value of 3.00. One judge still gave all five components in the 8’s. The next highest were two 7.75s and they went down to one 4.75 for Transitions and Linking steps.
8. Overall 180.62; Alexander Majorov, Sweden, 8.SP 59.72 (28.90+31.82 -1); 7 FS 120.90 (59.62+62.28 -1).
Majorov, who is 22, became famous in Sweden in 2011 when he won bronze in the world junior championship. It was the first ISU figure skating medal his country had earned in 74 years! It might not have been a big deal in another country, but this is where Gilles Grafstrom is still looked upon as a fabled sportsman. Not one to spare himself, when asked to comment on his performance, Majorov said, “I had a catastrophic Short and a not-so-good Free, but at least I was able to do the difficult elements. It can happen to anyone. You just have to get back up on your feet and move on.” In fact, although he finished last, he scored 3.32 points above Florent Amodio in the Free, which he performed to “Archangel”.
Majorov, who skated his SP to Khorobushko by Bond, doubled his quad toe loop and wasn’t able to do the second jump. He added a triple toe loop to his triple Lutz but stepped out of the second jump. Then he fell on his triple Axel. But two of his spins were the maximum Level 4, while the third and his steps were Level 3. Majorov’s parents, who teach the sport are Russians who emigrated from St. Petersburg and live in the town of Lulea. His country’s capital, Stockholm, will host the 2015 European championships. He has a younger brother, who is his biggest supporter, along with their dog, Chuck. Majorov was a replacement for Romain Ponsart, who had problems in the French masters event to do with an inflamed ligament over an old foot fracture. He will have to have surgery eventually.
Gail Tanger was the Referee; the Technical Panel was all female. Karen Archer from Britain was the Controller; Vanessa Gusmeroli was the Technical Specialist and Anett Potzsch was the Assistant Technical Specialist.
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