by Klaus Reinhold-Kany
(11 February 2019) Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan won the men’s competition at the Four Continents Championships in Anaheim, California, with 289.12 points. Though being only fourth in the short program, this was his first major international victory after being second many times. Competing to a new version of the soundtrack of "Stairway to Heaven“ and "Papa“, he started the short with a quad toe loop, which was a bit shaky. Next was a wobbly combination of triple Salchow and triple toe loop. The triple Axel was outstanding, the spins and the level 4-step sequence as well. His components were around 9.0.
He commented, “For the triple-triple on my second jump, I over spun just like I thought I would. Because it was an easier jump, I definitely was frustrated but I would like to continue working harder. After my leg injury I started from zero, so it was nice being able to gradually recover day by day. But without feeling frustrated, I would like to focus on finishing my free program.“
This free program to Beethoven’s "Moonlight Sonata“ was better than the short because he made no serious mistakes. After a strong quad flip he continued with a good triple toe loop and a triple loop. After another quad toe loop in combination with a double toe loop, he added four very good other triple jumps, among them two Axels, but he stepped out of the triple flip. Steps and spins received many GOEs of +4 and the components had an average of 9.3, with one perfect 10.0 for performance from the Canadian judge Susan Blatz. At the end, Uno almost collapsed onto the ice and remained kneeling some seconds before getting up again.
Later he explained, “Today after I finished, rather than being happy, I felt relieved to have pushed myself through the competition. I am very happy about winning the title and with how I did in today’s program. I have an ankle injury, but currently I don’t feel too much pain. But in order to do well at Worlds, I should not push myself too much but at the same time push myself in practice to do better. There weren’t a lot of happy emotions when I collapsed, it was like ‘I really did it’. I thought about how I was injured after Nationals.“
Boyang Jin from China won the silver medal, earning 273.51 points. In his short program, his triple Lutz was not clean, but his combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop strong, the other five elements very good. He said, “I did not execute really well two jumps today, and the performance wasn’t ideal for me either. After my last international competition, I did a lot of adjustment to my physical condition and overall feeling about the program.“
He stepped out of the quad Lutz at the beginning of his free program to a Flamenco, but all other elements were good, including a combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop, a second quad toe loop and six triples including two Axels. He explained, "Overall I did ok. Two minutes before stepping on the ice, I decided to not do the quad Salchow in my program and change some of the choreography. But the two programs both have errors. My feeling now is that I hope I can do better in the World Championship in one month. I also feel a little frustrated. Probably because my training was not going so well recently.“
Vincent Zhou of Colorado Springs took the bronze medal with 272.22 points. He had been in the lead in the short program and won there more than 100 points for the first time in his career. His combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, the quad Salchow and the triple Axel good, spins and steps not more than average.
"I'm happy with my skate“, he said. “It's pretty much worth the hard work I put into. And that's I know what I'm capable of. So yes it's my first time being in first place after the short program. The process working on my jumps was not easy, but getting the result that I desire today felt very rewarding. Today I felt more confident than before in my jumps. I remembered one week I was in Toronto and Lori (Nichol) brought Kurt Browning over just to skate and work on my program with me.“
His free program to the Kung-Fu inspired “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle. He began with a combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop (which was under-rotated). The quad Salchow and the quad toe loop were under-rotated as well. Four more triples were good, but the second triple Axel not clean. His spins and steps were good. “I‘m very proud of myself at this competition for continuing the upward trend I’ve put myself on“, he said. “I hope to improve the consistency of the good quality elements I’ve been doing.“
Keegan Messing from Canada, who had competed for the USA until 2014, finished on fourth position with 267.61 points. The first element in his short program was a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by a triple Axel and a triple Lutz, both of which were a bit shaky. “It wasn’t as strong as I was hoping it to be, but I stayed on my feet and I can leave happy today“, he commented. His free program included two quad toe loops and six triple jumps, most of them very good. His spins were even as stellar as usual and he got several GOEs of +5 for them. He said, “I’m very excited, I think that’s the highest score I’ve ever put in the program.“
Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto since last June, took fifth place, winning 258.89 points. He started his short program with an outstanding triple flip, but almost fell on an under-rotated triple Axel. The flying sit spin was a bit shaky, but the four other elements were stellar, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop and two spins for which he was awarded several GOEs of +5. He commented, “Besides the Axel I’m very proud of the performance. I do it every day in practices so I’m a bit bummed, but I know it’s going to light another fire within me. I think I slipped off my edge a little bit, but I should have landed it, so to come in and miss that is frustrating.“
He began his free program with a quad Salchow, but it was under-rotated and he almost fell. Seven triple jumps were excellent, but the second triple Axel under-rotated. The three spins were highlights of his program, and the choreographic step sequence which was rewarded with five GOEs of +5. His components were around 9.0.
He commented, “My free program is choreographed by David Wilson and it’s a little different style for me - a bit like reminiscing and bringing in the audience. It’s very lyrical and musical, it’s softer, and brings a lighter personality to my performance and I hope they enjoy it. “I’m very happy. I know I still left a couple of points out on the table, but every competition it’s getting stronger. I’m so proud of my fight out there and scoring my season’s best today. I was determined to rotate the quad Salchow today. I’m working on the quad every single day it’s not quite there in the program yet but I’m landing them more and more out of the program.“
Junhwan Cha from South Korea, student of Brian Orser for many years, is sixth with 255.83 points. In the short program, all seven elements were excellent, including a quad Salchow. Therefore he was second in the short. He commented, “Actually I’m very happy about my performance tonight.“ In the free program, he lost a lot of points because five of his jumps were under-rotated, including the two quads and the two triple Axels. Keiji Tanaka from Japan took the seventh position, earning 251.54 points.
Tomoki Hiwatashi of Colorado Springs finished on eighth place with 236.79 points. In the short program the triple Axel was not clean and the triple toe loop after the triple Lutz under-rotated. The triple flip and the other elements were good, however. He explained, “It wasn’t the best I’ve done but I’m very satisfied with what I did because it’s my first ISU senior Championship competition.“ He started his free program with a solid combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by five clean and two under-rotated triple jumps. He said, “I’m really glad that I did the greatest program I’ve ever done in my life here.“
Brendan Kerry from Australia, who trains in the USA, placed ninth with 224.44 points, and Canadian champion Nam Nguyen was tenth with 216.49 points.