2009 Four Continents
by Alexandra Stevenson
Photos Copyright 2009 by George S. Rossano
Skating 21st of the 26 competitors from 12 countries, which was last in the second-to-last warm-up group, Chan, who turned 18 on New Yearís Eve, performed to Tango de Los Exilados by Walter Taleb, performed by Vanessa Mae. He was dressed appropriately in a white shirt and black waistcoat and trousers. Chan, who is trained by Don Laws (who guided Scott Hamilton to Olympic gold), opened with a superb triple Axel that was not only high and landed on a flowing edge, but it also had great length. One judge, rightly in this observerís opinion, punched in the maximum +3. The rest contented themselves with +2. Do any of them really believe this technical feat can be done any better? What are they saving their +3s for?
That was followed by triple flip to triple toe, in which the landing on the second jump was a little deep, which meant he held it only briefly, and his triple Lutz. Both received a GoE of +1.60. His circular steps were Level 3 and +1.00. Next up were two spins both Level 4, which is the maximum. Both the change foot sit and the flying sit spins earned +0.40, which were by far his lowest GoEs. His Level 4 straight line steps were infused with great energy and superbly choreographed to the music. This was the only Level 4 given for steps in the Short Program by the Technical Panel, Specialist Wilhelmina van Veen and her Assistant, former US pairs champion and world bronze medalist Todd Sand. They were overseen by Controller Paolo Pizzocari. The steps earned +2.0 over the base value. Chan concluded with a Level 4 change foot combination spin which earned +0.90. Those lucky enough to witness this performance will remember it for a long time.
The performance was in complete contrast to his SP meltdown in South Korea at the Grand Prix Final. "I was pretty upset about how things had gone there," Chan admitted. "I started getting really concerned about the Axel. I went home and worked on it again, and realized that it is not that easy. I thought I had the Axel and I really didnít! You have to use the energy and let it flow instead of forcing it. Itís a matter of getting mileage on constantly doing it well. Going to nationals really built the confidence in me. Nailing the three triple Axels there showed me I could be consistent and that gave me confidence coming here."
The crowd was on its feet even before the program had finished. "I didnít notice them standing up," Chan said, "But I could hear the noise growing. I could tell the excitement was growing. We always work on trying to upgrade the performance and really connect with the crowd. The people have the power to influence the judges. The Short Program is quite difficult both mentally and physically. It was a big relief in the last 10 seconds, knowing I had done a clean program. I think the audience all understood how relieved I was. They were happy and proud for me. Thatís what is great about Canadian fans. They are always really supportive." Chan was making his debut in the Four Continents Championships. He was ninth in his debut at Worlds last March. "This has been such a good opportunity to soak up everything and get comfortable for the Olympics. Itís a crucial time to learn. Iíve been to Vancouver six times. Itís beginning to feel like home."
2. 81.65 (44.30+37.35) Evan Lysacek, former twice Four Continents champion (2005 and 2007), former twice world bronze medalist (2005 and 2006) and former twice US champion (2007 and 2008), is only 23 but heís finding life gets tougher as you age. There are always younger whipper-snappers dogging your path, annoyingly getting in your way and slowing you down.
Skating 25th to Ravelís Bolero, dressed in black with a muted red cross on his back and front, Lysacek received +0.40 for his nice triple Axel. The landing of the second jump in the triple Lutz to triple toe seemed a little strained but was rewarded with +1.0. However, his triple flip was given an exclamation mark, which is a warning of a brief wrong edge takeoff. Both step sequences were Level 3 with the circular earning +0.60 and the straight line, in which he really put a lot of energy, +0.90. His change foot sit spin was Level 3 and +0.40. But his other two spins were Level 4 with +0.90 for the flying sit and +0.80 for the change foot combination.
Lysacek said, "It was tough to go home (after losing his title at nationals) and jump right back into training. After you have a great event, you canít wait to get back on the ice and you get a rush of adrenaline even though youíre emotionally exhausted. But, if you donít have a great event or a great result, youíre equally emotionally exhausted, if not more so. You donít have that adrenalin. It was difficult for me to make the decision whether or not to come to this event, to decide whether I was ready or stable. It was a difficult decision, but I leaned on my coach (Frank Carroll) as I always do. I donít think I could blow my nose with him!! Iíve just been looking to him for support and advice because heís been through every situation up and down with many skaters on the world and Olympic level and he always has the right advice for me. He just kept telling me that, as an athlete, I chose to be in this sport and sport is exactly that Ė you win some and you lose some. You have great days. You have bad days and I had not such a great hour at nationals.
"This event is a little bit of redemption for me. Itís far from over, but I actually really like the music and the character Iím playing. I know all the judges, the technical panel and I know a lot of the skating alumni, the fans, and many of the media. These people are my family. Why would I be nervous to skate for them?
"I think for those of us in the last group, while we were waiting to get on (for their warm-up), Patrick was finishing. Not having the 6.0 measuring scale anymore for us is really exciting. To see Patrickís score come up and know that he had done the (second) best short program ever (to Evgeni Pluschenkoís 90.66, set at the 2006 Olympics), that pretty good! Congratulations to him and more than that, he inspired all of us. With the new system we knew it was still theoretically possible to beat him.
"I think we all had difficult warm-ups because we were in the practice rink all week (at the 8 rinks facility in Burnaby) and now, when weíre a little bit tight and nervous, we come into the main rink. Itís totally different ice and different surroundings. It took everyone a little while to get their legs under them, but, for me, it was a big step forward coming out of nationals last week." The ice surface was still hockey size. It will be the full Olympic 60x30m next February. The practice rink will be in a new facility which is not yet open in Trout Lake, which is about six miles south east of the Pacific Coliseum.
3. 76.61 (42.76+33.85) Takahiko Kozuka, who turns 20 on February 27, the 2006 world junior champion, has taken the Japanese national title twice running. He only came into eminence internationally at senior level after he placed eighth in his first world senior championship last year in Gothenburg and then took gold in the Skate America Grand Prix beating both Lysacek and Johnny Weir in their own country.
Skating 19th, second in the second-to-last warm-up group, after the second ice resurface, dressed in black, Kozuka presented a sophisticated routine to Dave Brubeckís Take Five, which began with him in a contemplative pose, resting his chin on his clenched hand. He began with an excellent triple Lutz to triple toe (+1.80) but struggled to hold the landing of the following triple Axel, which was saddled with a -0.84 GoE. His flying sit spin was Level 4 and +0.50 but his triple flip received only the base value. Again, it took all his strength to hold the landing. His remaining four elements were all level 3. The straight line steps earned +0.60 and the final change foot combination spin +0.80. The circular steps and the change foot sit spin both got +0.50.
"The warm-up had an error. It didnít go perfectly. In the Axel, I did get the feeling. ĎOh! This is not very good!í But I still had the triple flip, so I had to get back and concentrate. Even at nationals, I could feel that my Axel wasnít the best but I figured Iíd go for it." He also planned "to go for it" with the quad in the Free Skate.
4. 75.67 (40.72+35.95-1.0) Jeremy Abbott, the new US champion, immediately followed Kozuka. Dressed in blue, performing to Albinoniís Adagio, the 23 year old began with a delightfully light, technically great triple flip to triple toe and a fluid and flowing triple Axel. Both moves earned a substantial +1.20 revealing that the two +2s (from different judges), which each of these elements received, were picked by the computer for inclusion in determining the GoE. They were followed by a well executed Level 4, +0.80 change foot combination spin. But then things went down hill. He fell on the triple Lutz. He later confessed, "I just lost a bit of focus. I got really fatigued before the Lutz. Thereís no excuse. My mind just wondered. The (short) turnaround after nationals, less than a week before coming here Ė it takes its toll. I can do this program really easily. Iíve already learned the lesson of keeping focused. I guess I need to learn it again."
His next three moves were Level 3 with the flying sit receiving +0.60. However, the circular steps were saddled with -0.28 because of a stumble in which he nearly fell again. The straight line steps received +0.50. His final change foot sit spin earned a "mere" +0.30 over base value. "I got 76 in (the Grand Prix Cup of) China where I essentially skated clean. I got a 74 here with a fall which isnít terrible. With only two points less, I feel with a quad and everything else, that I can still climb. With this new system, I can get a really big score in the Free Skate. Iím bumping up my long. Itís very technical so that can help, provided I do it well. Iím killing lots of birds with one stone. I feel this is a great chance to put the routines out before worlds and put in a quad before the Olympics, and do it in the Olympic venue. Itís just a great experience. Iím using this competition to my advantage."
5. 75.05 (43.60+31.45) Brandon Mroz, who, like Abbott, trains with Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs, was an unexpected runner-up for the US title in Cleveland in his debut at senior level. The youngster, who turned 18 on December 22, was fourth in the past two world junior championships and runner-up for the 2007 and 2008 US Junior title. He is originally from St. Louis and got into the sport because his mum was a synchronized skater. Skating 23rd, to Richard Straussí Till Eulenspiegel, dressed in a period outfit in blue, he opened with an outside spread eagle to triple Axel which gained +0.80, although one judge saw something and punched in -1. That was followed by a +1.0 triple Lutz to triple toe and a Level 4 +0.20 flying sit spin. His triple flip earned +1.0. Both his circular and straight line footwork sequences were Level 3 and +0.30. The change foot sit spin was Level 4 and +0.40 but the final change foot combination spin was Level 3 and +0.30.
Mroz earned the third highest technical score but was lying only 0.01 ahead of Japanís Nobunari Oda going into the long. He said, "Today was my seasonís best. Iím very pleased about that. This competition is really a building block for worlds (in Los Angeles). Itís about getting my feet in the water. My coach changed my straight line steps and I thought I was going to trip on it or something. But you never let down, no matter where your points are." Coach Tom Zakrajsek said, "He has been a consistent performer. He learned a lot from Junior Grand Prix events. If you are going to make a mistake, itís better to make it here than in Worlds."
6. 75.04 (39.84+35.20) Nobunari Oda, the 2005 World Junior champion who won the Four Continents championship in 2006, was censured in 2007 and suspended for three months by the Japanese Association for drunk driving after he received a ticket issued at a check point while he was on his moped in his hometown of Osaka He lost the whole 2008 season. He rebounded from this disgrace and is the current national champion. He is a 17th generation descendant of Nobunaga Oda (1534-1582), a famous Japanese war lord.
Oda, who has been trained in Hackensack, New Jersey, by Nikolai Morosov, since last April, said, "Iím very excited to compete in Canada. Iím enjoying watching the other skaters like (Chan and Abbott). My new coach is very passionate." About his suspension, he said, "I focused on ground and weight training, but I kept practicing and skating." He currently weighs four pounds less than he did previous to the "incident" and feels that helps him with his jumps. He drew to skate last. His routine was set to the same music used by Mao Asada for her Free Skate, Khatchaturianís Masquerade Waltz.
He began well with a superb triple Axel (+1.80) for which seven judges gave +2 (and two +1). But he doubled and stumbled out of the landing of the second jump in his planned combination of triple Lutz to triple toe. The GoE was -1.2 (with one judge giving -3, three -2 and the rest -1), and he still banked 6.10 points. His triple flip earned +1.0 over base value and his flying sit spin received Level 4 and +0.30. His next three moves were Level 3. The circular steps gained +0.40 but the change foot sit spin was awarded three -1s. Only one of them was picked by the computer, resulting in a minimal deduction on the GoE of -0.06. The 21 year old received +0.60 for his straight line steps. His final move was a Level 4 change foot combination spin which gained +0.30. Oda was awarded the fourth highest component score, but only the sixth best technical marks.
Of note: 10. 61.32 (33.92+27.40) Denis Ten, a very promising 15 year old who now trains in Moscow, placed fifth in the Junior Grand Prix Final in December. He said of his home country, "Itís very bad conditions in Kazakhstan. There are no ice rinks. Well, there are two, but they are closed in the summer and they are small rinks in shopping malls. But I donít want to criticize them. I started to skate in a shopping mall. I wouldnít be here if it wasnít for that. Today, my elements werenít what I had planned. I didnít do my best. I must skate better!" His ancestry is Korean, as is that of Jeremy Ten who is Canadian and is from the Vancouver. Jeremy, who is ranked third in his country, lies ninth, a wide 5.28 points ahead of Denis.
Chan continued, "Going into the Olympic Games, I want to do a quad. Even here, it was hard not to do a quad when everyone else was doing it." (Actually, only a handful tried the jump. His successful quad helped Evan Lysacek get the top highest technical score in the Free Skate. Brandon Mroz got credit for the rotation but messed up the landing. Takahika Kozuka fell on his attempt. Chengjiang Li from China was the only successful person to execute a quad combination (adding a double toe loop) but messed up several other moves and finished 10th in the Free Skate and 11th overall.
Chanís win is being lauded all over Canada, yet the 18 year old seemed somewhat under-whelmed by his victory. "I was speechless," he said. "There is a whole lot of hype about the Olympic Games. But this wasnít the Olympic Games. If I medal at the Olympics, I will show emotion. There are so many other competitions coming up, like the worlds in Los Angeles. You will see emotion if I get on the podium there for sure."
Does he think he can win Worlds? "All I have to do is skate two clean programs like Jeff did." But he didnít say whether he believes he can do that.
1. 249.19; 1. FS 160.29 (80.19+80.10) Patrick Chan skated 22nd to a selection of music by Rachmaninov. He wasnít perfect but he is the future. He began with a glorious +1.60 triple Axel which set him up with 9.80 points. Then came a triple flip to triple toe loop for which the judges unanimously punched in +2 and he took 11.50 points to the bank. The star most of the audience had come to see was on form and you could almost feel them relaxing as they saw that was so. When Chan soared through a +1.60 triple Lutz, the spine chills and goosebumps began. But, after a Level 4 +0.60 change foot spin and +0.70 Level 3 circular steps, everyone was jarred from that enjoyable state when he singled his second triple Axel. He still had the presence of mind to add his planned double toe. He returned to form with a +1.40 triple Salchow and a +0.60 Level 4 change foot combination spin. The landing of his triple loop was a tad wobbly and earned just the base value but the triple Lutz to double toe to double loop gained +1.40 GoE which meant the 3-jump combo earned a total of 11.08. A double Axel gained +1.0 over the base value. By this time, there seemed to be a magical presence in the rink and his energetic Level 4 straight line steps so impressed the judges they acted unanimously again, punching in +2s. That meant the steps earned 5.90 points. He concluded with a Level 4 +0.50 flying sit spin. "I felt relieved," said Chan. "I was glad the program was over. I was a bit disappointed because, if I land the second triple Axel, itís like Iím on a high and I really cruise. Iím in the zone. The next couple of minutes, today, felt like an eternity because it was a battling fight, mentally. I have to admit Iím enjoying all the attention. I donít know how much Iíll enjoy it next year. It might get tiring."
2. 237.15; 2. FS 155.50 (80.80+74.70) Evan Lysacek skated 19th, first in the last group of six, to Gershwinís Rhapsody in Blue in a deep midnight blue suit with snazzy black bow tie complete with a red rose in his label. Frank Carroll, Lysacekís coach, said, "Itís a hybrid of two tuxedos. One was a genuine Versace, which they still sell. The previous costume was just too heavy and uncomfortable." The music began with The Man I Love and Lysacek became that í30s suave, sophisticate, throwing off a +0.80 quad toe loop, earning 10.40. That was a terrific start although the insouciant veneer broke a little when he put his hand on the ice on his second jump, a triple Axel, which was downgraded. He recovered with a +0.20 triple Salchow. After the +0.50 Level 3 circular steps and a Level 4 +0.60 flying sit spin, he soared through a second triple Axel adding a second jump, the triple toe loop, he was not able to tag onto his second element. This was the point where the ten percent bonus marks click in and he got +1.0 GoE, so he banked a total of 14.42 points. That was followed by a triple loop, a triple flip to double toe to double loop and a triple Lutz, each of which earned +0.80 over their base value. His 10th element was a +0.60 triple flip. Next on the agenda was a Level 4 flying change foot sit spin which earned +0.50. His Level 3 straight line steps received +0.60. He finished with a Level 4 change foot combination spin with earned an extra +0.80. At the end, he punch his hand into the air and then knelt on the ice, looking, for a few seconds, utterly spent.
He said, "Last year I landed a quad in each competition. This is my first one this season landed successfully in competition. It was starting to be a monkey on my back this season. They had been going great in practice and great in warm-ups but they werenít happening in competition. Tonight, I was trying to not do too much in warm-up since I had to go first. I was trying to save energy. That mentality worked. Iím a Gemini so Iím either really laid back or Iím rigid. Usually that works because I want to be rigid when I compete. I have been trying to Ė not take it easy, because Iím still training hard Ė but take it easy from a mental point of view. I was a little bit nervous. I was really prepared for nationals but it didnít go well. I definitely donít want to leave it at that, so thatís why I thought it was important to compete here. And, not to be rude, but I wanted to beat those other guys that were ahead of me at nationals. I wanted to prove that the old guys arenít going out. Iím building momentum this season. I had a slow start. Iím hoping to peak at Worlds. Theyíre in my backyard. The quad is a very high risk and dangerous element to do. It hurts to fall on it and it feels good to land it. The new costume is very comfortable and much more my style. As heated as the rivalry between Johnny (Weir) and I got, we never wished each other a bad skate. The new system makes training days more difficult and competition more stressful. I remember Takahiko (Kozuka, who won the bronze medal). He came to Los Angeles to train with Frank in the summer of 2006. I was away for most of that time on tour, but I remember him. Even then he was really good and consistent, like he is now."
3. 221.76; 4. FS 145.15 (75.55+70.60-1.0) Takahiko Kozuka, skating 21st to music from Rotaís movie of Romeo and Juliet, fell on his first element, a quad toe. He explained, "In yesterdayís practice, I did the quad. I didnít make it this morning, but I felt confident I could do it. I talked to my coach and we decided to put it in." He recovered with a +0.80 triple Axel to triple toe. His only other problem was putting two feet down landing the second triple Axel. A very interesting addition was the Wally jump he did into his 3-jump combo of triple Lutz to double toe to double loop for which he gained +0.20.
4. 220.26; 3. FS 145.22 (75.62+70.60-1.0) Nobunari Oda, who skated last, using R. Addinsellís Warsaw Concerto, climbed from sixth after the Short Program, to finish just 1.50 points out of the medals. He won this event in 2006. "I am disappointed," he said. "I wasnít as nervous as during the Short Program. I thought I got the quad but it didnít work. (He fell on it and it was downgraded.) I have yet to land it, so thatís my goal. I felt more nervous than in nationals and NHK. (He won both those events.) I was having the kind of nerves where I couldnít get power into my body. I felt weak. My coach was telling me to continue the way I have been and try to relax. He said, ĎDonít worry. Worlds are coming up, so just use this as a stepping stone to your next competition.í"
Oda completed a triple Axel to triple toe which earned +1.40, and, apart from the quad attempt, he had only one negative GoE, when, mid program, he messed up his second triple Axel.
5. 216.94; 6. FS 141.27 (69.27+73.00-1.0) Jeremy Abbott, skating 23rd, had a difficult task, skating right after Chanís incredible performance. He had a problem doubling his quad toe on the first element but didnít let that phase him. The following triple flip earned +0.60. Then came a Level 4 +0.50 flying sit. His triple Axel earned a substantial +1.40 and the triple Salchow +1.0. His change foot sit spin was also Level 4 but earned only 0.10 over the base value. Then the bonus marks clicked in and he executed the second triple Axel combined with a triple toe. It had a momentary rockiness and was a little bit scratchy and earned only the base value. His circular steps were Level 3 and +0.50. But then he fell on his downgraded triple Lutz which was to be a three jump combo. "I started the jump too far down on the ice," he explained. "So it ended up rushing my timing, which caused the fall. Itís weird because this ice is the same size as the rink I train on. So itís weird that I got so close to the boards. I was just too close. I rushed and I fell."
Keeping his head, he added the two jumps to his next move, a triple loop which was rewarded with +0.80 and he banked 9.38 points for that element. His straight line steps were Level 3 and +0.50. He then presented a +0.40 double Axel to double toe and finished with a base value Level 3 change foot combination spin. He performed to Eight Seasons by G. Kremer and K. Baltica.
Abbott admitted his performance was, "so-so. Itís always disappointing to open with a double toe-loop, especially when Iíve been doing the quad so well in practice all week. I was really focused on the outcome of the jump instead of actually doing the jump. I wanted to prove to everyone that I wasnít taking it out of my program at competition because I couldnít do it, it just wasnít reliable enough yet. Iím going to go back and work on my pattern and timing of my Lutz and the confidence in my quad. I plan on doing it in Worlds."
6. 212.81; 5 FS 144.81 (80.71+64.10) Vaughn Chipeur from Calgary, who turned 24 on December 12, is the second ranked Canadian who was 7th after the SP. He gave a solid showing including two triple Axels. The first was so high, it received a +1.60 GoE. He couldnít add the planned double toe to it but he did that with his second triple Axel, which was not as high and earned only +0.20 over the base value. He interpreted Broken Sorrow by Nuttiní But Stringz; First Impressions by Edgar Meyer; and Tachan by Hovan Drovan. He had only one negative element, a -0.20 on his triple loop.
He said after the Cup of Russia Grand Prix, "We revamped the whole training scenario. I changed my diet, sleeping and living arrangements. Iím working on basic consistency and fine-tuning the programs. Moscow was evidence that things werenít working. The dramatic changes were off the ice."
7. 207.27; 7. FS 140.67 (74.17+66.50) Local boy Jeremy Ten skated to music from the cute 2007 movie August Rush opening with a triple Axel which earned +0.60 over base value of 8.20. That was followed by a +1.80 triple Lutz to triple toe combination, which gave him 11.60 points. His jumps had a lot of elevation and the routine had nice speed. He had only one negative element, stumbling on a triple flip that was planned as a three jump combo. "Iím thrilled. Happy is an understatement," said the 19 year old, who finished third in the Canadian championships, in his second senior season. "A year ago, if someone had told me that I was going to be representing Canada, a senior bronze medalist, I would have thought they were kidding. But I really worked hard. All I could think of was not letting Vancouver down. I was so stressed out but one of the key words I use is, ĎEnjoyí. This is my moment and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. Ice: This is where I belong. Now Iím going to continue to practice 110%."
8. 196.78; 9. FS 121.73 (59.63+63.10-1.0) Brandon Mroz, an 18 year old from Colorado Springs in his first season as a senior, skated 20th to Bachís Toccata and Fugue. He began with a quad toe, but stumbled out of the landing and then had problems with the landing of his triple Axel which was under-rotated. The three-jump combination of triple flip to double toe to double loop, which was next, seemed fine but was given an "e" for wrong edge take-off and therefore had a maximum GoE of -1. He fell on his second triple Axel which was downgraded. All three of his spins were Level 4, with two earning the base value and the other +0.10. His circular steps were Level 3 and +0.20 and his straight line steps were Level 2 +0.30.
Mroz admitted, "Nationals (where he won silver) was definitely a better moment than today. And today was a little bit of a letdown compared to yesterday (when he was fifth). But itís all about peaking at the right time, so Iíll give it my all at Worlds. Iíll just be training hard and doing my programs over and over again, training jumps and working components. This is a great facility. The crowd was amazing. I just wish I could have given them a better performance."
9. 184.82; 8. FS 123.50 (64.10+59.40) Skating first of the top 12, to Rachmaninovís Piano Concerto No. 2, Denis Ten, opened with a super triple Axel to triple toe which gained +1.40 over base value for a total 0f 13.60. But then he immediately singled his triple Axel. Overall, the 15 year old, who was born in Almaty, shows great potential. He advanced one place to tenth.
10. 182.92; 11. FS 115.17 (61.27+53.90) Jialiang Wu, taking part in his fourth Four Continents championships, was 8th in the Short Program but an 11th ranked Free Skate dropped him to 10th overall.
11. 178.94; 10. FS 119.72 (58.12+60.80) Chengiang Li, 29, a former three-time Chinese champion who won this event in 2001, took silver in 1999, 2000 and 2005, and bronze in 2003, was lying 12th after the SP. A quad toe to double toe with +1.0 GoE earned him 12.10 points but several errors held him down in the placings.
2009 Four Continents Men's Medalists
Evan Lysacek, Patrick Chan, Takahiko Kozuka
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