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2013 Grand Prix Final, Senior Men

by Alexandra Stevenson

Hanyu Shakes up Skating Status Quo, World Champion Suffers a Setback

1.  SP 99.84 (54.52+45.32) Yazuru Hanyu, Japan, who turns 18 on December 7, got an early birthday present. Having qualified for this Final by earning silver in Skate Canada and Trophee Bompard in Paris, in both cases behind Patrick Chan, his current first place came as quite a shock. He not only got the jump on the three-time World Champion, he took away one of the Canadian’s world records. He lies a huge 12.37 points ahead of Chan going into the Free. It has to be years since Chan was this far behind a fellow competitor.

Hanyu, who won the bronze medal in the 2012 World championship, was skating on the Sendai rink when the earthquake hit that northern Japanese city in 2011. He now trains with twice Olympic silver medalist, Brian Orser in Canada. He said, “First of all, I am totally surprised about the score I got. For my performance, I think I did a good performance starting with the quad and also my Axel and (triple) Lutz were good as well. However, for the steps and spins, towards the end of my performance, I think I lacked a little bit of concentration so that is the part I regret. Today, what I felt is that I wanted to put all my effort into my jumps, spins and steps. I was able to enjoy my performance today.”

“I was very surprised to get the record score. I wasn’t thinking about doing a perfect program. I just did what I can do now. I practiced hard and I think this connected to my good performance today. There is still tomorrow. I was satisfied with my score today, so I hope to retain my energy for tomorrow as well. There are more elements tomorrow so I hope to get even more points. I need to skate my best.”

Skating fourth of the six qualifiers, to “Parisian Walkways” by Gary Moore, Hanyu opened with a quad toe loop, which was so dazzling, it earned six +3s, the maximum Grade of Execution, and +2, the next highest level, from the other six judges. He earned another +3, (along with seven +2s and one measly +1) for his next move, a Level 4 flying camel spin. Then came another Level 4 spin with received seven +2s and two +1s.

At the halfway mark where the 10% bonus for jumps clicks in, he soared through a triple Axel, getting rewarded with four +3s  and the rest of the judges punched in +2. His combination of triple Lutz to triple toe loop got one +3, seven +2s and a solitary +1. His straight line steps received six +3s and two +2s. Exhausted from all this, his final move, a change foot combination spin was “only” Level 3 with only one +2, four +1s and four zeros, which are given for a move which is satisfactory in all aspects.

He even received one maximum 10 for the component marks which went down to one 7.75. He revealed he had never had such scores before. Orser, who always, very obviously, skates along with his pupils in the Kiss ‘n Cry, area, went bananas as the total score was posted.

2.  SP 87.47 (42.79+44.68) Patrick Chan, Canada, who turns 23 on New Year’s Eve, is the three-time and reigning world champion. He won both his Grand Prix events (beating Hanyu in both). In Paris he scored record high marks for all three categories, SP, FS & overall, but now holds only two. He has won the Grand Prix Final three times before.

Skating last, to Rachmaninov’s “Elegy”, Chan began well with a splendid combination of quad and triple toe loops, which earned three +3s and six +2s. But then he collapsed on his triple Axel, which he was only just able to save from becoming a fall. His change foot camel spin was the maximum Level 4, earning two +3s and the rest +2s. But then, he doubled his planned triple Lutz, scoring only 1.41 for the move. His flying sit spin, straight line steps and final change foot combination spin were all Level 4, with the straight line steps earning five +3s, three +2s and a +1. He readily admitted, “I am not super happy with how I skated. When you achieve close to perfection, like I did in Paris, to do it again is hard. It hurts even more when you don’t do it, so I am upset. Tomorrow is a new day, where the long program is, where it’s won, we will see.” His component marks usually earn some tens, but not this performance. They went down to one 8.25, but there were four 9.50 amidst the 45 awards.

3.  SP 80.94 (41.76+40.18 -1) Nobunari Oda, Japan, skated first. The 26-year old replaced Daisuke Takahashi, who injured his right leg and was forced to pull out. Oda lies third despite falling on his opening move, a quad toe loop which got an arrow for slight under-rotation. He recovered well, landing a triple Axel, which earned a full two points over its base value. His combination of triple Lutz to triple toe loop got an “e” for wrong take-off edge and lost a small -0.20.

All three spins received the maximum Level 4 with good GoEs. The steps were Level 3 with +0.83. His components topped with six 8.50s and went down to one 7.25. He said, “I was nervous and I fell on my first jump and after that I felt like I woke up. I wanted to skate well in front of the Japanese audience and the more I thought of that, it made me nervous. I cannot take back what I fell on, so I hope to land it in my free skate.”

He said the fall was caused by nerves. “After that, I felt like I woke up. I wanted to skate well in from of the Japanese audience, and the more I thought of that, the more nervous I got. I can not take back my fall. My condition was good but, today, I couldn’t smile with my heart. I was happy with the audience. I hope to connect more with them tomorrow.”

4.  SP 77.75 (39.82+38.93 -1) Han Yan, China, opened his routine, set to “Minor Waltz” and “Viper’s Drag” with a good triple Axel, which earned two full points over its base value of 8.50. But then the 17-year old fell on his fully rotated quad toe loop, which was to have been his combination. He later added a double toe loop to make a combination with his triple Lutz. His three spins and the steps were all Level 3, but with good GoEs. He said, “Since the Cup of China, I have not been in top shape.”

5.  SP 68.92 (31.42+38.50 -1) Maxim Kovtun, Russia, an 18-year-old who earned the right to skate in this event by gaining second place in both the Cup of China, and his own country’s GP, skated a Flamenco routine. He got credit for his opening quad Salchow but messed up the landing. Then he fell on his quad toe loop which was meant to be his combination. And then he singled his triple Axel.

He was able to get good GoEs for his four other moves, with Level 4s for two of his spins. His third spin, a change foot sit, and his steps got Level 3. He said, “I know what I was supposed to do out there. I just could not do it. I was very nervous and I do not know why it turned out like this today. I think tomorrow will go a lot better. Today, my quads did not go as I planned. I have to be more careful about the entries.”

6.  SP 65.66 (26.52+40.14 -1) Taksuki Machida, Japan, who is 23, won the 2013 Hilton Honors Skate America and the Rostelcom Cup in Moscow, but with collectively, less points than Chan. He said he was embarrassed by his performance, for which he presented a routine choreographed to “East of Eden”. He doubled his planned quad toe loop, but did a super triple Axel, for which one judge was moved to give the maximum +3 GoE. But his triple Lutz to double toe loop got no marks at all. His one mark deduction was not for a fall, but for going overtime. He said he hoped people would watch him tomorrow. “I’ve been skating for twenty years and I want everyone to enjoy my skating. I will do better tomorrow. I wanted to do a perfect performance, but this performance wasn’t to be.”

Japanese Go Wild: Yuzuru Hanyu Beats 3-time World Champion Patrick Chan. Not even close!

1.  Overall 293.25; 1.SP 99.84 (54.52+45.32); 1.FS 193 (102.03+92.38 -1), Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan.

2.  Overall 280.08; 2.SP 87.47 (42.79+44.68); 2.FS 192 (97.13+95.48), Patrick Chan, Canada.

Lying second (by a large gap of 12.37 points) after the Short Program meant the 22-year-old Chan skated before the 18-year-old survivor of the Sendai earthquake, Yuzuru Hanyu, who is coming up to his 19th birthday. Chan knew it would be a hard fight. Last year, when this event was in Sochi, serving as a try out for the new Olympic “Iceberg Skating Palace”, he was only third behind two Japanese competitors, former world champion, Daisuke Takahashi and Hanyu.

Chan took gold in the previous two GP Finals. He explained, “I felt nervous even before I got on the ice. It was a mental battle. You are not going to win all the time. If you did, it would be boring for everyone. Part of me says (losing) is not a big deal. It happens. You deal with it. What is important is regaining my composure and my concentration. But, of course, the Olympics being so close is a definite factor.

Chan denied being disappointed. “I finished the event strong. There were a lot of good things I did here, including regaining my composure and concentration after a bad Short Program and putting out a great long that I don't usually do.” He added with a smile, “That's not very Patrick Chan of me! Most of the time, I think the people who know me well, know that the short program has always saved me. But this was proof today that I'm getting better and really becoming a more well-rounded competitor.

"The last two times I competed here was for the World Team Trophy, and I really haven't skated well at any single one of those in Japan, just because it's at the end of the season. Every time I come back to Japan I feel like I relive those moments in which I didn't skate my best. Those were really tough times. That's why I think I learned a lot today."

When Chan, who earned gold the six consecutive times in the Canadian championship, soared through the first jump in his opening combination, a quad toe, it looked as if he was on track. However, Chan executed only a double instead of triple toe loop as his second jump. With the triple toe, the base level for the combination is 14.40. With a double toe loop the base value is 11.60. Right away he’d thrown away 2.80 points, and that is the name of the game nowadays, the accumulation of tenths of a point under very strict restrictions as to what and how many elements can be done.

Chan’s second element was a second quad toe loop, base value 10.30, and he did it so well, four of the judges gave him the maximum +3 Grade of Execution while four others punched in +2 and one +1. Collectively, that meant Chan was given 2.43 over the base value. He seemed back on track.

A triple Axel earned its base value of 8.50 plus the +1.71 GoE. His step sequence was the maximum Level 4 and eight of the nine judges gave +3 and one +2. Since the top and bottom marks are thrown out, it is not possible to earn more for this element, and he banked a total of 6.0. His next move was a Level 4 flying sit spin, which received three +3s, five +2s and one +1 from the judges, and resulted in a total score of 4.14.

At the halfway point, where the 10% bonus for jumps clicks in (because it is much harder to do them when you have used up all your stored oxygen) he brought off a +1.20 triple Lutz to loop to triple Salchow, which provided him with a total of 12.97 points. A second triple Lutz earned a total of 7.40; a triple loop was rewarded with 6.61; and a triple flip to double toe loop resulted in 8.26 added to his account. His change foot camel spin was the maximum Level 4 and received unanimous +2s, which earned him 4.20. His final jump, a double Axel, was rewarded with one +3, seven +2s and one solitary +1. The top and bottom were thrown out, and he received a total of 4.63. The “choreographed” was awarded six +3, but has only Level 1 and he earned +1.90 GoE over the base value of 2.0. He concluded with a change foot combination spin which was only Level 3, and the Grades of Execution included three -1s, so he banked only 2.91 for this move.

In the five component marks, the judges did support Chan, giving him 3.10 marks ahead of Hanyu. Chan claims, “I get more satisfaction from skating a good program than I do from a gold medal.” But he also says that Japan brings out the doubt in him.

Hanyu skated to “Romeo & Juliet”. He was third in the 2012 world championship and fourth in that event earlier this year. In Hanyu’s two Grand Prix events, in the series of six competitions around the world which are to pick the six entries for this event, Hanyu placed second to Chan in Skate Canada and in the Trophy Bompard.

Hanyu says his progress is largely due to his coach, Brian Orser. Orser, a twice Canadian Olympic silver medalist, who knows all about the up-and-downs of this sport. He is still remembered for his close battle in 1988 in Calgary with Brian Boitano. Orser explained, “No one ever goes out to be second. I never did and I know my skaters would never go to a competition for the silver medal. We all go there to become first. That's what you have to do and, for Hanyu, it’s a realistic goal.”

Hanyu did not start well, falling on his first move, a quad Salchow, but he did the full four revolutions and earned 7.50 minus a point for the fall. From then on, he was a whirling dervish. He received three +3s and six +2s for his second element, a quad toe loop, and then a full point over the base value of a triple flip. One judge gave Hanyu’s next four elements +3: the Level 3 straight line steps, Level 4 flying camel combination spin, his triple Axel to triple toe loop combination and a second triple Axel, this one combined with a double toe loop. Four other judges also agreed that his triple Axel to triple toe loop combination was worthy of the ultimate +3 Grade of Execution.

Hanyu continued to shin with a triple loop, a triple Lutz combined with a single loop and a triple Salchow, and a triple Lutz. His choreographed received four more +3s, four +2s and a +1. The following flying camel spin was Level 4, but his last move, another spin, was only Level 1. (Like Chan, he’d obviously run out of steam in the final moments of the routine.

“I wasn’t completely satisfied with the long program,” the lad revealingly admitted. “But after falling on the quad, I was able to pull myself together and complete all my other jumps and that was HUGE. I feel I am meeting all the requirements. We still have the national championships, but obviously I am feeling pretty confident that I will make the Olympic team.”

3.  Overall 255.96; 3.SP 80.94 (41.94+40.18 -1); 3.FS 175.02 (91.58+84.44 -1); Nobunari Oda, who was a late substitute for last season’s Grand Prix champion, Daisuke Takahashi, who was injured, earned bronze. Oda is the 26 year old father of two sons with wife, Mayu, (born October 1, 2010 & January 5, 2013). Although he fell on his opening move, a quad toe loop, he immediately brought off a second version of that jump combined with a triple toe loop, which earned him an impressive 16.26 points.

4.  Overall 236.03; 6.SP 65.66 (26.52+40.14 -1); 4.FS 170.37 (88.07+82.30) Tatsuki Machida, Japan.

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