Three Current/Former World Champions Highlight Men's Event
by Klaus Reinhold Kany
The men`s competition at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France was full of surprises. The majority of them were negative because all three big stars more or less faltered in the free program. This gave the next generation a chance to beat them.
Yuzuru Hanyu, the superstar from Japan, nevertheless won the competition with 293.90 points. The big majority of the spectators were Japanese and they celebrated him with whatever he does. Even for the morning practices they rushed to the first rows in the rink mainly to see him as closely as possible. In the short program, he landed the quad loop (which no other skater in the competition tried) in a very shaky way, but on one foot. The combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was excellent, however, the triple axel, the spins and the step sequence as well. He skated to the music “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince, received components of around 9.5 and 106.53 points and the fans went crazy.
Their hero said: “I feel a little disappointment because I feel it was a little sloppy, a little hard work, I felt a little tired. But I also feel really good about my short program. Actually I have never been connected to an audience like this since I started skating, but this program feels like a concert. I want to be their rock star. That is actually my goal: to complete this program with the audience. Of course I am not completely satisfied with my quad loop today. I have new homework! But I’m glad I think I got all the Level 4. I really wanted to improve my Personal Best score here (which are 110.95 points), so that’s one of the things I’m a little unsatisfied about.”
The first two minutes of his long program were good, the quad loop better than in the short program, the quad Salchow outstanding as well as the step sequence and the triple flip. But then he fell on the second quad Salchow and could not add a triple toe loop, his quad toe loop was shaky. He added a triple toe loop to his first triple Axel instead of a double, but stepped out of the second Axel and at the end popped a Lutz. His music “Hope and Legacy” is too heavy for him because he skates and jumps like a feather, which the music does not support. His components nevertheless had an average of 9.2 which was a bit too generous even if no judge gave him a 10. It was only the third best free program, but it was enough to keep him in first place.
Later he commented: “I feel very disappointed with my long program. I don´t know what happened today. I was feeling a little tired, every jump was hard and the landings felt like yesterday´s (quad) loop, but my fans were still happy with me so then that makes me happy too. The program is very different to my short, it is on the theme of hope and legacy and this is like my life, or my skating life. Some people hate me, lots of people love me. I want to keep being challenged in my program and I think it will be good. My dream when I was starting to skate was to try a quad Axel within my program and I think I will be able to do it.”
The second place of Nathan Chen with 282.85 points was a surprise, he gained 14 more points than his personal best up to now. In the short program to Adolphe Adam’s ballet music “Le Corsaire”, he overturned the quad Lutz but could add a triple toe loop. Then he fell on the quad flip, but the other elements were good, three of them getting a level 3. His components had an average of 8.1 and he was sitting in fifth place. He said: “I made mistakes on the Lutz and the flip but I’m happy that I did a good triple Axel because that’s my trouble jump. It´s a really good experience for me so I’m happy to be here. I think I was maybe a little bit nervous, I didn’t let myself relax into my edges enough.”
With the best long program of the competition (to music of the Polovetsian Dances by Alexander Borodin) and no mistake at all he could move up to second place. He was the first skater ever to land four clean quadruple jumps in one free skate, in his case a Lutz with a triple toe loop, a flip, a toe loop with a double toe loop and a double loop, and finally a second toe loop, all in the first 90 seconds. He continued with nine other good elements, among them a triple Axel, and GOEs of +1 dominated. The components were around generous 8.4. In Marseille Rafael Arutunian was next to him during the competition, but he is mainly coached by Marina Zueva now (who also was in Marseille).
“I’m really happy with the result of today,” he explained. “It came as a surprise to me. I wasn’t really expecting to be able to even come out with a medal here. I had a little bit of a disappointing short program but I think that helped me settle my nerves. The first half of the season has been pretty packed. I’ve had a competition pretty much every other weekend. I need to make sure I’m healthy for the whole season. To prepare properly and attack Nationals is the next step. It was so great performing in this arena, the audience were so receptive and that’s pretty incredible.”
The second Japanese skater Shoma Uno won the bronze medal, earning 282.51 points. His quad flip in the short program (to the soundtrack “Ladies in Lavender”) was tightly landed, his quad toe loop was downgraded and ended with a fall, so that he could not add a triple toe loop as planned. The other five elements were very good, the triple axel and the last spin even stellar. He explained: “My failure today was the preparation. I will make sure that before the free skate I sleep a lot and rest as much as possible in between the early morning practice and the evening competition.”
With the second best long program to a dark but well expressed Tango medley, he could move up from fourth to third place. His quad flip at the beginning was a big tight, his quad toe loop overturned and his next elements very convincing. In the second half he landed a good first triple Axel and an excellent combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop. The triple Lutz then was tight, a combination of triple Axel, half loop and triple flip very good, and the camel combination spin at the end outstanding (all nine judges gave GOEs of +3. His components were around 9.1
Later he said: “I’m pretty happy with my free program. I think I skated quite well yet it was not perfect. I don’t exactly know what would be the right training to polish up my expression but I do have images of the movement I would like to accomplish so I look at myself in the mirror and try to get close to the images I have in my mind. I have a lot of emotions inside of me and I try to express that with my movement. I haven’t tried a quad axel yet and I’m kind of afraid of injury, so I’m not really thinking about doing it.”
The two programs of reigning world champion Javier Fernandez were a disappointment. He finished only fourth with 268.77 points after having bad practices the whole week. Perhaps she should not have done a show in New York just the day before flying to France. He began his short program with an excellent combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but then he stepped out of the quad Salchow and fell on the triple Axel. “Well, I wasn’t happy about today for sure, it wasn’t a good short program,” he said. “There was more than one mistake this time. We have been doing it really well in practice with the music but then in competition I have these mistakes.”
His opening toe loop in the free program was only triple, then he landed a tight quad Salchow with a double toe loop. His first triple Axel was good, but then he stepped out of the second quad Salchow and fell on the second triple Axel. The rest of the program was good. He commented: “I had many mistakes and was slow in general. Maybe it was my fault a bit, after my two Grand Prix I was doing way too many things and perhaps didn’t prepare enough.”
Patrick Chan finished in fifth place with 266.75 points after being second in the short program. There his opening combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was relatively clean and all other elements excellent, including the triple Lutz. His components were as high as Hanyu’s. In his long program, he fell on the opening quad toe loop, then again on the first triple Axel and again on the second triple Axel. His second toe loop become only triple, but he landed a clean quad Salchow which was new for him.
Adam Rippon ended up sixth with only 233.10 points. In the short program without quad, he under-rotated the triple toe loop after the triple flip. His triple Axel was a bit tight, but the other elements clean. In his long program, he fell on his quad toe loop attempt, stepped out of the second triple Axel, fell on the triple Lutz and doubled his loop. He said: “Of course it wasn’t the performance I wanted to have but I’m really happy to be here. It was a huge accomplishment to make to the Grand Prix Final.”