by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(9 December 2017) The Free Program of the six senior men at the Grand Prix Final in Nagoya had the same problem as many men’s competitions before. The top skaters try many quads, but do land them consistently or the jumps after the quads. Therefore the men’s programs are full of falls, step-outs and popped jumps which the spectators do not want to see at all.
The ISU has to find a way at the next Congress in summer 2018 to solve this problem. Either they reduce the number of quads which are allowed in a free program, or they punish falls much harder or they reduce the number of points which a quad gets or the judges punish falls with more deductions for the Performance component. It is ridiculous that a skater with several severe mistakes still get a 9 or more for Performance. If any artist (dancer, acrobat, actor, singer or whatever) falls or almost falls several times while he is on the stage, this is not a very good performance.
Like at Skate America, Nathan Chen won, this time with 286.51 points, but the jury took a wrong decision. Skating to the soundtrack "Mao’s Last Dancer“ and a small piece from "Le Sacre du Printemps“ ("The Rite of Spring“) by Igor Stravinski, He began with an excellent combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop, which brought 19.90 points. The quad flip had a shaky landing which may be pardoned. Next he popped the Salchow which was planned quadruple. Then he stepped out of the second quad Lutz and continued with a good combination of quad toe loop, single loop and double Salchow which was planned triple. Next he fell on the second quad toe loop which was downgraded because he tried to land it forward. Enough? No, near the end he performed a clean combination of triple Axel and double toe loop and a triple Lutz. The applause of the public, which normally is enthusiastic in Japan, was short and only polite. His components were ridiculously high, around 8.9. even for performance. Some judges always give high components if somebody tries several quads.
Chen himself was self-critical: "I wasn't really happy with that performance. I made some big mistakes but it's always great to compete at a big arena like this and to get in the numbers in before the rest of the season. Not really the performance I was expecting to do here but I will take it as a good experience and just try to improve from here. There were some technical things that I know I can fix and these things I just adjust as the season goes on. Especially for the quad toe I was tired toward the end so I wasn't able to get the lift that I needed, but the only thing I can do is keep working on it. This Grand Prix Final was obviously very different without Yuzuru (Hanyu). I definitely feel that the audience wasn't as into the program as if Yuzuru was here. I‘m still not at the level that I want to be at, so I have a lot of work to do.“
In a close decision, Shoma Uno finished second with 286.01 points, just half a point less than Chen. He began with a fall, missing the quad loop which was under-rotated. His quad Salchow was good, the triple Axel outstanding, the quad flip a bit shaky, the first quad toe loop landed on two feet and the second landed forward, downgraded and without combination. Three more triple jumps at the end were good. But his "Nessun Dorma“ interpretation from the opera Turandot was convincing and his style is more elegant than Chen’s. His components were around 9.1, which was a bit higher than Chen’s, but the difference should be bigger and his mistakes were not as serious.
He said: "For free program today, I was not that nervous. The quad toe-loop today was the jump my body was not ready for. I was fairly disappointed by that. I was proud of getting both quad Salchows and quad flips done. I just need to work on the toe-loop from now on. The lesson I learnt from today is that when the skater before me was waiting for the score, I should have jumped not just triple Axel, but the quad toe loop as well, even if I had missed it. Well, getting the quad Salchow done while other jumps didn’t go well, is quite the opposite of what I expected. Well, for the free program, my practice was much better. That might be because of my quad toe loop. Last minute adjustment is what I need to work on from now.“
Mikhail Kolyada from St. Petersburg in Russia won the bronze medal, earning 282.00 points, but he had a bad first minute: First he fell on the quad Lutz (which still brought 8.6 points), then he fell on the quad Salchow (which still brought 5.73 points), then he stepped out of the triple Axel (which still brought 7.07 points). The rest of his program to three songs of Elvis Presley was good and included an excellent combination of quad toe-loop and triple toe-loop, four more triple jumps, but also a popped loop. His components of around 8.9 were too high, because he is not a great showman and had two falls.
Later he commented: "It’s a great feeling. Being on the podium is a special feeling, I can’t put it into words, this word doesn’t exist yet in the Russian language. Now I am going with a positive feeling into Russian Nationals. Basically I am pleased with my performance, because I rotated all three quads. The only thing I can myself scold for is the loop. It was harder for me to focus on the Salchow than on the Lutz. But when I did it, I thought, okay, now you have to stay calm and do your job until the end without errors. The first Axel was too tight, but after the footwork I was back to normal. I just rushed the loop. Out of tiredness maybe, I wanted to finish the program faster.“
Sergei Voronov from Russia finished on fourth place with 266.59 points. He is not a great artist, but he had the best power of all skaters, showed it to the public and was the only one to get a partial standing ovation. Skating to the "Sarabande Suite“ by Yoav Goren (based on Georg Friedrich Handel), he began with an excellent combination of quad toe-loop and triple toe-loop, followed by an outstanding triple Axel and a second quad toe loop which was overturned and landed on two feet. The rest of his program was flawless with four more good triple jumps, three good spins and a very intense step sequence in which he showed all his energy. It looked as if he fought for his life. But he really has to fight for one of the two Olympic spots because some officials in Russia regard him as an underdog and too old with his 30 years. They would prefer to send one of the young Russian men, but none of them (except Kolyada) has reached the Final.
"I felt really great today“, he explained. "It was such a pleasure to skate here, I really enjoyed it. I was not thinking about anything at all, there were just me, the music and maybe pleasant thoughts about tomorrow. I don't want to talk about them, it's just plans to visit some place. I don't aim to jump as many quads as it possible, because, first of all, I don't have so many quads, let's be honest, and I will not give any promises. I don't like the word "if". If I qualify for the Olympics, then I will think what to do next. Life always gives you a chance, on every competition, you have so many good people around, everybody supports you. I have been skating for so many years that I can say that I live on the ice. And if I go to the Olympic Games, I want to show at least the same skating as I showed today which made the audience to stand up.“
Adam Rippon from Lakewood, California, finished fifth, winning 254.33 points. His program, too, began with a fall because like ten twenty times before, he tried the quad Lutz which has never worked, was downgraded this time and brought him just 2.90 points. The next elements were good, including two triple Axels and two other triples. In his combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, but jumps were under-rotated, but the rest of his program was good again. His spins and steps and his interpretation of the music pieces "Arrival of the Birds“ from the soundtrack of "Cromson Wing“ and "O“ by Coldplay are excellent and would have merited more than 8.8. But as he has no clean quad he gets lower components which is absurd.
Later he said: "I always enjoy skating, whenever I have the chance to skate in front of the Japanese audience but I was kind of bad today. I felt like a put on a good performance but I did some shady things and I paid the price on my scores. Overall this is the third competition in a row, having only one week in between, and I wanted to show everybody that I'm strong and that I can do it. I did make a few errors here and there but that's just because I am tired from the constant traveling. Now I have some time to get ready for the US Championships and Olympic Games, and I'm feeling good. I can't go into the rink and jump as many quads as Nathan (Chen), and I know that, so I do my best on everything that I can do every day. My free skate is about a bird with a broken wing who by the end of the program flies free and higher than before. So when I broke my foot in January, I could translate that story into my own story.“
Jason Brown who had come as a last-minute alternate for the injured Chinese skater Boyang Jin, ended up sixth with 253.81 points. His first triple Axel was almost clean, but he fell on his second one. Four other triples were good, a triple toe loop landed without continuing to glide and he doubled a Salchow which was planned triple. His spins were as excellent or even outstanding as usual. The combination spin and the choreographic step sequence both had eight GOEs +3. He had the second highest components of the field, which was correct, and reached an average level of 8.9.
He said: "I had a great time performing out there but it didn't go as well as I know I am capable of doing. But I tried to stay in the moment, fighting through the entire performance and this is what I'm proud of. I'm proud of the determination or fight through the entire event and process so far. The performance was okay. It was a step up from the NHK Trophy so I'm happy with the progress I made in the short period of time. I was also happy of the attack and fight through whole event. I know there is some stuff I need to work on and I would like to fine tune all the details towards U.S. Nationals.“