by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(8 December 2017) Like many times in the past few years, the senior men’s free program at the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver did not have an excellent level. All skaters made mistakes even if they all try less quad jumps than last season because the ISU punishes bad jumps and falls more severely in this season.
Nathan Chen won both parts and overall with 282.42 points. In the free, he skated to the song “Land of All“ from the soundtrack of “Desierto“ by the 35-year-old French Indie Rock composer Woodkid. He opened his program with an excellent quad flip, followed by a fall on the under-rotated quad Lutz, and stepped out of the quad toe loop. His triple Axel was very good, his combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop in the second half very impressive. He added a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop and a sequence of triple flip, Euler and triple Salchow with a shaky landing on the Salchow. His three spins were fast and well-centered, his step sequence outstanding. His components had an average of 8,9.
He explained: “It’s great to be here in Vancouver and this is my third senior Grand Prix Final. Samuel Chouinard was actually my secondary choreographer to Marie-France Dubreuil, who was the main choreographer. Just the end section and cleanup through the whole program was done with Sam. I think it was a good move for me, I really like working with them. Their team that they have in Montreal is pretty incredible. I definitely think that this program has a lot of work to be done and a lot of things that I think could just be better in general. As soon as I get back from this, I have like a day before a Spanish oral. Back to the books.”
“I am definitely not happy with the Lutz, I stepped back on the toe so that I would not miss out on a combo. I didn’t really do anything new for the flip. It just happened to be much better this competition which I was really happy about. Hopefully I can maintain that for the rest of the season. I’m really happy that I’m at seven for seven with the triple Axel. It’s definitely improved a lot in the last few years. I’m really excited to go back to California during my winter break to train again with Rafael (Arutunian), to train again with all my teammates in California. It’s definitely been an aspect of my skating that has been lacking a little bit in terms of practicing. U.S. Nationals will be my next competition, so I definitely would love to improve on what I did here, clean up my short program - I have not really been able to do a clean short program.”
Chen plans to continue being coached by Arutunian, who works in California, even if the skater is a fulltime freshman at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, around 3,000 miles away from his coach. But they communicate via modern media and Arutunian says he sometimes knows a solution to a technical problem without having seen any video because he had been coaching Chen for seven years now and knows his tendencies and weaknesses which might result in mistakes. After this season by the way, maybe in April, Arutunian plans to leave Lakewood in Southern California and re-open his school in a new rink in near-by Irvine.
Shoma Uno from Japan won the silver medal with 275.10 overall points. Performing to the "Moonlight Sonata“ by Ludwig van Beethoven, he landed the quad Salchow forward and on two feet, therefore it was downgraded. His quad flip was under-rotated, his quad toe loop deeply landed, his combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop as well as his first triple Axel excellent. In his combination of a second triple Axel, Euler and triple flip he stepped out of the triple flip. And the triple toe loop after the triple Salchow had a shaky landing. Two spins were very good, the last one and the step sequence outstanding, as well as his gliding. His components were around 9.0.
“I can definitely say it was not a good performance”, he said. “I think every time I finish a competition I say the same thing. I performed today with the mindset that I would finally be able to make it. But it did not go well. The only good thing was even if I made a mistake on my Salchow I was able to do the flip and toe. Compared to the short, I was able to go back to the free program without any anxiety.”
Jun Hwan Cha from South Korea, student of Brian Orser for several years now, placed third, earning 263.49 points. After a fall on the opening under-rotated quad toe loop all other elements were excellent, including a quad Salchow, two triple Axels and three combinations. For his outstanding change foot combination spin he even got one GOE of +5. He skated to the 1990ies soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet.
He said: “It was my first final and I’m very honored to skate in Vancouver. Today I had some mistakes, but overall, I really felt good when my performance finished. I am very happy that I can skate with the great skaters here. I really want to go back to the Cricket training club and train more, but I have my Korean Nationals coming up soon, so I can’t go back now.”
Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic dropped from third to fourth place with 255.26 points. He fell on an under-rotated quad Salchow, but the other elements were very good, like two triple Axels or at least more or less clean. His components were around 8.7 and he explained: “Well, it was not that bad. The Salchow was okay in practice, it was good in the warm-up, but during the performance I lost the concentration during the turn. Coming back here to the Grand Prix Final after such a long time, it’s not bad! That mistake might have cost me a medal, but you know - at this point, who cares. I think it’s a good step for European Championship.”
Keegan Messing from Alaska, who competes for Canada since 2015, is fifth with 236.05 points. His quad Lutz and quad toe loop were a bit shaky, but landed on one foot. The first triple Axel was excellent, but he fell hard on the second one and popped his second quad toe loop. He said: “The first competition with a quad Lutz, that was the positive. Right out of the gate, I fought for every little thing out there. I only really made only one big mistake on the Axel, and there were a lot of shaky elements right there. I skated my first Grand Prix Final and I skated as strong as I could.”
Sergei Voronov from Russia ended up sixth with 226.44 points. He was not as strong as during his two Grand Prix, made four more or less serious mistakes on his two quad toe loops and his two triple Axels, but did not fall.