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Nathan Chen Leads in Men's Short Program

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany


(7 December 2018)  The Senior Men’s Short Program at the Grand Prix Final 2018 in Vancouver had a good level, with the four skaters from third to sixth position making no big mistakes. But it is a bit strange that the top two did make one. Reigning World Champion Nathan Chen of Lakewood, California, took the lead with 92.99 points. He opened his short program to “Caravan“ with a very good triple axel, followed by an excellent quad flip. But then he stepped out of the quad toe loop, had both hands on the ice, could not add the planned triple toe loop and therefore had no combination. This cost him almost ten points. The three level 4 spins were good, the dynamic and innovative step sequence outstanding. His components had an average of 8.8.

He commented: ”I am not totally satisfied with my program today, in fact largely because of the toe loop. I missed a whole combo and that is a big mistake in the short program. Fortunately, I was able to get my Axel and my flip, with which I have kind of been struggling a little this past season and also get my levels in, so overall, despite the toe, I think the performance was OK. Between now and (his last competition in) France, there was not that much time. I had two weeks. But I think it was a productive period of time. For me, I went back to school. I finished one of my finals as soon as I got back from France, and that gave me a little bit of time to sort of relax from school and focus a little bit on the final. I'm still learning to balance the two. I'm really enjoying my time at Yale, it's a really great institution, so I'm glad I have the opportunity to study there.”

Olympic and World silver medalist Shoma Uno from Japan sits on second position, earning 91.87 points. Skating to a new version of Led Zeppelin’s soundtrack of ”Stairway to Heaven”, he stepped out of an under-rotated quad flip, but added a solid combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop. His triple Axel which he landed into a spread eagle was excellent, his spins as well and his step sequence outstanding, though only level 3. His components were around 9.0, with one 9.75 for skating skills as highest one.

He said: ”It was really not a good performance today. I couldn't do anything what I trained for in Japan. Today at the practice, both in the morning and the six minutes warm up, I couldn't jump properly. I am not ill or injured. I have absolutely no excuse as to why I couldn't jump. I wish I could say there was a reason. The fact that I could do everything well in practice and couldn't do in the competition probably means that the mental side is part of the problem and is my weakness. Perhaps also I have this image of myself that in the short program I tend to make mistakes so that could have played a part.”

Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, also a student of Rafael Arutunian in California, is third with 89.21 points. He started his short program to “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen with a combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop which was not a hundred per cent perfect. His triple flip was very good, his triple Axel good and the spins and steps excellent. His components were around 8.6.

“For me, it was a good competition”, he commented. “I am happy that I am back here in such a prestigious competition after seven years. It’s been a long road and it took a lot of work, but, like Nathan said, I moved to LA to train with Raf (Rafael Arutunian) and Nathan and it took a long time. But finally it’s showing the results and everything, but I worked for it. So I am happy about that. There was a little mistake in the combination today, but I am not going to complain about that because I still managed to pull it out.”

Junhwan Cha from South Korea, student of Brian Orser, is ranked fourth, winning 89.07 points to “Cinderella” by Sergei Prokofiev. His quad Salchow was a bit under-rotated, but his combination of triple Lutz and triple loop, his triple Axel and the three spins were very good, the step sequence even excellent. He explained: “I feel honored to skate here, because it’s my first Final. It was kind of exciting. I was a bit nervous too, but I really tried to control myself and skate calm. I think that was kind of satisfying performance today.”

Sergei Voronov from Russia is fifth with 82.96 points. His quad toe loop was deeply landed without second jump, but he added a triple toe loop to his triple loop, so he had a combination. His triple Axel and other elements were good. “I’m a little bit not in good shape, but I feel good. I’m still trying to get used to the time difference of 11 hours compared to Moscow. Not many people understand what it is like to skate at 31, there are very few who did this.”

Keegan Messing from Canada, alternate for Yuzuru Hanyu who is injured since he sprained his ankle at the Rostelecom Cup three weeks ago, ended up sixth with 79.56 points. His style is less exquisite and he skated a bit sloppy. But he did a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a deeply landed and under-rotated triple Axel. His spins were very fast. He said: “I definitely fought for every single element our out there, my leg just felt a little shaky. It was not as solid as I was hoping for - but I stayed on my feet and I can be proud of this.”