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2014 Skate Canada: Takahito Mura Continues Success of Japanese Men

by Tatjana Flade





The Japanese men are doing exactly what the Russian girls are doing – winning one international competition after the next. Takahito Mura continued the success of the Japanese men as he won Skate Canada like his teammate Tatsuki Machida the week before won Skate America. European Champion Javier Fernandez of Spain was outskated and took silver while Max Aaron (USA) pulled up from fifth to clinch the bronze medal. There were a few errors in the men’s event, but nine out of the eleven competitors went for at least one a quad. Mura won handily thanks to a great free skating.

Mura sat in second after the short program following a solid performance to “Carmen”. He produced a quadruple toeloop, triple Axel and level-four footwork and his spins were graded a level two, three and four. However, the 23-year-old stepped out of the back end of his triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination. The 2014 Four Continents Champion earned a seasons best of 82.57 points. “The quad was good, but stepped out of my combination jump, so there is a little regret. But I had a lot of fun skating the program”, Mura said.

For the free skating, the Japanese skater had picked another “skating music warhorse” with “The Phantom of the Opera”. His first quad toe was beautiful and merited many +2 GOES, also the following quad-triple toe combinations was very good. Mura also landed two triple Axels and four more triples, but he can improve his spins. It was an excellent performance and rewarded with a new personal best score of 173.24 points. Overall, the Four Continents Champion accumulated 255.81 points. When he finished the program he first looked over to his father and coach at the boards, sharing a big smile with him. “In a sense I would say it was my best-ever performance. Honestly I am surprised with how well I skated. I was able to do everything well that until now I was lacking confidence in. While I was skating I was thinking, I am doing really great, but at the same time I thought about not losing focus and skating well until the end”, Takahito said.

Mura is a talented skater with big jumps (he said at the press conference that he even tried the quad Axel at a national training camp and believes he could be able to land it one day if he was working on it), but he lacked consistency in the past. Maybe now things are coming together for him and he can challenge his more prominent teammates. Mura is married with one child, but prefers to keep his private life private.

Fernandez looked strong in practice, but wasn’t able yet to bring everything to competition. This year, his programs are quite a contrast from each other. In the short, the Spaniard is skating to rock music, “Black Betty” (and wears a black shirt his coach Brian Orser once wore), in the free he uses classical music with “The Barber of Seville”. The short was clean with a perfect quadruple Salchow, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination and level-four combination spin, but doubled the Axel (which is technically not a mistake but obviously costs points). The European Champion picked up a level four for the combination spin and scored 86.36 points. “It was the first time that I performed “Black Betty” in competition and I did a good job. I didn’t do the triple Axel and had a little trouble with the spins, but in general it was a good program with good energy”, the Spaniard noted.

In the free skating Javier had problems with all three quads (he was the only skater to attempt three). He touched down on the ice on the first quad, a toe, then he stepped out of the quad Salchow and finally crashed on the second quad Salchow. He also doubled a loop, but nailed a triple Axel and a triple flip-triple Salchow combination. Fernandez earned 158.51 points and finished second at 244.87 points overall. “It was not the best day, but I still tried to give my best. In practice everything was amazing, really clean and perfect, but I skated last, I had to calm down again, put on the skates again, warm up again and sometimes it is a little bit more difficult. Mura did an amazing program and he got on top of me. This is halfway to the Grand Prix Final. Last year in the Grand Prix I took third place and fifth place, so compared to last year it is a good start”, Fernandez explained. “I was not so calm after Mura skated and everybody was like crazy”, he admitted.

Aaron stumbled on his triple Axel and did a quad Salchow-double toe combination in the short to “Footloose” and as a result was ranked fifth. The 2013 U.S. Champion is skating to “Gladiator” soundtrack, a suitable choice for his athletic style. He caught up by reeling off a quadruple Salchow-double toeloop combination, two triple Axels as well as four other triple jumps. However, the solo quad Salchow and a triple loop were not clean. Still Aaron scored 155.27 points, which added up to 231.77 points and he clinched the bronze, edging out teammate Stephen Carriere by 0.10 points.

“My event didn’t go perfect, but I was coming up here to build up confidence. I struggled all last year, coming up this season I really wanted get back to where I was. Obviously the components weren’t where I wanted them to be, but it is a work in progress. I’m looking forward to getting out there in Russia and will see Javier there”, the 22-year-old said.

Stephen Carriere (USA) finished a strong fourth at 231.67 points. It was the first Grand Prix event for the 25-year-old since Skate America in 2010. He two-footed the quad toe in the short program and wobbled on the camel spin, but the other elements including a triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe and the spins were good. In the free skating set to “Clair de Lune” and “Turning Page”, the 2007 World Junior Champion produced a quad toe and seven triples, but a fall on the second triple Axel eventually cost him the bronze.

Russian veteran Konstantin Menshov was the only skater to land two different quads in the short program, toe and Salchow but botched the Axel. The 31-year-old was ranked third, but slipped to fifth with 225.03 points in the free skating to “Tango en Silencio” as he tripled the second planned quad toe and doubled a loop. He often does not have a good flow out of his jumps and doesn’t get positive GOEs for them, which also costs him points.

Florent Amodio is on the comeback trail after a disastrous Olympic season. The Frenchman seems to slowly gain momentum and was improved over his first two competitions this season, the Lombardia Trophy and the French Masters. In Kelowna, Amodio came sixth with 215.71 points. In the short, he landed a triple Axel and triple Salchow-triple toe combo, but he doubled the Lutz. His African inspired free skating to “Blood Diamond” and “Lion King” featured a somewhat shaky quad Salchow, two triple Axels (with touch down on the second), but the 24-year-old fell on the entry to his final combination spin.

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic placed 7th with 208.24 points. He struggled with his quad Salchow in both programs and did an extra double toe in the long program so that a whole combination didn’t count.

Takahiko Kozuka of Japan was not in top shape. He made several errors, underrotating some jumps and popping others. He finished eighth (203.17 points).

The men’s event was the first on both competition days, meaning practice was early and the free skating took place before lunch time. Mura actually liked that. “Having a competition this early in the day was a refreshing feeling. I felt that the break between the practice and the competition was shorter than usual, but in a way you keep the feeling of the ice in your feet between the practice and the competition, so that might have worked well for me and since we have jetlag from Japan it was not so bad for us”, he commented.

Fernandez did not quite agree. “I don’t know if it is a Spanish thing, but I really don’t like the early practice at all. I woke up at 6.20 and I ran to the rink and I kind of was a little bit late for practice. I didn’t do my program in practice, because it was really early. It’s something I’m not used to. I thought my body woke up a little bit, but after I went back to sleep. It was a thing we have to be ready for. We don’t do the schedules, sometimes it can be late, sometimes it can be early”, the European Champion said.

Aaron again was looking at the positive side. “It is funny. I have a roommate, who is a dancer. He is usually the one that wakes up before me, and now I’m waking up early, so it’s kind of a payback. It’s a new challenge. It’s something I wanted to try. Maybe it will happen at another event. It’s definitely different waking up really early and now have the entire day to relax and to enjoy”, he noted.

Canada ‘s Elladj Baldé suffered a concussion in a fall in training in Detroit, had to withdraw and Skate Canada had no one to replace him.