by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Jeremy Abbott (USA)
Jason Brown (USA)
Tatsuki Machida from Osaka in Japan, second at this year’s World Championships in Japan, won the Men’s Short Program at Skate America 2014 in Hoffman Estates near Chicago with 93.39 points, more than 11 points ahead of the rest of the field. He had lived and trained in Lake Arrowhead in California for several years. But when the “Ice Caste” there closed in August 2013, he returned to Osaka in Japan. In Hoffman Estates, all his seven elements were clean, including a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop at the beginning of his program which was worth 15.69 points alone. His triple axel and his triple Lutz got mainly +2 from the nine judges. His spins and his step sequence were excellent as well. Machida interpreted a Phantasy for Violin and Orchestra by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in a very smooth and poetic manner and nevertheless with a lot of energy. Therefore his components reached an average level of 8.7 and went up to 9.25.
He commented: “This is my first competition of the season and this is the first time I have skated this short program. I am very happy that I was able to skate through without any major mistakes. I am very proud. I remember the Skate America last year, I was sitting in the middle surrounded by wonderful American skaters. They are wonderful rivals and I am very proud to be in the middle so far with these wonderful skaters.”
He also talked about his collaboration with his US choreographer Phillip Mills: “This is the third year I have worked with Phillip. I think he is the person who understands me in terms of my artistic side. I trust him 100 percent and that is why I asked him to choreograph my short program. The program is expressing sad love. Everyone has different forms of love inside of themselves. My goal of this program is to touch everyone's love, the different forms of love in everyone's soul. I feel the music is really the word itself.”
Jeremy Abbott (29) of Bloomfield Hills near Detroit is second with 81.82 points although he did not try a quad jumps. His combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was good, his triple Lutz very good, but the student of Yuka Sato stepped out of the triple axel. His step sequence had a level 4, which is rare for single skaters. He interpreted the song “Lay me down” by Sam Smith, James Napier and Elvin Smith in a very intense manner. In the summer he had said that he might take one of his old short programs for this season, but then he changed his mind and made up something new.
He explained: “This is also my first competition of the season. It's a brand brand-new short program. I love performing it and I love the music and I love the feeling of the program. It was a great audience and it's always great to perform on home ice. I was really pleased with the starting point so only up from here. I think performing in shows and on tours is always beneficial to competitive performance because when you're asked to do 20 shows in a row and be paid for a job, you're expected to be on every single night whether you feel sick or sad or tired. It's a good tool to use for the mileage for the competition. I am grateful to have done Stars on Ice and Mao's tour, The Ice, and have these opportunities to practice performing in front of an audience. I feel very grounded and very secure. I went out there and I felt comfortable and I felt at ease.”
Jason Brown (19), who grew up in the Chicago area, but trains in Colorado now, sits in third position, earning 79.75 points. He fell on his opening triple axel, but in all the rest of his program he could show his strong points: the very good spins, his excellent step sequence and his convincing interpretation of the music, which was “Juke” by Little Walters.
He said: “It's so great to be home. Chicago is my home so to be able to skate at Skate America in front of a home crowd is just amazing. The crowd was awesome. I wish I would've had a better start. The triple Axel I fell on. But I'm happy with the way I recovered. I made sure to get every last point I could get by doing what I did. In that sense I'm really happy I kept the integrity of the program and pushed through. I can't wait for the long tomorrow. I couldn’t have asked for a better crowd, really. I could hear everyone from home, and I could hear different people from the crowd and it’s really a cool mix. I was so excited to be out there and be a part of that and be able to skate at home.”
Denis Ten from Kazakhstan finished fourth with 77.18 points, but was not in good shape yet. The Olympic bronze medal winner has been training only for one week after his flu which had started before he travelled to Germany in September. Afterwards he went to doctors in Italy, but it took some time to recover. He fell on his quad toe loop and stepped out of the triple axel. The rest of his program to his “Caruso” music was good, but not outstanding.
16-year-old Adian Pitkeev from Russia, second at Junior Worlds 2014, is fifth with 76.13. He stepped out of his quad toe loop, but all other elements were good and looked easy. The third American Douglas Razzano fell on the quad and the triple axel and therefore is only 10th of the 12 skaters, earning 66.23 points. He said: “I’m disappointed. I’ve been practicing well, I’ve been training well. I think I just got a little ahead of myself after the fall on the (quad) toe and just tried to do the rest clean, and that’s not the way to do it.”