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2016 Skate America Men

by Klaus Reinhold Kany





(23 October 2016) The menís competition, especially the free program, was the highlight of Skate America 2016. The competition had a high level with at least five skaters performing world class programs.

 18-year-old Shoma Uno, Junior World Champion in 2015 and seventh at the senior World Championships in Boston, won with 279.34 points. He began his short program to a ďFantasy for Violin and OrchestraĒ by Nigel Hess with a tight quadruple flip. It was the first time this jumps was successfully performed in a short program ever. Next was a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but he fell on the triple and it was under-rotated. His triple Axel had no flow after the landing, but the three level 4 spins and the step sequence were excellent. His components had an average of 8.6.

He commented: ďI believe my body moved very well today. I had a good feeling while I was jumping and I think my skate itself went very well. However, on the 3-rotation of my combination, I did not do well. Also the triple Axel, in terms of the quality of the triple Axels, I have something I need to remind myself and reflect upon as well. In other words, I have some challenges left, but at the same time I cleared some of my homework as well. In terms of the jumps I think I finally came around for the triple Axel. It took me several years to tweak it. That has been reflecting in quad flip. In comparing with the triple Axels, I have not been practicing so much for the quads.Ē

In his free program, he interpreted the dark Tango ďBuenos Aires Hora CeroĒ by Astor Piazzola and the Tango ďBarada para una locoĒ, also by Piazzola. In order to look more like a macho Tango dancer, he had his hair in wild disorder. He started with a good quad flip, which brought him 13.73 points, followed by an excellent quad toe loop (12.79 points). After a good triple loop his step sequence was outstanding to the Tango rhythm. Later he performed an excellent combination of triple Axel and triple toe loop, a second quad toe loop and a triple Lutz, but then fell on the (under-rotated) second triple Axel and could not add other jumps as a combination. His level 4 spins had mainly GOEs of +2 and his components were around 9.1.

Later he said: ďMy free program was great on the first half. Unfortunately I missed the three-jump combination toward the end. The music was chosen by my longtime coach and choreographer, Mihoko Higuchi. I actually did not work with a tango specialist, so maybe some of my moves are not very tango, but still I tried to give my own interpretation to the music. This was tango and it is quite different from what I have performed in the past. I tried to start with what really tango is like. In the beginning I wasnít so sure I would be able to pull this out, but the music just started to grow inside of me and I started to enjoy expressing this type of music and I just tried to express what fit my skating to the music. Also, I watched many peopleís tango performance and learned from the performance I like. There is no particular story to it, itís just expressing the music.Ē

Like 2014 at Skate America in the same rink, Jason Brown won the silver medal, this time with 268.38 points. Skating the short program to ďWritingís on the WallĒ by Sam Smith (James Bond spectre) in his characteristic manner, he began with a fall on the quad toe loop, but it was landed backward and therefore he even got 6.30 Ė 1 = 5.30 points for it, more than for a good triple toe loop. His triple Axel, the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop and two spins were excellent, the step sequence even outstanding. But he made a mistake on the camel combination spin which got no points. His components were around 8.7.

ďAs a performance, Iím super, super excited with my skateĒ, he explained. ďI think itís one of the best performed short programs of the season. The technical side it wasnít my strongest skate, Iím especially disappointed in missing a spin. Because thatís not quite like me. Iím sure and confident it will not happen again because I will totally make sure that my hand is grabbing my blade before I change positions. As well as Iím excited that my quad was clean but Iím still determined to land one in completion, so hopefully in the long.Ē

ďIĎm very focused on making 2018 Olympic team. Coming off a year when I was injured, the most important thing for me is staying healthy. I canít make the 2018 team if Iím not healthy. Iím doing what works for me, doing it in a way that follows in my coachesí and my plan. Iíve tried to drill, drill, drill the jumps and Iíve ended up injured. I want to be healthy, I want to do what works best for me. Iím constantly trying to up my game when it comes to artistic, when it comes to the elements Iím doing and Iím slowly integrating. Iím definitely looking on that 16-month, 18-month plan to the Olympic Games and trying to peak for that but Iím doing it my way.Ē

After Champs Camp he had changed his free program and now skates to ďThe Scent of LoveĒ from the soundtrack ďThe PianoĒ by Michael Nyman, also a soft music more than a dramatic one. For the first time he landed a quadruple toe loop, which was under-rotated, but no step-out or fall. All his triple jumps were clean, including two triple Axels. His spins and steps were outstanding again. For his camel combination spin, eight of the nine judges gave GOEs of +3. His components had an average of 9.0.

After the competition he commented: ďIím super excited about today itís been a long, long journey to put out a quad, so Iím pleased to stand up on it today and kind of just take as another day, like once I landed it, just keep on going. Itís like in its own department. I had an amazing time performing and Iím really excited to take this experience and move forward this season.Ē

ďMy music is from the movie ďThe PianoĒ. Itís about not being able to speak and speaking through the skating. Me and my choreographer Rohene [Ward] have talked about my body being the music, being the instrument. Everything I do, wanting to pull on people. We want people to feel a certain way whether itís joy, whether itís sadness and pull emotion out of the audience through my facial expressions and through my body positions. Thatís the story, being able to express my love without being able to speak.Ē

ďIíve always looked up to Adam (Rippon) and Iím such a huge fan of him and his skating. We were just talking about how we push each other to be better, to be stronger. You know we have been harped a little for not having the technical, but I think that makes us push each other in so many ways, artistically and technically, and itís an awesome rivalry to have and itís all fun. Itís amazing and Iím really lucky to compete alongside him.Ē

Adam Rippon, which Brown mentioned, won the bronze medal, earning 261.43 points after two good performances. In the short program to ďLet me Think About itĒ by Ida Corr vs Fedde Le Grand he did not try any quad, but had seven clean elements, including a good combination of triple flip and triple toe loop and an excellent step sequence. His components were around 8.6.

He said: ďIím very happy to be up here today. Itís always so exciting to skate at home and skate well and have the audience on their feet. It wasnít my best skating today but Iím really proud of what I did. Later in the season Iíd like to add a quad to the short program and improve the overall quality. As a whole, Iím happy. It was fun to take advantage of new rule and show some shoulder. Iím going to do what I can to the best of my ability and Iím going to perform the hell out of it what theyíre watching. Especially my family, like my brothers and sisters, they have no idea what theyíre watching. All they know is Iím wearing a tank top today and it went really well. So thatís kind of what I want to show the audience. I want people to get involved and be like ĎI love this performer,í I love performing. Thatís why Iím out there, Iím enjoying what Iím doing.Ē

ďI wanted to take advantage of the rule because I knew it would be something not everyone would be doing. I want to stand out. I want to show my performance is up there and itís the best in the world. I want to push boundaries with the costumes, I want to push boundaries with my music choices. I really have to thank my choreographers, Jeffrey Buttle and Benji Schwimmer and especially Rafael Arutunian, who really has told me to kind of be fearless and make choices that not everybody would have the guts to make. And when I go out there and Iím making a choice to kind of skate to a club song in a tank top, you know I have to be really good or itís just going to look like a joke. Thatís my mentality. I want to come out here and be a professional performer, Iím an athlete and I want that to come across.Ē

ďThe 2018 Olympics are upon us. I think for the first time Iím not taking it season by season. Iíve always taken it in a few monthsí chunks. Not qualifying for the Olympics in 2014, it stung and I took that experience and I learned from it. I realized I canít focus on what my other competitors are doing. When Iím home, of course I see everybodyís doing five quads, four quads, three quads, and I have a mild panic attack. But then I go back and I talk to Rafael and I say Ďwhat do we need to do so that can be possible for me?í And we set up kind of the ground work for what I need to do.Ē

ďSomebody like me, Iím going to turn 27 in a few days and Iíve gone through a few generations of skaters and what was asked of you in competition. I skated in 2010 when Evan Lysacek won the Olympics with two triple Axels, I skated when one quad would be enough to win a world championship, and now Iíve skated when four quads and three quads are almost required to be on the world podium. But I look to my countrymen, especially someone like Jason [Brown] who has all of the elements at such a high quality and is rewarded for it, and I kind of take the same approach.Ē

In the new long program to ďArrival of the BirdsĒ and ďOĒ, Rippon fell on his opening quad toe loop, but all other elements were at least good, most of them excellent, including his eight triple jumps and his first class spins. His components had an average of 8.6.

ďI have only had the program for a week-and-a-halfĒ, he explained. ďI was really pleased with what I did today. It wasnít perfect but I think the work I had done in the off-season paid off in making the quick change. Iím so glad I changed the program. It feels right. It feels great performing it. Iím pleased with what I did today. Thereís a lot of work to do and Iíll definitely be getting all that work done. Rafael will make sure of it.Ē

He also explained why he changed his program: ďI wasnít feeling the way I had felt about the program that I skated today. I was doing the Coldplay number as an exhibition and it felt so good performing it. My coach Rafael loved the program right away. In the back of my mind, it was something I was going to save for the Olympic season. I was at Japan Open just two weeks ago and I had a talk with one of my best friends in skating, Florent Amodio and a few judges. It was my conversation with Florent who said, ĎI love your program. You should have it as your free skate. If you have a good idea you need to take advantage of it now.í (Choreographer) Benji Schwimmer told me Ďpeople arenít genius, they are given moments of genius and they need to take advantage of them.í I needed to take advantage of having this great program and use it as my competitive program. In the moment it feels right, like I made the right choice. Itís so great being a bird, let me tell you.Ē

ďWhen Iím home Rafael [Arutunian] is a big stickler for me being very sharp with this program and having all the starts and stops be very sharp. Heís also really pushing me to skate a lot of faster, so thatís what I really focus on when Iím at home, just more of the technical aspect of the program. Because I drill that all while Iím home, when Iím here I can really portray the story of the bird, and the movements are still sharp and I donít have to think about it; itís more muscle memory.Ē

Sergei Voronov from Russia finished on fourth position, winning 245.28 points. In his Senior B in Bratislava, he came without his coaches for financial reasons. This time, his coaches were allowed to join him. He wanted to show that being 29 years old is not too old to compete with the best in the world. In the short program, he fell on the quad toe loop, but all other elements were good. In the long program to Exogenesis Symphony Number 3 by Muse (the same piece as Ashley Wagner), he hit the quad toe loop and added seven triple jumps. ďI watched Ashleyís program to see how she interprets this music. It was interesting, but she had a more female approach, which is normal.Ē

Boyang Jin from China, third at the world championships in Boston, finished fifth with 245.08 points. He had a bad day in the short program, fell on the quad Lutz and on the quad toe loop and stepped out of the triple Axel. In his long program to the soundtrack of La Strada by Nino Rota, he landed three different clean quads, but missed the fourth quad and a triple Axel. Nam Nguyen from Canada ended up sixth, winning 239.26 points. He is on the way back into good shape, but still has to fight with his huge growth spurt of the last two years and was a bit slow. He trains now in San Jose, California.

Maxim Kovtun from Russia was last in the short program after popping the toe loop and singling the Axel and in spite of a good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop. ďI was like a tank and bumped against a wallĒ, he commented. In the free program he moved from tenth to seventh place by showing two quads and six clean triple jumps, but he concentrated too much on the jumps.

 Timothy Dolensky showed a good short program, only the triple toe loop after the triple flip was shaky and landed on two feet. In the long, he popped the Salchow, which is very unsafe anyway, but landed six clean triple jumps. Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten from Kazakhstan and Daisuke Murakami from Japan had withdrawn because of injury only days before the event. Therefore no alternate was nominated.