by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
(22 October 2018) In the men’s competition, in the “Angel of the Winds Arena” in Everett, Washington, the reigning World Champion American Nathan Chen, won with 280.57 points, a distance of more than 41 points ahead of the rest of the field.
Since August, Chen is a fulltime freshman of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and tries to continue his collaboration with his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian in California over 3,000 miles away with Skyping, videos and phone calls. Arutunian said it is a very difficult situation and is skeptical that it will work in the long run. In New Haven, the Yalie trains without coach. He did not skip school because for the competition as Skate America occurred during a break.
In Everett, Chen performed better than at Japan Open in early October because he had been sick there. Skating to a modern version of "Caravan" by Duke Ellington, he began his very dynamic short program with an excellent triple Axel, but he stepped out of the quad flip which followed. His combination of triple Lutz and triple toe-loop was very good again, as well as his three spins. For his outstanding step sequence he got GOEs of +5 from six of the nine judges. His components were around 8.9.
Later he commented, “It was a good start for my season and for my first short program of the season since being at Worlds last year. It definitely wasn’t the best in terms of all the technical elements, but the performance was pretty good. The audience was amazing. Quads are very important. They are something I will keep implimenting and keep working on. I definitely get the most enjoyment out of doing quads, even just in practice.”
In his free program Chen skates to the dark and gloomy music of "Land of All“ by Woodkid which was choreographed by Marie-France Dubrueil. He started with a lot of passion and with a very good triple loop, followed by a quad Lutz which was a bit shaky. Later he had two good quad toe-loops and five triple jumps, but did not try other quads. His spins were excellent, his step sequences outstanding even if he got only a level 2 for his main one. His components had an average of 9.1.
He commented, “I am happy with today’s skate. I definitely had a lot of improvement from the last competition. That’s really my goal throughout the season – to keep on improving from competition to competition. The program in terms of quad number was definitely watered down, but in terms of where I am in the season right now, it is perfect. Considering having such a new step in life with college, I am getting in good training time now.”
Michal Brezina from Czech Republic, who was Chen’s former training mate in Lakewood, California, under Rafael Arutunian, won the silver medal with 239.51 points. After the Olympic season he had decided not to finish his career but to continue even if he is already 28 years old. He said he felt the responsibility to be a role model for the younger Czech skaters. He began his short program with an excellent combination of quad Salchow and triple toe-loop, but then he popped the flip. His triple Axel was so-so, but his spins and his step sequence very good. He skated to "Who Wants to Live Forever“ by Queen and had components of around 8.0.
In his free program, he performed another very good quad Salchow and five triples, but doubled the second Salchow and stepped out on the second triple Axel. He said, “For me, it was a pretty good step up from my last competition in Salt Lake City and even from the last season. There are still some things that need work, but for the first Grand Prix it is good.”
31-year-old Sergei Voronov from Russia won the bronze medal with 226.44 points. He always has to prove to his federation that he is not too old because they tend to support more the young skaters. He had to change his short program after the Russian Champs Camps and skated in Everett to Prelude No. 5 by Sergei Rakhmaninov. After a good combination of quad toe loop and double toe loop his triple Lutz was so-so and he stepped out of the triple Axel.
The other elements were good. He began his free program with an excellent combination of quad toe-loop and triple toe-loop, but his quad loop was landed forward. Later four triples were good, but he fell on the second triple Axel and the Lutz was only double and not clean. “I can’t say that I’m satisfied as there were mistakes in the short and in the free program,“ he commented. "But compared to previous, domestic competitions, it is a step forward.”
Matteo Rizzo from Italy finished fourth in his first-ever senior Grand Prix, winning 225.81 points. His short program with four triple jumps was almost clean, he only got an edge call on the triple flip. His first jump in the free program was a quad toe-loop but he under-rotated it. Six triple jumps were good, but he under-rotated the second triple Axel.
Vincent Zhou of Colorado Springs ended fifth with 225.75 points. He said he had had a bad summer with constant back pain and limited training, but did some shows which helped him to improve his performance. In Everett he had problems with under-rotated jumps. His first element in the short program (to the Exogenesis Symphony Part III by Muse) was a combination of quad Lutz (which he under-rotated) and triple toe-loop. The quad flip was nearly under-rotated as well as the triple Axel, the other elements were good.
He explained, “I thought it was a great program and I skated it very well. It was a good step up, not only from my training over the summer, or lack there of, but also from last year. That performance was a good reminder of why I still do the sport. Before I got on the ice, during my off ice warm up I was watching my programs from last year and I was thinking how boyish I looked last year. Of course in the moment I was still trying to look like a more mature skater. I do think that I’ve made progress working with Lori (Nichol).”
He performed his free program to the Asian themed soundtrack of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“ and "Rising Sun“ by Kiyoshi Yoshida. He got no less than six deductions on more or less under-rotated jumps. The first quad Lutz and three triple jumps were clean. “Like the short, [this program] was lots of fun and it felt great performing again. I think it was a pretty good performance. I gave it all I had. I was able to skate this competition fairly distraction-free physically, which is a good thing.“ He thought it would be good idea to skate to an Asian-themed program, because a lot of the skating community is Asian.
Nam Nguyen from Canada ended up on sixth place, earning 212.99 points. After being fifth at the World Championships 2015, he has had three difficult years with growth, but he is on the way back. He began his short program with a quad Salchow but touched down with one hand. The triple Axel was good, but he stepped out of the triple Lutz and therefore could not perform a combination. In the free program, his two quad Salchows were clean, as well as four triple jumps, but he singled the second Axel and doubled a loop at the end.
Julian Zhi Jie Yee from Malaysia, 21st at the World Championships in March 2018 was a surprising third in the short program of his very first Grand Prix. He trains in Barrie, Ontario. Skating to the music "To Build a Home“ by Patrick Watson, he landed a clean quad Salchow, a good triple Axel and a combination of triple flip and triple toe-loop and has a good talent for show. He explained, “I’m lucky to be invited to the Grand Prix for the first time and having the short program of my life in my first Grand Prix is really great.“ But in the free program he dropped to seventh place with 207.51 points after four mistakes on jumps.
Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia, who lives in Moscow, had to change his first name for citizenship reasons and now adds an "i“ at the end. He finished on eighth position with 205.12 points. He fell on both quads in the short program. In the free program, he doubled the two Salchows and fell again on the quad toe-loop. Five triple jumps were good, the triple Axel even excellent.
Alexei Bychenko from Israel had planned to finish his career at the age of 30 after the Olympic season. But he changed his mind even if he was not in good shape and ended up on ninth place with 197.47 points. In the short program the triple flip was very good, but he stepped out of the triple Axel and his combination was only double Lutz and triple toe-loop. In the free program, he did not try a quad. Three triple jumps were good, but he doubled three more and stepped out oft he second triple Axel.
Romain Ponsart from France, also a student of Rafael Arutunian, is tenth, earning 187.92 points. In the short program he landed a clean quad toe-loop, but stepped out of the triple Axel and the double toe-loop after the triple Lutz of his combination. In the free program he doubled the toe-loop which was planned quadruple, and missed both triple Axels.
Kevin Reynolds from Canada ended up on eleventh place with 185.63 points. He came as alternate for Belgian skater Jorik Hendrickx who decided to skip the Grand Prix season. Reynolds wants to compete one last season in order to become Canadian champion at least once after Patrick Chan has retired. In the short program, his quad Salchow was under-rotated, his quad toe-loop downgraded and he fell on the downgraded triple Axel. In the long program, he fell on the under-rotated quad Salchow and doubled three jumps.
Jimmy Ma, 11th at Nationals in January, moved from New Jersey to Euless, Texas, and trains now under Peter Cain. He finished twelfth and last with 185.03 points. In the short program to the music "Mi Gente“ by J. Balvin, he missed the quad toe loop, performed a good triple Axel and overturned the triple flip before the triple toe-loop. He is known for playing piano excellently and has showy programs. He kept his Rakhmaninov free program from last season, but fell three times, singled an Axel and only three triple jumps were clean.“It’s a humbling experience“, he said. "There’s a lot of things I need to work on it. It’s not just the tricks out there; it’s the mental part of it.”