by Liz Leamy
Happy 21st Birthday Junhwan Cha
Kao Miura of Japan Takes Top Spot in Men's Short Program
(22 October 2021) Kao Miura, the talented 2022 Japanese Four Continents bronze medalist, knocked the ball out of the park with a power-charged program to Michelangelo 70 and La Muerte de Angel by Astor Piazzolla for which he racked up a 94.96 to wind up at the top of the formidable 12-member roster of men’s contenders.
Dressed in a black slacks and a button-down shirt accented by dramatic red floral embroidery, Miura flew around the ice with the stealth and speed of a world champion, knocking out a quad Salchow-triple toe loop, quad toe loop and triple Axel with attack, ease and command.
Although he had a minute slip on the landing of his triple Axel, Miura catapulted to the top of the leaderboard due to the speed at which he flew in and out of his soaring jumps, among other things.
For Miura, his finish in the short program was an unexpected surprise.
“I’m telling myself why am I sitting here and I’m really happy about that,” said Miura, who works with Noriko Sato, Nobuko Fukui and Koji Okjima through a Japanese translator at the press conference. “I just tried to be confident.”
Junhwan Cha, the Korean champion who placed fifth at the 2022 Olympics, wowed the crowd with his program to a high-voltage Michael Jackson medley of ‘Can You Feel It, Billie Jean and Smooth Criminal’ for which he earned a 94.44 and 44.74 program component score, the highest second mark of the event.
Cha, who works with Brian Orser and Hyan Jung Chi at the Toronto Cricket Club and Seoul, respectively, reeled off a quad Salchow, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe loop while portraying the incredible music of Michael Jackson, tunes that went over in a huge way with the Boston crowd.
At the same time, this was an important personal day for Cha as it was also his 21st birthday, a benchmark moment he said he was excited about, but didn’t want to have to be his entire focus with the competition taking place.
“Competing on my birthday was a great experience but I just wanted to keep focused,” said Cha. “I was very happy that I skated well at Skate America.”
Following the post-competition press conference, Cha was presented with a birthday cake by Brian Orser and Jason Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion and two-time U.S. Olympian, much to his surprise, as everyone in the room sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, making it a special night on many counts.
Meanwhile, for Cha, the main goal is all about building his skating and getting better and stronger as he continues to move forward.
“Last season, the Olympics gave me a lot of great experience, memories and motivation,” said Cha. “I just want to [further] challenge myself this year.”
Daniel Grassl, the 2022 Italian European silver medalist who currently stands fifth in the International Skating Union world rankings, claimed the third spot with a poignant and powerful program to ‘Silhouette’ by Aquilo for which he was rightfully awarded an 88.43.
This memorable routine, choreographed by Jason Brown, featured a quad Lutz, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, all of which were defined by command, good lift and terrific length.
At the same time, Grassl skated every edge, jump, spin and movement with great presence, emotion and understanding, which is also why he earned such high scores at this event.
Several months ago, Grassl had relocated to the Skating Club of Boston training center in Norwood to train with Alexei Letov and Olga Ganicheva, a pursuit he has been enjoying so far.
“I’m very happy about my performance. I tried to be confident with myself on the ice and be very happy,” said Grassl, who also said it’s been a good, but sometimes challenging adjustment having made such a big move geographically. “It was very nice to train on my home ice. I’ve been one to two months here and I wanted to focus and do the job.”
Grassl also said it is the challenges that are a motivating factor for him with his skating.
“I’m very happy for how I fought for it [out there],” said Grassl. “For sure, I’ll fight for the freestyle.”
Ilia Malinin, the 17 year-old jumping dynamo who made history last September after landing a clean quad Axel at the 2022 CS U.S. Classic in Lake Placid, skated an outstanding program to Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’ to earn fourth with an 86.08.
Malinin, who lives and trains in Northern Virginia with his parents, Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakov (and is also coached by Rafael Aruytyunyan in Irvine, California) execute a lightning-quick quad Lutz-triple toe loop and triple Axel with attack, sureness and the rotational quickness of a Hummingbird.
He did, however, miss sticking the landing on his quad toe loop, which caused him to lose a few points.
Still, Malinin was a crowd favorite as he also performed some beautifully extended and fast spins as well as fluid, smooth and intricate footwork, for which he was awarded high grade of execution marks.
“It was very exciting because the crowd cheered and it was the first competition near my hometown,” said Malinin. “Even with the mistake I just had a really fun time. For me, it’s focusing on the choreography and not just focusing on the jumps.”
Malinin said he is also looking forward to a strong performance in the free skate.
“I will make sure all my elements are on point and be really confident tomorrow,” said Malinin. “I take every mistake and use it as a learning opportunity to improve.”