by Klaus Reinhold Kany
(22 March 2019) The Short Program of the men was a highlight of the 2019 World Championships in Saitama, Japan. Japanese TV asked the organizers to hold it on Thursday night and the pairs free skating on Thursday noon instead because Japan has no pair competing and certainly no superstar. But Japan’s superstars were not faultless and therefore did not take the lead in front of about 20,000 enthusiastic spectators.
Instead, the reigning World Champion Nathan Chen of California won the short program with 107.40 points and is ahead with 13 points than Yuzuru Hanyu and 16 more than Shoma Uno. Chen was the only skater with two clean quads in the short program. Skating to a new version of “Caravan“ by Duke Ellington, he started with a very good triple Axel, followed by a good quad Lutz and a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop in the second half. His spins were excellent, his step sequence outstanding (six GOEs of +5) and his components had an average of 9.3 with some 9.75 as highest ones.
He said, “I am happy with my short program today. I want to take chance to say that it is a big honor to sit next to these two guys (Brown and Hanyu). All of the past few years they competed next to me and pushed me to become a better skater. Going back to my short program, there are always things that I can do better. I think that has been, actually, my favorite season so far. I have been reassuring to myself that I have been able to manage both, school and figure skating. There has definitely been a learning curve that took me a little while to figure out how to get two. Ultimately, I am happy with progress in skating. School has been amazing for me. I have been able to develop my personality outside of skating. However, skating will always be a great part of my life.“
A huge success for US figure skating is the current second place for Jason Brown, winning 96.81 points although he did not not try any quad. But the 2018 reform of the judging system rewards skaters with excellent other elements and punishes those with bad quads or falls. Brown began with an outstanding triple flip (which had four GOEs of +5 and five GOEs of +4), followed by an excellent triple Axel and a stellar combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. He also collected many points with excellent spins and a stellar step sequence. His components were around 9.2 and the Spanish judge even gave him a 10.0 for interpretation, the only 10.0 of the whole competition.
He commented, “I am super pleased with today’s performance. I’ve been working really hard until this on my consistency with my coaches. I’m really proud to appear here and perform what I’ve been training. Like Nathan just said, it’s a huge honor to appear with these guys. And I’ve got the privilege of training with Yuzu this entire season. He has pushed me everyday to become a better skater and encouraged me to just keep pushing on myself and believing in myself. I love Japan so much. It’s experience in itself just to skate here. It’s definitely everything I have dreamt of to be at more. I am working very hard so strain my energy and stay calm.“
Yuzuru Hanyu sits third with 94.87 points. He doubled the Salchow which was planned quadruple and therefore got zero points for this element instead of around 11 or 12 for a very good quad. His triple Axel was excellent. His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was very good, the spins and steps outstanding and his components a little bit higher than those of Chen.
He explained, “I am very disappointed with my short program. I have made a really big mistake and I want to reflect on this and do my best for the free program. I am really pleased that I could get into the top three with these distinguished athletes, Nathan and Jason. This year Jason has entered the same training club with me, and it has become a big chance for me to learn his great skating skills, expression and flexibility. As for Nathan, because of my injury this is the first time we compete together in this season, but it made me feel that it’s truly enjoyable to compete with him.“
Another big success for US Figure Skating is the fourth place of Vincent Zhou, earning 94.17 points. His combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was very good, his quad Salchow under-rotated and his triple Axel, steps and spins good again. His components were around 8.3. “This program is probably the most magical programs I have ever had. I am so lucky to have worked with Lori Nichol and established a great relationship with her. She has helped my artistry and I am very thankful for that. I am thankful for the incredible program that she and I created together and that may or may not have been the last time I skated, but I am really glad that I ended it on such a high note.“
Another surprise is the fifth place of young Italian skater Matteo Rizzo with 93.37 points, eight more points than his personal best had been before. After winning the University Games two weeks ago and beating all Russian skaters there, he gave a flawless and elegant performance in Saitama with a very good quad toe loop, an excellent triple Axel and five good other elements. He commented, “It was amazing, the arena is huge so I was trying to perform the best for the people who were watching. I have never skated in an arena this big, so it was a first experience for me.“
Japan’s second big star Shoma Uno sits sixth with 91.40 points. He fell on the quad flip which was under-rotated. Then he combined his quad toe loop with a double instead of a triple toe loop. His other elements were excellent. „I did not have enough speed going into the flip“, he said. Kevin Aymoz from France, a stylish skater who is trained by John Zimmerman in Florida, is seventh with 88.24 points. Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic from the school of Rafael Arutunian in California is currently on eighth position, earning 86.96 points. Boyang Jin from China is ninth with 84.26 points after falling on the quad Lutz. The Russian skaters gave disappointing performances. Mikhael Kolyada was the best on tenth place with 84.23 points.
Rink Side Note, Eric Radford from Canada, Olympic team gold medalist in 2018, was elected as new single and pair skaters‘ representative to the ISU athlete’s commission. He won with 27,23 votes against Misha Ge from Uzbekistan. For the ice dancers, Yuri Hulitski from Belarus (who is competing in Saitama) is already nominated because he was the only candidate.