Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs during the men’s short program at the World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm on March 25th. (AP Photo)
The Japanese Hanyu, who is the champion of the sport in every way, won the short program on Thursday at the World Figure Skating Championships and distanced himself from Chen when the American fell on his first quadruple Lutz while Hanyu was pure perfection .
Hanyu was the sport’s greatest attraction for two Olympic cycles, each of which ended with a gold medal. In a short program full of difficulty, style, artistry and a lot of energy, he showed why.
His body rotation during his jumps – a combination of Quad-Salchow, Triple-Axel and Quad-Toe-Loop-Triple-Toe-Loop – was so fast that it was barely noticeable. His musical selection « Let Me Entertain You » by Robbie Williams matched Hanyu’s frenetic performance, which, if the audience had been present, would have made her as breathless as the skater.
« Of course we wanted everyone to have fun, and we developed this program, « Hanyu said through an interpreter, although he is fluent in English. “It would be an even better program if we had a live audience and we clapped and cheered. Everyone tunes in on the internet and on TV and I can actually feel that and I accept all that energy on the ice when I skate this program. “
No, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there were no fans at the Ericsson Globe. Had they been, they would have littered the ice cream with the Winnie the Pooh dolls that have become a hallmark of Hanyu. Well-known trainer Brian Orser, a pooh bear in hand holding a yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) on the sideboard, jumped up with every brilliant element of his skater.
« Overall, I’m about today’s performance very pleased, but there is still a lot of room for improvement that I know of, « said Hanyu. « This music is full of energy and choreography and I think I was able to put it all out on the ice today. »
There were no celebrations from the Chen camp. The double defending world championship title list has not lost a competition since the 2018 Olympic Games. But he’s now more than eight points behind Hanyu’s 106.98 points. And Hanyu’s compatriot, 17-year-old sensation Yuma Kagiyama, is in second place between the two favorites.
Chen, winner of the last five US titles, had problems at the beginning of his program, similar to those at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. However, he recovered Thursday by taping a triple toe loop to the back of his quad flip so he had the combination he needed. And his twists and footwork were tough and complicated.
« I made a huge mistake immediately, » said Chen. « I had to figure out how to regroup. Mistakes happen. I’m glad I had this opportunity to learn from it and move forward. »
As for the rally for a third consecutive world crown – no American has done it since Scott Hamilton’s fourth straight win in 1984 – Chen didn’t think so.
« Medals are things that are out of my control. I feel like I’m putting myself in the wrong state of mind if I focus on it, « he said. » I’ll take some time to analyze what happened to the Quad Lutz and do better.
Beyond the top tier, it was a flop feast for some of the best men: Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno , American Vincent Zhou and Chinese Jin Boyang.
Zhou, a bronze medalist at the 2019 Worlds – the event was canceled in March last year due to the pandemic – had one of the worst ice skates of his young career. Zhou fell on his Quad-Lutz, twisted under on his Quad-Salchow triple-toe loop, and then fell on a Triple-Lutz. Looking confused by such a poor performance, Zhou fell to 25th place and failed to qualify for free skate on Saturday.
« Of course, that’s not a result I even wanted to consider taking part in this competition It’s disappointing, « Zhou said. » To me, it feels like I’m abandoning my teammates and myself, but thinking about these things only makes me feel worse. I’ll likely be unhappy and I can’t let myself be turned on my head today. «
Uno fell heavily on his triple axle while Jin, a two-time world bronze winner, fell on a Quad-Lutz and then the second jump in his combination messed up. Uno finished sixth, Jim finished 19th ..
The always entertaining American Jason Brown, who doesn’t have the jumps of the top men but is masterful in all other aspects of skating, finished seventh.
The Russians Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov spectacularly won the gold medal in their first worlds. Her complex technical elements for free-skate, including extraordinary lifts that Mischina had cut on Galliamov’s back for almost half of the rink, were accompanied by a lot of power in a routine to Queen music.
This performance lifted her off third place and from the two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China, who were plagued by multiple mistakes in jumps next to each other.
« We are really surprised to come first, » said Mishina. « At the moment I don’t know what to say because we don’t understand it yet. »
« Thank you to everyone who has supported us. Maybe we didn’t have anyone here, but we know a lot of people who have watched on TV and we felt the support. «
The two American couples fought after solid short programs. The US champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier took seventh place, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc ninth place.
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