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Chan edges Fernandez to win third Skate Canada title

Spaniard wins country's first Grand Prix medal; Rippon tries quad Lutz

Only 3.41 points separated Patrick Chan and the rest of the field at 2011 Skate Canada.
Only 3.41 points separated Patrick Chan and the rest of the field at 2011 Skate Canada. (AFP)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/30/2011) - Patrick Chan won his third Skate Canada crown Saturday night, but Javier Fernandez again stole much of the show.

Canada's 20-year-old world champion recovered from a hard fall on his opening quad toe to hit a gorgeous quad toe-triple toe combination and a triple Axel, winning the free skate over a game Fernandez. Daisuke Takahashi settled for bronze after an error-filled program that lacked a quad.

"It's not pretty but I'm proud I was able to trip before the Lutz and still do it," Chan said of the second fall in his program, which came while he was stroking forward.

"It shows I'm still maturing as an athlete and as a competitor. Hopefully my next competition in Paris [Trophee Eric Bompard] will be a little smoother."

Two-time U.S. world junior champion Adam Rippon stood up on a quad Lutz attempt and placed fourth. U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner recovered from a disappointing short with a solid fifth-place free skate, and placed sixth overall.

The margin of victory over Fernandez -- 3.41 points -- was surprisingly narrow for the high-scoring Chan, who holds world records in all three men's scoring categories. While his "Adagio" from Concierto de Aranjuez had its spectacular moments -- including a quad toe-triple toe combination and expressive steps -- it is still maturing.

"This past summer after I got the program [from Lori Nichol], we had to work a lot on tweaking some patterns, some of the jumps," he said.

"I'm not superhuman. Sometimes I can't do everything. That's a work in-progress. There will be some changes in the long [term]; it will probably not be done until worlds. It will improve. ... I love how it weaves endlessly and smoothly from one jump to the other. It makes the program feel short."

Chan earned 170.46 for his free, well off his personal best, and ended with 253.74 points.

Fernandez performed a medley to LaTraviata and Rigoletto that included a quad toe loop, a quad Salchow and two triple Axels, making it more technically challenging than Chan's.

The 20-year-old from Madrid skated with charisma and speed, putting his hand down on his opening quad toe but nailing the quad Salchow for 12.50 points. After falling on his first triple Axel, he fought back to land an easy triple Axel-triple toe, plus a triple Lutz-triple toe and two other triples. Had he not doubled an intended triple loop, he might have won the event.

Fernandez's free earned 165.62 points, another personal best, and he ended with 250.33, shattering his previous high.

"It feels great, I'm so happy to be here today," he said. "After [winning] the short program, I had so much pressure, but I think I held it the best I could today. I was pretty nervous, but I did my best.

"I am still working [to improve] for my next Grand Prix [Cup of Russia], and will try my best to make it to the Grand Prix Final. My coach [Brian Orser] and I, we are doing good work."

Fernandez moved to Toronto to train under the two-time Olympic silver medalist four months ago.

"He's had some of the tricks," Orser said. "If you look at his sheet from [2011] worlds, he had a quad toe and Salchow. The big difference is his components. They were high sixes before; now they are eights. But he has great programs, and he believes in them."

Takahashi, Japan's 2010 world champion and Olympic bronze medalist, had his opening quad flip attempt downgraded by the technical panel. The program seemed to lose steam from there, as he made mistakes on many jumps. His free to "Blues for Klook" earned 153.21 points, and he ended with 237.87.

"My performance was not good, I could not make my jumps," Takahashi said. "But [all three of] my spins got Level 4, so that is good."

Takahashi, who has said he hopes to continue competing through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, said he feels pressure to up his technical ante.

"I looked at my technical points here [69.37] and I thought they are very low," he said. "Today I saw Patrick and Javier skate a little bit and both have very nice quads. I need a [reliable] quad to get close to them and compete through Sochi."

Rippon, who told reporters he has been training the quad Lutz since March, had his effort downgraded by the Skate Canada technical panel.

The only trouble in his otherwise-fine free to Bach's "Air, Toccata and Fugue" -- which included a triple Lutz-single loop-triple Salchow combination, as well as his signature "Rippon" Lutz -- was his two triple Axel attempts. Rippon turned out of the first and fell on the second, but still placed fourth in the free and fourth overall with 217.97 points.

"This was my first time trying [the quad Lutz] in competition, and I think it will only get stronger, more like I do in practice at home," Rippon said. "I think [that] if I would have held in a little more, it would have been fine."

Miner shook off the disappointment of the short program by turning in a strong skate to music from The Untouchables that included a sterling opening triple Axel.

"That felt a lot better," Miner said. "Now I get to go home for a week [before NHK Trophy] and really practice. It's good to be sort of fireproofed and go through it once before you get another chance.

"I did the short last year and had good performances. I was focusing on things I couldn't control and that didn't help me. I had to go back, reset, and say, 'I'm going to skate just for me, and enjoy it,' and I did."