Chan skates altitudes above rest, tops podium
World champion torches field by 30; Takahashi grabs silver, Miner bronze
|After feeling uncomfortable in the short program, Canada's Patrick Chan shined in the free skate. (Getty Images)|
Canada's world champion shrugged off a disappointing short and shaky morning practice to skate one of his finest performances, defeating a game Daisuke Takahashi by nearly 30 points. Ross Miner won bronze, another 20 points behind.
"I went with the program; I just went with the flow," Chan, 21, said. "I knew that if I just let things go, it would happen the way I wanted it to be."
One can quibble about generous grades of execution, and whether Chan deserves program component scores all averaging about nine, but there was no doubt he was in a league of his own at the 2012 Four Continents Championships. His opening moves -- back-to-back quad toes, the first done in combination with a triple toe, and a triple Axel -- told the tale, helping him earn a combined 38.63 points.
"I just had to take it one thing at a time and not rush, not try to muscle things," Chan said. "The first three jumps marked most of the program."
He went on to land five more triples, including a strong triple Lutz-triple Salchow sequence, as well as effective steps and solid spins. All was done with a fluidity and purity of motion that was, at times, breathtaking.
Those watching Friday morning's practice, when Chan's quad looked iffy and he fell twice on footwork during his run-through, would be surprised with the evening's result. But that's just the way this skater rolls.
"I needed that practice. I needed the mistakes to kind of wake me up and get me back on my feet, remind myself this is not a walk in the park," Chan said.
"Some of my success comes from not taking things for granted," he said. "For me, this is still a building step to the  Sochi Olympics. I tell you now; if I went to the Olympics next week, I wouldn't be ready. So each competition for me is to build and get better as a competitor. This week was good because I've learned a lot -- to trust myself, not get hooked up on little things, on practice, on feelings off the ice. This is what I do every day. I'm on the ice more than I'm in bed."
Takahashi, Japan's 2010 world champion, tried to keep pace with Chan, opening his sinuous "Blues for Klook" program with an imperfect but fully rotated quad toe. Seconds later, he popped his first triple Axel into a single and, later, under-rotated his second attempt.
"There is a big gap between me and Patrick, and that motivates me to work even harder," Takahashi, 25, said through an interpreter.
"I realize again that I need to improve the consistency of my quad jump. I practiced even harder in the [high] altitude of Colorado, and I think this sets me up well for the world championships."
Miner, sixth after the short, snared bronze with a solid if unspectacular skate to the Untouchables soundtrack that opened with back-to-back triple Axels, the second done in combination with a double toe.
Although the U.S. bronze medalist fell on a triple Lutz and doubled a planned triple loop, he landed his triple Lutz-triple toe as well as a triple Salchow combination.
"The whole performance felt a bit off," Miner, 21, said. "I got off the ice and said, 'Okay, I'm done now, I can go work on new things.' Then the results came up and oh, I did not expect that."
Adam Rippon, who edged Miner to win the silver medal at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, placed third in the free with a solid and, at times, inspired outing of his program to Bach selections, but could not overtake Miner, who held a one-point advantage after the short.
The two-time world junior champion opened with a fall on a downgraded quad Salchow and then quickly recovered to land a triple Axel-double toe and triple loop. Although he also landed a triple flip-triple toe and triple Lutz-triple Salchow sequence, a popped triple Axel cost him big, and he wound up fourth with 146.63 points.
"I fought for everything I could and I can't be upset with it," the 22-year-old said. "The skating I showed here was a good step forward to having two clean programs at the world championships in Nice."
Rippon, who trains in Detroit under Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen, was pleased to gain full credit for his combinations.
"I had a lot of struggle with it in the Grand Prix, trying to change my technique a little bit working with Yuka and Jason," he said. "There was always one triple-triple or something that was getting under-rotations so I have addressed that with them and worked a lot on the technique, so that when it comes to crunch time it's really paid off."
Richard Dornbush, the 2011 U.S. silver medalist who placed 13th at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, was 13th here after a subpar outing that included just three clean triples.
"It was extremely difficult to prepare not only physically but mentally," Dornbush, 21, said. "It was a short time to regroup after U.S. championships. I guess it wasn't quite enough.
"I'm going to take a couple weeks [off] and come back stronger than ever. I want to focus on getting my physical abilities and athleticism higher so that I can train my programs the way I like to."