Chan wins short with season's best, Brezina close
Takahashi takes third; Americans off to frustrating start
|Canada's Patrick Chan earned a season's best 89.41 points, but Czech Michal Brezina is 1.74 behind. (Getty Images)|
Chan opened his "Take Five" short program with his usual quad toe, but he did not land it well enough to combine it with the triple toe (which he combined with his triple Lutz). His triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe were perfect. The rest of his program was in the mood of victory, with that typical "Chan flair" that makes him an instant friend to everyone in the audience.
"I was a bit more nervous this year," he said, "As I was the defending champion. Also, the short program has become the deciding program: There is no room for a mistake."
Chan's main mistake was a big wobble in his final straight line step sequence, when he nearly fell backward -- in both directions (the second one made even him smile!). He got only a Level 3 for this sequence, although holding his balance in such a mishap could certainly have been rewarded more!
"I was off balance and thought I would recover on the next edge," he said. "I ended up being even more off balance on that second step, and I had to put my foot on the ice. I was a bit mad at that, but then I saw that the audience went into it and it cheered me up. I lost only a level, and I thought it was a good finish for this program."
Brezina had a rather uneven season; he started his 2011-12 season with a victory at Skate America, third at Trophée Eric Bompard, then sixth -- which was last -- at the Grand Prix Final and fourth at Europeans. His short program was superlative Friday, as he hit his triple Axel, triple flip-triple toe and -- quite originally at such a place in his program -- his quad Salchow.
"In fact," Brezina said, "My program was built for two quads. When I decided to change the combination from quad-triple to triple-triple, I left the second quad where it was. I like to have the feeling that I have done all the other jumps before the quad."
By the way, Brezina was celebrating his 22nd birthday Friday.
"This is the first time I skate this program completely clean this year," he said. "I could not give myself any better present than this silver [little, as the ISU calls it] medal."
Takahashi admitted repeatedly that he had not recovered his quad since his knee injury, back in 2008. His attempt in Nice was nonetheless his best of the season. He decided to combine it with a triple toe, which he could not land without putting his hands on the ice (and which was later downgraded).
Most of all, his program to In the Garden of Souls was of balletic grace, with an interesting work of his upper body, rarely seen in high-level competitive skating. His components were the second best of the field, 0.88 points from Chan (42.29 to 43.17 for the Canadian).
Brian Joubert, from France, is definitely an amazing character. Friday morning, the French national newspaper l'Equipe was suggesting that this might be Joubert's "one too many season." In the same newspaper, he admitted that he would "not become the 2012 World champion in Nice."
Friday afternoon, he proved that these comments could be contested by hitting a perfect quad-triple combination (14.97 points by itself!), triple Axel and triple Lutz in a superbly executed program.
"I proved in the past that I was capable of landing a quad-triple in a short program," Joubert said afterward. "But make this happen here, at the world championship in France, this is so important for me. Also, it is so encouraging for next season."
Joubert gathered unanimous applause from his home crowd from the start to the end of his program, and he received 83.47 points from the judging panel. He sits in fourth before the free skate.
Many wondered whether Javier Fernandez, the first Spanish skater to ever medal at a Grand Prix series and Final, would duplicate that at worlds. He skated brilliantly to his "I Love Paris" and "Petite Fleur" routine. A quad toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe earned him 81.87 points, fewer than four points from the podium, in fifth place.
"He is now feeling that he belongs to that top group of world skaters," his coach Brian Orser said. "He has done three really good competitions in a row before that one. It's not by chance. It's skills, not luck."
Florent Amodio, the other home skater, landed on his bottom on his quad Salchow, but he quickly recomposed, and the rest of his program was flawless. He got 79.96 points overall and stands in sixth, ahead of young Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese phenom, and Kazakhstan's Denis Ten.
Abbott was expecting so much of his "world comeback" after his boot problem marred his 2011 season.
"This season is for me," he said after his record-breaking short program (90.23 points) at the U.S. championships in late January. His program turned out as another nightmare, element-wise at least, as he fell on the triple toe of his combination and doubled his planned triple Lutz. His components were better than Joubert's and Brezina's, however.
"Considering how awful my skate was," a distressed Abbott said, "I am really happy with these components. Had I skated the way I should have, they would have gone to the 9s."
Abbott nonetheless managed to play with the audience as he now knows to do it.
"I really kept smiling and let the audience enjoy and clap, but I was so disappointed," he said. "I enjoy this program so much that I did not want to let it suffer from the elements I missed."
His straight line step sequence was certainly one of the very best Friday.
"I had never been more prepared than this time. I believed with every fiber in my body that this year I would be on the world podium and now I let it go," he said. "If I can go away from this event after skating my best tomorrow, I'll be happy."
Rippon's "Korobushko" was again a hit in Nice, especially the second half of his program. He landed his triple flip-triple toe combo with ease and even grace, but his triple Axel eluded him again. He then tumbled on his final "Rippon Lutz," with both arms extended above his head. He got 73.55 points and stands in 10th place before the free, 16 points behind Chan.
Rippon put his heart and soul into his final straight line step sequence.
"The more the program went, the more confident I felt," Rippon explained afterward. "I never make a mistake on that Lutz. I think that I messed with my mind a bit."
He missed these two jumps in practice in the last few days.
"I let thoughts sneak in," he recognized. "It's silly to let myself get distracted."