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Incroyable! Chan snags second straight world title

Japan's Takahashi, Hanyu fill out podium; Abbott finishes eighth, Rippon 13th

Canadian Patrick Chan, now world champion for the second straight year, has not lost since 2010.
Canadian Patrick Chan, now world champion for the second straight year, has not lost since 2010. (Getty Images)

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By Jean-Christophe Berlot, special to icenetwork.com
(03/31/2012) - Patrick Chan, from Canada, won his second consecutive world title at the 2012 World Championships in Nice, scoring 266.11 points overall. Japan took the second and third places, with Daisuke Takahashi (259.66 points) and Yuzuru Hanyu (251.06 points). Brian Joubert and Florent Amodio, the "home boys," took fourth and fifth place. Jeremy Abbott, from the U.S., finished eighth with 226.19 points, and Adam Rippon ended up 13th with 216.63 points.

Chan opened with a solid quad toe, then quad toe-triple toe combination and triple Axel. His triple Lutz-single loop-triple Salchow combination was shaky, however, and his flying change foot combination spin got only a Level 1. He also popped his final double Axel to fall heavily.

"Maybe that's a trademark," Chan conceded laughingly. "I always have a weird fall. I was late to the music and I needed to rush through the take-off."

Chan, nonetheless, skated as he is capable of: from edge to edge, and he got the best components score of the field (90.14 for Chan, 85.78 for Takahashi). That was enough for him to win the free skate and his second world gold medal.

"Altogether, I skated smart this week," Chan said. "Other than this double Axel, it was a great program."

When asked what he would bring back from Nice, Chan answered: "Before I competed here, I had a couple of days to enjoy the city and walk around. It made me notice that people here do not rush from one thing to the next. They just do their thing at their pace and take their time. This is exactly the way I tried to skate here, toward that accomplished type of skating."

Takahashi, on the contrary, skated a nearly clean program. For the last four years now, since he was injured, he has been struggling hard to recover his quadruple jumps. But in Nice he landed his quad toe (with only a touch of the second foot), triple Axel, triple Axel-triple toe and the whole array of triples.

"I am really surprised that I improved so much this season," Takahashi said.

Above all, Takahashi offered a true art masterpiece to his fans, from start to end. It was one of those pieces that makes a whole audience suddenly fall in love with ice skating. His "Blues for Klook" raised emotion from beat to beat and move to move in the manner of a crescendo. At the end of his program, unlike most other competitors, he did not yell or raise his fist, but simply smiled and bowed.

"I really had a good time today," Takahashi explained afterward, "Because I managed to land my quad jump for the first time this year."

The sensation of the afternoon skated in the previous group and was also from Japan. Hanyu opened his Romeo and Juliet routine with a quad toe loop and skated nearly faultlessly. His only mistake even increased the audience's sympathy for him, when he fell on his circular step sequence. He posted his career best and ended second in the free, 0.04 points ahead of Takahashi.

Silver medalist at 2011 Four Continents Championships, Hanyu was nonetheless surprised to medal at his first world championships.

"I was very nervous going into these championships," Hanyu said. "I did not expect to be on the podium at my first worlds. But I feel great to be on the podium with my great teammate, especially after the catastrophe we experienced one year ago in my rink and in Japan."

"I am a little angry that he beat me in the free," Takahashi commented later, giving tribute to his younger teammate's talent. "But at practicing along with him this week, I could really tell that he is going to be a strong rival in the future!"

The crowd became crazy when Amodio, and then Joubert, opened the last group. Amodio redeemed himself after his rough season with a nearly flawless program and his usual wit (this time he did not fall on his quad Salchow).

"Today, I may say that I am finally among the best in the world," Amodio said. "The more competitions I make, and the more I approach from more and more solid programs, now we will be fighting with the greatest."

Joubert was skating right after Amodio, and the audience went even wilder, so that it was virtually impossible to hear his music or even watch the start of his program! Joubert managed to land all his elements as well with his trademark power and presence on the ice. He was so happy with his skate that he knelt down and kissed the ice at the end of his program.

"It's something I usually do when I medal," Joubert explained.

Joubert did not medal this time, as he finished more than six points from the podium (244.58 points compared to 251.06 for Hanyu).

"I did not come here to make the podium," Joubert said. "Matrix (Joubert's winning 2004 free, which he skated to again this year) is not a program to win anymore. My goal was really to find myself back after so many disappointments."

Some may regret that Joubert did not create a new winning program for this season.

"Many have also said that I was over my career," Joubert said. "But in my heart, I know that I can come back."

Amodio beat Joubert in the free, but Joubert remained one spot above his teammate.

Michal Brezina, from the Czech Republic, could not hold onto to second place from the short program.

"I am sad that I did not make the medal -- again," Brezina said. "This is not the program I wanted to skate. If you want to win a medal, you need to skate clean."

Skating his exquisite program to "Exogenesis Symphony" by Muse, Abbott landed his opening quad, triple Axel-double toe and triple flip, but had more difficulty with his second triple Axel. He also singled his triple loop, giving him 151.34 points for his free.

"I'm exhausted," Abbott said coming off the ice. "I knew that I would have to fight and I did. I'm going away from this championship with my head high, because I really fought. This is the first season I really believed I could be on a world podium, and I still believe it."

Of course, such a program, both athletic and intellectual, can only be marred by any mistake that interrupts the flow, especially with such a master of flow as Abbott is. In that respect, Abbott's components were rather disappointing.

"My transitions are horribly low (7.96 points)," Abbott recognized. "My program is nothing but transitions!"

As a matter of fact, Joubert's own components were even higher than Abbott's, which could be questioned.

"I know that I'm capable of a lot more, and I hope I have the chance to show that in Nice," Rippon suggested right after his silver medal win at the U.S. championships in San Jose.

Rippon displayed all his sensitivity to Bach's "Air and Fugue." He fell on his opening quad and tumbled on his subsequent triple Axel, which has eluded him about all week here in Nice. He nonetheless recomposed to land his triple loop and an ample triple flip-triple toe combination. His second triple Axel was much cleaner.

"I am a little upset by the way my jumps went," Rippon said, "But it is one of my best programs. My circular step sequence is Level 4 -- as all my other elements."

Rippon's final Lutz may not have brought him any credit, but it did draw the audience into his program.

"It is really harder to land a Lutz this way," Rippon said, "But it really separates me from the other skaters. Everybody in the arena was so enthusiastic after that."

A special mention should be made of Kevin van der Perren, from Belgium, who ended his eligible career with a faultless program, packed with two quads and eight triples. He received a standing ovation.

"I am really happy to end my career on such a high note," van der Perren said.