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Fernandez steals Weir's thunder in Finlandia short

Spaniard sizzles; Hanyu takes second; Dornbush grabs third, Weir fourth in return

The top three after the men's short (left to right): Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Javier Fernandez of Spain and Rocky Dornbush of the U.S.
The top three after the men's short (left to right): Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Javier Fernandez of Spain and Rocky Dornbush of the U.S. (Jyrki Pirkkalainen)

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By Jyrki Pirkkalainen, special to icenetwork.com
(10/05/2012) - Friday was a day of victory for Brian Orser's students at Finlandia Trophy. Training mates Javier Fernandez of Spain and Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan dominated the men's short program in Espoo, Finland, edging U.S men Richard Dornbush and Johnny Weir, who finished third and fourth, respectively.

Fernandez, who led with 80.77 points, looked astounded after what looked like a clean skate -- complete with an effortless quad toe and triple Axel -- and it took him a while to pick his jaw from the ice and wipe off the surprised expression from his face.

Later on, he explained that the mimic was all about his final combination spin that he had messed up. The Spaniard said he was positive he'd be seeing a "0.00" when the PDF (the detailed score sheet from the judges) comes out. However, the panel wasn't that harsh in the end: Level 1 from the technical specialist, everything from -2 to +2 from the judges; 2.12 points for the element and a 4.06-point lead going into Saturday's free skate.

Fernandez's practices in Finland had not been that good; on the contrary, he had been falling a lot.

"I actually hit the boards a couple of times in the warmup," he said. "We skaters are used to bruises. We need to fall [sometimes], I think. I was just getting used to the ice, but in the competition, I focused and I did a good program," he said.

Hanyu fell on his quad toe, but interpreted the music ("Parisienne Walkways" by Gary Moore) very well and scored 75.57 points. The 17-year-old world bronze medalist recently moved to Orser's group and is training together with Fernandez.

"Yuzuru is one of the best and probably the hardest-working skater, and it pushes me to work harder in training," Fernandez said, describing the rivalry.

Hanyu, in turn, replied modestly, after searching for words: "Every practice is exciting, but sometimes I don't focus in practice because Javier and everyone else speak English. I must learn English. I'm going to study it."

Nervous start for U.S skaters

Dornbush is in third with 71.19 points. The American tripled and stepped out of the planned quad toe in the beginning of his program, meaning he had to change his plan mid-skate.

"I knew I wasn't allowed to repeat the triple toe loop, a lesson I learned at an earlier competition, so I changed my combination into a triple Lutz-double toe to not lose extra points," he explained.

"It's the first international of the season, and it takes a while to get your legs underneath you. I think none of us are at our best at this stage. You know, sometimes winning is about who falls the least, especially in the long program. I will focus on my own skating, and my goal is to do my best."

Incidentally, the trio of Fermandez, Hanyu and Dornbush will meet again at the NHK Trophy in Japan.

Weir's comeback to competitive skating didn't quite go as planned. He under-rotated and stumbled out of his quad toe and stumbled again during his step sequence. He did a triple Lutz-double toe for the jump combination, just like the three men ahead of him.

The crowd did love his dancing to Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," though.

Weir admitted that it was far from easy.

"I was shaking," he said. "I had been nervous all day, a lot more nervous than I would have expected. This was probably the hardest competition of my career so far. It has been so long since I last competed.

"For me, today it was about remembering all the different points I have to do during the program. I was forgetting everything! I'm not happy with the way I skated, but it was a very good first step. It was not a disaster. And the quad wasn't too bad."

A mere 0.02 points behind Weir, Russia's Zhan Bush is in fifth, followed by Uzbekistan's Misha Ge, who wooed the Finnish crowd with his fierce Flamenco step sequence.

It's getting crowded: top synchro teams on ice

On Friday night, some ISU history was made. Synchronized skating had never before been included in the same international ISU competition as the "traditional" figure skating disciplines.

In Espoo, part of Finlandia Trophy was an invitational short program competition for Finland and Russia's top synchro teams. Team Unique, the 2009 world silver medalist team from Helsinki, skated with good precision and speed to triumph with 60.43 points. Rockettes, the three-time world champions, had to settle for second place, while Russia's top team, Paradise, took third.

As an example of how popular synchronized skating is in Finland, no less than six local synchro teams also performed in the opening ceremony. In fact, there were more than 100 young skaters from Espoo on the ice at the same time, and some gymnasts on top as well. It was quite an impressive sight, not to mention the noise level.