Chan dominates short in record-shattering skate
Kazakhstan's Ten rumbles into second place; Reynolds lands third for Canada
|Patrick Chan's 98.37 points were the highest ever recorded in a men's short program. (Getty Images)|
At the 2013 World Championships in London, Ontario, on Wednesday, the two-time Canadian world champion wowed a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 7,000 with a brilliant short that combined technical mastery and musical sensitivity, and set a new world record score of 98.37 points.
"I wanted it so bad," Chan, 22, said. "It could have gone terribly wrong, or it could be have been amazing. Luckily, it went on the positive side."
Luck likely had little to do with Chan's stirring performance to Rachmaninoff's "Elegy in E-flat minor," choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle. After hitting his jump elements -- including an opening quad toe-triple toe combination and triple Axel -- he floated through his spins and steps, carried by the pianissimos and crescendos of the music. At times, you could hear a pin drop in the famously raucous Budweiser Gardens, home to the London Knights, a leading junior hockey team.
In the mixed zone, Chan spoke of gritting out some jump landings, but the judges disagreed, awarding him mostly +2 grades of execution (GOEs). His superb spins and steps all gained Level 4, and his five program components scores added up to 45.67 points.
"I've been training that way all week long, and the last few weeks going into the world championships," Chan said. "But there is still a bit of doubt. When you get to a competition, you don't know what can happen.
"Beyond being in first after the short, I was just more excited about finally putting out a good program. The whole season, not being able to do a quad-triple, and so on and so on, and then finally being able to lay it down on the day that counts."
Chan credits his performance to a change of scenery. In the men's press conference, he spoke of not having the support of other skaters at Colorado Springs' World Arena, where he has trained nearly full-time since 2010. Finally, about three weeks ago, he and coach Kathy Johnson decided to prepare for the 2013 World Championships at Detroit Skating Club, an easy two-and-a-half hour drive from London.
"The whole season, I would show up to competitions as ready and as trained as I could be, but I couldn't put out the programs I wanted to," Chan said. "I wondered if I was not training hard enough or wasn't mentally tough enough. There were a lot of possibilities."
Practicing at DSC, where friends like Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, and many other international competitors train, is a different world.
"I need friends behind me," Chan said. "[At DSC], we have each other's backs. It's just that kind of family feeling. It makes me want to work hard as opposed to dreading it and not want to go to the rink."
Kazakhstan's Denis Ten sits a surprising second after a smooth-as-silk performance to music from The Artist, choreographed by Lori Nichol. The 19-year-old hit a quad toe, triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe combination, and also gained Level 4s for his spins and steps to earn an astounding 91.56 points.
"I am surprised, like everybody, that I am in second place," said Ten, who placed seventh at the 2012 World Championships. "It is a big honor for me. I'm happy for my country because this is the first [small] medal for Kazakhstan in figure skating. I will enjoy this day until the end of the night, and then tomorrow I'll try to be fresh and keep my motivation for the long."
("Small" medals are awarded by the ISU to the top three finishers in the short program. Ten also won a small medal at the 2012 World Junior Figure Skating Championships.)
Ten, who trains in Southern California under Frank Carroll, had some disappointing competitions earlier this season, most recently a 12th-place finish at the 2013 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships.
"If Patrick's early season was frustrating, mine was a complete disaster," Ten said. "I had so many problems. It was hard mentally and physically. I didn't have enough confidence at each competition. There wasn't one time when something wasn't hurting."
According to Carroll, Ten's issues stem from a physical problem involving his feet.
"They are not level; he is constantly having pain in his ankles," the coach said. "He needs to have his boots exactly right. He needs, this year, to figure out a good orthopedic doctor or someone who does orthotics. He's been able to work it out so that it is tolerable, but it's always a problem. We're working on the skates for next year."
Carroll attributes Ten's success here to more disciplined training habits.
"I've been telling him he has got to give up the Russian way of training in vignettes and do it the way Americans do it -- run the program, run the program, run the program," he said.
Kevin Reynolds, second to Chan at the last two Canadian championships, rode two quads -- a Salchow, done in combination with a triple toe, and a two-footed toe loop -- to a third-place finish with 85.16 points. The skater from British Columbia, who won last month's Four Continents, also gained Level 4 for his spins and steps.
This is the second time Reynolds has landed two quads in a short program; the first was at Skate Canada in 2010.
"Winning Four Continents, I had some good results in the bank," Reynolds, 22, said. "I had the confidence to skate a good short program here as well."
That confidence helped him overcome a cyst rupture in his left knee, sustained in a practice fall on a quad just 10 days ago.
"It feels better," he said. "It's a short-term injury; it was a small interruption."
Japan's Daisuke Takahashi, who won the Grand Prix Final in December, had two jumps -- including his opening quad toe -- judged under-rotated, and he sits fourth with 84.67 points, more than 14 points behind Chan.
Veteran Frenchman Brian Joubert skated one of his best short programs in recent memory, landing a quad toe-double toe and triple Axel and, more surprisingly, gaining Level 4s for all three of his spins. He is fifth with 84.17 points.
Two pre-event favorites, Javier Fernández and Yuzuru Hanyu, sit seventh and ninth, respectively, after major mistakes. Fernández popped an intended triple Axel into a single, and Hanyu fell on an under-rotated quad toe and also failed to complete a triple Lutz combination.
For U.S. champion Max Aaron, the evening was a success. The 21-year-old skated a dynamic short to music from Tron: Legacy, including an opening quad Salchow-double toe, triple Lutz and triple Axel. He is eighth with 78.20 points.
The crowd clapped along to his footwork sequence, but the greatest excitement came during the six-minute warm-up, when Aaron crashed into the boards on a fall on a quad Salchow.
"I kind of hit my head a little bit (on a fall on a quad), and it was a bit of a shock," he said. "It was like a little hockey hit, you know? I was a bit dazed. Going out for the actual program, it made me really focus and narrow in. I think I did that today."
"He got all Level 4s except on the flying camel, which I think was a fair call," Aaron's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "Other than that, I thought he was really aggressive. He was really attacking and definitely got the crowd behind him."
Ross Miner, the U.S. silver medalist, was far less pleased with his short after a fall on a downgraded quad Salchow left him in 14th place with 70.24 points.
"I'm pretty disappointed with how I skated; it's not the way I trained," Miner, 22, said. "My coach, Mark [Mitchell], told me I have until 11 tonight to be angry. Then I regroup and get ready for the free skate Friday. I'm ready to do that."
Missing the quad, a jump he lands consistently in practice, was particularly frustrating.
"There's no reason I can't do it. I can do that jump," he said. "I can do it in practice, in competition. I can do it beautifully. I need to believe in myself and show how hard I've worked to get it."