2004 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships: Men’s Highlights

Canada’s Jeffery Buttle won his second Four Continents gold medal in the mens event. Teammate Emanuel Sandhu captured the silver while Evan Lysacek (USA) won bronze.

Defending Four Continents Champion, Takeshi Honda of Japan, was forced to withdraw after the warmup for the short program. Honda has been battling an ankle injury for several weeks. He suffers from tendonitis and ligaments injured in a fall during practice.

“It has been ten weeks now since I injured my (right) ankle,” Honda said. “I have been in treatment three times a day and have tried almost everything: physio, acupuncture, ultrasound. The doctors told me it wouldn’t get worse. But then it started swelling again. I carried on, trying to skate here, but today the pain was too much to deal with.” He added, “The Federation wanted me to skate, because I didn’t compete (since Skate Canada) but it is my body, and they don’t know the pain.”

Skating to Brubeck’s Take Five, Buttle fell on the quadruple toe of his planned quadruple toe-triple toe combination, getting up after the fall to do a double toe. However, he landed a triple Axel and a triple Lutz while displaying strong spins with good positions, as well as a fast straight line footwork sequence. The 2004 Canadian bronze medalist earned marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.9 for a first place finish after the short.

“I learned from training, if I fall on the combination, then I would go for the Axel,” Buttle commented. “I had to refocus and concentrate on the next competition, which is this one,” he said, referring to post-Nationals. “I feel better, I went home, and everything felt the same. I have a new set-up going into the quad. I’m wearing old boots, and the landings were tough on the Lutz and Axel.” Adding, since his withdrawal from the Grand Prix final, “I’m feeling better now. I lost 7 pounds, but I’m back to my fighting weight again.”

Skating to Piano Concerto by Grieg, Japan’s Yamato Tamura held on to his quadruple toe-triple toe combination, landing the quad toe on a very small circle and then doing the triple toe (landing and going into a very small circle in order to hold the landing). He followed with footwork into a triple Lutz, and not wanting to tempt fate, opted for a double Axel instead of a triple. The 2004 Japanese champion earned marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.7 for a second place finish which thrilled his coaches and teammates.

“I’m very satisfied with tonight’s performance. I was so surprised, I didn’t expect to land the quad combination,” a happy Tamura told the media. “I went for the double Axel and not the triple as it was a safer option and I had already landed the quad combination,” he explained. “I am glad I skated well as I will retire at the end of this season and very much want to go to Worlds.”

When asked about the yellow-blonde stripe going from his forehead to the nape of his neck, the 24-year-old explained, ” I came here as a competitor but wanted to do something to make me stand out from the rest and this was it.”

Sandhu did not have a great start in his program to Carlo Saura’s Tango by Schifrin. He attempted a quadruple toe combination, but popped it to a huge double and didn’t complete the combination. His triple Axel was solid followed by a great flying sit spin that was low and fast, and footwork into a triple Lutz. He scored marks from 4.2 to 5.8.

“I feel so stupid,” Sandhu said, referring to the popped quad. “To tell you the honest truth, it was so on. It felt great at practice, and I did a perfect short program run-through. Missing it tonight is a disappointment, but it’s not an issue.” Of the rest of the program, Sandhu revealed, “I felt frozen, but I had to get going, had to get on with the program.” Regarding this event, the 2004 Canadian champion said, “I was tired from Nationals, but was in a good mode for training. I’m looking forward to improving in the long program. It’s two months to Worlds, so there’s lots of time to prepare.”

Evan Lysacek had a good triple Axel but then turned out on the landing of his triple Lutz before doing a triple toe. His Morozov-style straight line footwork was detailed and he carried it off with the right attitude. The 2004 Junior Grand Prix champion earned marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.7 for a fourth place finish after the short.

“I gained a lot of experience skating the junior circuit, senior is not too different, just the caliber of skating,” admitted Lysacek. “It’s an honor to skate out here and be a part of this event. I’m trying to make a move to a more elite level. I’m happy to deliver a strong program tonight.” He added about his triple Axel, “I’ve been landing it every time in competition. It’s still new, I still have to think about it. It’s great to land it.” When asked about his quad development, he relayed, “It was going well before Nationals. With so much travel, it went on the back burner, but before Junior Worlds, we’ll work on it and fit it in. I’ve finished second (Junior Worlds) for the last two years, and hope to improve my placement this year.”

Ryan Jahnke (USA) skated to Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 and Classical Graffiti by the Planets, opening with a triple Axel that was tilted in the air and turning thrice after the landing. The entrance of his triple Lutz-double toe combination was hindered by his toe pick, but he showed expressive and detailed footwork in his straight line sequence. The 2003 US National bronze medalist scored marks from 4.8 to 5.6 for a fifth place finish after the short.

“It definitely wasn’t bad,” said Jahnke. “It was a long wait. It’s always a little bit of a challenge to keep the momentum going from the warm up. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was a little bit edgy out there, edgy on my blades. That’s why there were the turns after the Axel and the lutz ending up on my toe pick. I’m not quite where I need to be yet. It was nice to stick with every element out there.”

China’s Xiaodong Ma placed sixth after his short program. The 21-year-old fell on a quadruple toe but landed a nice triple Axel.

“It was so-so,” said 21-year-old Ma. “I fell on the quad toe. I rushed the landing, that’s why. The rest of the performance wasn’t bad, I think.”

Teammate Lun Song, who was seventh after the short, was the only other competitor (besides Tamura) to land a clean quad, however, he only managed a single toe as the second jump of his combination.

China’s Song Gao finished eighth after his short program in which he fell on a quadruple toe attempt.

“I don’t really know why I fell on the quad toe,” said the 2004 Chinese National bronze medalist. “My knee was hurting, but overall I felt I had enough strength. The program itself didn’t feel so good today.”

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who placed ninth after the short, landed a triple flip-triple toe combination, but fell on the triple Axel.

“I felt good today,” Takahashi said, “except for the Axel the rest was okay. I don’t know what happened. Japan has three competitors here, but only two will go to the World Championships and I am going to try very hard to be one of them. After my skate today I am feeling confident that I will go to Worlds.”

Canada’s Ben Ferreira fell on his quadruple toe and stepped out of the landing of a huge triple Axel, placing 10th after the short.

“Everything was still there. I missed the edge on the quad toe and the Axel was too big. I made two mistakes, I’ll move on,” said Ferreira. “I’ve been there before, in Salt Lake,” he said, referring to the 2002 Winter Olympic games. “Here, however, the 2004 Canadian silver medalist is remaining focused. I’m doing my thing, leaving the short behind and asking, ‘what’s next?’.”

Buttle opened his long program with a triple flip followed by a triple toe to Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns. The 22-year-old turned out of the landing of his triple Axel but went on to execute a double Axel, a triple loop, a triple Salchow, and a triple toe. The 2002 Four Continents champion impressed with great spins with position variations, scoring marks from 4.6 to 5.9 to place first in the long.

“I was very surprised.” said Buttle, referring to his marks and the performance he gave. “That wasn’t at all what I had hoped for. I don’t think it was very strong. So when the marks came up, I was a little disappointed, but they were fair. When the final results were posted, I was a little bit flabbergasted. Going into the long program, I just completely forgot about the short program. I felt comfortable, maybe perhaps too comfortable. I’m not really sure. The win is bittersweet because it is the end of my season, which is very unfortunate. It certainly wasn’t a win I was expecting. It’s a step and I’m looking forward to training for next year.”

Buttle recalled, “I felt really comfortable before they called my name,” said Buttle. “It wasn’t the performance I wanted. My first thought was that my placement would drop, but I’ll take the victory.” On being ill recently, Buttle said, “I was recovered by Nationals, even though my performances were not what I hoped for.” With the season over for Buttle, he said, “I’ll go back, make changes and get ready for next year. We’re sending a strong team to worlds and I’ll be watching the competition from home. It’s not what I wanted but I didn’t perform at Canadians.”

Sandhu opened his long with a quadruple toe but turned of out the landing before adding a double toe. He then popped a triple Axel, fell out of the landing of a triple loop, and barely hung onto a triple Lutz. The 2004 Grand Prix champion landed the next triple Axel, albeit a dead stop on the toe, and then executed a triple Axel-triple toe combination with a turnout on the toe, followed by a triple flip-triple toe in which he two-footed the toe, and a triple Salchow. The 23-year-old earned marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8, placing second in the long and moving up one spot to second overall.

“I missed the quad,” said the 23-year-old. “It wasn’t a clean program, but I didn’t let it get away. I don’t want to be too perfect now, before worlds. I’ve always been a good competitor. It was my training that wasn’t always consistent.” Sandhu’s goal is to top five finish at the upcoming Worlds in March.

“It’s been a good week,” said Sandhu. “I’m ready to take a couple of days off in the sun. It was a tough program but I didn’t let anything go. I’ll take what I learned to training and then on to worlds. I don’t usually pop the Axel and I needed to work it back into the program. I inserted it where the triple-salchow was. It wasn’t an ordeal because I train it that way.”

Skating to Concerto No. 2 for Piano by Sergei Rachmaninov, Lysacek opened his long with a triple Axel followed by a triple Axel-double toe, a triple loop, a triple Lutz-triple toe combination, a triple Salchow, and a triple flip-double toe combination. The two-time and reigning Junior World champion placed third in the long, moving up one spot from fourth to third overall with marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.7.

“A year ago, I was a very different skater,” said Lysacek. “I’ve made improvements in all areas of my skating. I had confidence going into this competition, and tonight’s performance adds to it. I’ve been on the junior circuit for four years and each year I have improved. I’m looking forward to Junior Worlds and I’m definitely ready for the senior level next season.”

“I was happy to come here and compete against two world class gentlemen,” Lysacek said, referring to Canadians Buttle and Sandhu. “It was exciting. I was tired from Nationals. It was a tough week in between. I had a good time tonight.” The 18-year old added, “I need to work on some elements for Junior Worlds. Frank Carroll seriously wants me to start working on the quad once we get back to Los Angeles.”

Performing to Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Takahashi opened with a quadruple toe followed by a triple Axel, a triple toe, and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. Though he fell on the next triple Lutz, his Morozov-style footwork was fast and detailed, going well with the music. The 17-year-old went on to land a triple loop, a triple Salchow, and a triple flip into a death drop. The 2004 Japanese National bronze medalist finished fourth in the long, moving him up from ninth to sixth overall with marks ranging from 4.9 to 5.8.

“Wow, that’s all I can say,” said Takahashi. “It’s the first time I’ve landed the quad in competition. I’m very happy and that’s why I was jumping around at the end of my performance.”

Jahnke opened his routine with a triple Axel that was a bit forward on the landing, but still clean. He followed through with a triple toe, triple Lutz-triple loop combination, and straight line footwork which included some nice dancing. Though he popped his next triple Axel, Jahnke executed a triple ‘Tano’ Lutz followed by a triple flip, a triple Salchow, and a double Axel. The 24-year-old earned marks from 5.1 to 5. 8, placing fifth in the long and maintaining his fourth place position overall.

“This would be my second best performance to US nationals,” said Jahnke. “It felt like a great victory for today. It started a little bit tense, but I settled in. Doing the lutz-loop (combination) so well was a huge thing.” Jahnke, feeling that he’s been improving overall as a skater, said, “I’m really pleased that I can do performances. For example, the only mistake in this one was the popped second triple Axel. So I feel like overall I’m doing much better programs. It was good to be able to repeat it so close (after US Nationals), I hadn’t much rest.”

Ferreira placed sixth in the long and moved up from tenth to seventh place overall.

“I felt really good all day,” said Ferreira, who felt supported by the crowd. “I wasn’t prepared for last worlds, but now I am, and I’m excited. I keep forgetting that I am in such a position, that some look up to me for what I’ve been able to do in my skating. When I started my program, I wanted to let everyone in and they came in.” Of the quad, he said, “I’ve been landing it in practice all week. The more I land it, the better. I’m working on the law of averages – it’s a numbers game.” Coming into this competition, Ferreira wanted to have a good skate, but there were some timing issues in the short. “I’m going back to training. This has been a good build-up to worlds,” said the 2004 Canadian silver medalist.

Tamura placed seventh in the long, dropping him from second place to fifth overall.

“I made a big mistake,” said the 2004 Japanese National champion, referring to the the missed quadruple-triple combination. “But I don’t regret trying it,” he admitted. “I really tried my best out there. I really enjoyed the competition. My short program was very good and I really enjoyed it. The Canadian audience knows my name now because of my hair,” he said smiling, regarding the blonde streak.

Gao placed eighth in the long and maintained his position in the overall event. While teammate Ma placed ninth in the long, dropping him from sixth to ninth overall.

Song, who was seventh after the short, placed eleventh in the long for an overall tenth place finish.

Bradley finished eleventh after a tenth place finish in the long.

“I feel that my performance tonight was a bit of a let down,” said Bradley. “I definitely didn’t skate my best. I feel a bit drained from Nationals.” This was Bradley’s first Four Continents event. “I am a bit upset that I didn’t skate better. Hopefully I will next time,” he said. “It was great the way the audience got behind me and that feels good. That was one of the things we thought about when choosing the music and since nationals were in Georgia it went down well.”

The new judging system known as the Code of Points (CoP), which was developed following a decision of the ISU Congress in 2002, was used for the 2003 Grand Prix of Figure Skating series and Grand Prix Final.

As the ISU Council prepares the CoP for a Congress decision in June, the interim 6.0 system will be used at ISU Championships. The CoP received widespread support from skaters and officials during the Grand Prix series and the Council will propose that it be included in ISU Regulations from 2004/5 onwards. The ISU’s Figure Skating Member Federations will debate and vote on the proposal at the Congress in June.

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