Golden Skate

Takahashi becomes first Japanese man to win World title

Daisuke Takahashi became the first Japanese man to win a World title at the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships.

Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi capped off the Men’s Long Program competition with a phenomenal performance of his La Strada routine, which earned him a standing ovation from the audience, a new season’s best from the judges, and his first world title.

Patrick Chan (CAN) and Brian Joubert   (FRA) won the second consequent silver and bronze medals, respectively.

Takahashi, who was the last to skate, opened his program with an ambitious quad flip attempt, but the jump was two-footed and the technical panel did not ratify it as fully rotated. The problem with the landing, however, did not affect the skater’s mood or his ability to express the  character of his music, nor did it prevent him from landing his other jumps.

Once again, the highlights of the Japanese Champion’s routine were two step sequences, both of which were rated level four. The skater abandoned himself to the flow of the program and the rhythm of Nina Rota’s score, weaving a spell over the crowd with his ability to capitalize on the slightest nuances of the music. He scored 168.40   (81.90/86.50) and won the first ever title for Japanese men by ten points (257.70).

“I enjoyed it a lot this time, because the audience was helping me,” said Takahashi, “I didn’t have big mistakes. It was very good.”

The 24-year-old also admitted that despite being the front runner of the event, he did not feel a lot of pressure. “Actually, I don’t know why. I even missed Evan (Lysacek) and Stéphane (Lambiel). I was practicing the quad flip. It was more of a challenge-based competition for me, and I really enjoyed that challenge.”

Takahashi, who got an excellent reaction from the audience, said that his choreographer (Pasquale Camerlengo) helped him to get into the Italian character. “Of course, there were many Japanese fans in the audience and they helped me as well. But it is an Italian movie motive, La Strada, and Pasquale  choreographed it. We emphasized more  expressing the music rather than the image and atmosphere of the movie. I think we were able to do that very well.”

Despite getting his quad attempt downgraded, Takahashi remains committed to attempting this jump in the future. “Before I had my injury and surgery, I succeeded at my quads. I was able to do two quads in a program. I want to be back where I was before. I think that is the major reason of the importance of the quad to me. The toeloop is not really consistent the way I want it to be. It is a great challenge for me to continue to work on it.”

Takahashi became the first ever Japanese men to win the world title. “I really hope that I can spur everybody so that the Japanese men also will do well.  I’m not going to be complacent about what I have achieved so far. I need to continue to evolve. As for the future, I see a lot of little kids. The juniors are doing very well including Yuzuru Hanyu, who won the World Junior Figure Skating Championships. I myself feel that I can’t be satisfied with where I am now, and I’m always threatened by these younger skaters.”

Chan started his “Phantom of the Opera” routine with a flawed triple Axel-double toeloop combination in which he touched down with his free foot on the landing of the first jump. The Canadian Champion  recovered to land his following jumping passes, including a strong triple Axel in the second half of the program, but he faltered again towards the end when he fell on a triple loop and stepped out of triple Salchow. The 19-year-old received an unexpected luke warm response from the crowd despite his excellent basic skating skills and strong interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music. He earned a season’s best score of 159.42 (78.02/82.40) for a total of 247.22 to win the silver.

“It was just amazing,” said Chan. “I felt really good. I finally felt that the training paid off and I wasn’t tired in the end, full of energy. It was luck doing the second triple Axel in competition. I kind of lost my concentration a little unfortunately, but I hoped my other elements will keep me up and help me forget about elements that I missed. I really felt happy by the end of the performance.”

Chan admitted to the press that there was a little pressure coming into the long in second place. “Just sitting in the hotel after the early practice waiting for the evening to compete  is difficult because you have a lot of thoughts. You think, ‘oh my gosh, I am second I can maybe win’. It’s just you have to learn how to forget it. Olympics was my biggest pressure.”

Chan also felt that this season was a challenge. “Today it’s the silver medal, but I think that it’s more a gold medal for the effort I put into this season… coming out from the injury, having a bad Skate Canada’s performance, and a disappointing Olympic performance as well. I was really happy how I performed here, how I kept it together till the end to the long program. It’s just overall I was able to go out there and enjoy. I really enjoyed  each jump and element.”

Michal Březina of the Czech Republic finished third in the long program and  fourth overall. The World Championships debutant felt quite at home in the final warm-up group, striking one triple jump after another, including two impressive triple Axels, in his lighthearted rendition An American in Paris. Gershwin’s music allowed the skater to rely on his natural charms and strong basics to convey the style, but his ability to connect to the audience and project the theme was not as strong as those of the more experience skaters. He improved his personal best to 154.31 (77.21/77.10) points and earned 236.06 in total.

“I’m very proud of my performance,” said the 19-year-old. “This is my first time in the last group, I’m so happy. It’s an amazing, wonderful experience. I agree with my score. I know, I’m young, so I have a lot of time to improve, a lot of time to become better. It’s perfect, the best of the season. This is a dream. ”

Skating before his main rivals, Joubert was able to hold onto the relaxed mood he had exhibited yesterday, and his newly re-discovered confidence allowed him to finally skate his “Ancient Land” program to the maximum impact. Unexpectedly, the program turned out to be much more coherent than his earlier performances indicated. The Frenchman landed two quad toe loops and a triple Axel, but he fell on a triple Lutz, received edge call on his flip, and stepped out of triple loop landing  to gain 154.04 (73.84/81.20) and 241.74 points.

“I’m very happy with this competition in general, with the practices, the Short Program, the Free Program,” said the the 25-year-old. “I made some mistakes in the Free, because I was a little bit tired, but I’m very happy, because I did two quads. I was confident. This was the main goal for me. I win a medal. It’s great.”

“I’m very proud, because it was so difficult after the Olympic Games,” Joubert continued. “I didn’t know if I’m still able to compete like it was before. Now I have my answer. I know I can fight again. I’m 25 years old. I’m still young. I will go step by step for the future. We’ll see the Grand Prix and after we’ll see the European and World Championships. As for So chi, I don’t think about it for the moment. It’s my 15th medal with Europeans and Worlds, that’s great.”

“After the Olympic Games I had to change something,” Joubert confessed. “I tried to do it and I think I did it. That’s why I did a good performance this week. I really want to be the way I was before, nice guy, relaxed. I was not like this the last two seasons. That’s why I did so many mistakes during the competition, especially at the Olympic Games.  If I want to be the best in practice and competition, I have to be the way I was before. I improved a lot in figure skating, but I can still improve.”

When challenged about Takahashi’s attempt on the quad flip, the jump Joubert attempted in practices before, he explained that it does not make much sense for him to try this jump. “The flip is a good jump for me, but the problem is I have the (wrong) edge. I can try the quad flip, but I will lose points. I can do the quad Salchow, the quad toe, the quad Lutz. If he (Takahashi) does quad flip, I will try quad Lutz.”

USA’s Adam Rippon stepped out of his first triple Axel attempt, but nailed the second one later in the program and produced two triple Lutzes, one with one hand above the head and the other one with two. Brian Orser’s student once again demonstrated excellent flow between the elements, and the audience rewarded his performance with a standing ovation. He earned 151.36 (77.16/74.20) points and a new personal best of 236.06 in total.

“It wasn’t my best here, but I tried to do as well as I could,” said the the Four Continents Champion, “but altogether it was my new total best (total score). I was the second alternate, and I wanted to represent the USA as well as I could. I can compete here with the best skaters in the world. I expected it to be a lot scarier.”

“I’m happy that I was able to fight through my program and able to give a solid performance,” added the 20-year-old. “My personal highlight was getting two standing ovations. Although I haven’t been skating perfect tonight, the crowd still enjoyed my performance. I hope it’s only the beginning. I trained with Takahashi some years ago, and he was a real inspiration when I skated as a junior and now as a senior.”

Teammate Jeremy Abbott opened his performance with a fall on quad toeloop, but recovered to land two triple Axels and most of his other jumping passes. The student of Yuko Sato, however, put himself into almost impossible situation, packing his program not only with the full set of jumps, but also with complex transitions, which often does not leave him any time to gather his thoughts before the jumps. Today it cost him at least two points due to the fall on the easiest jump in the program – a double Axel, which he performs right after an intricate circular step sequence.

“I felt that it went off up in the air crooked and so I tried to compensate for the landing. I just was too far on my heel and just missed it. It’s unfortunate but it happens,” the  U.S. Champion later explained.

He received 151.05 (77.15/75.90) and finished sixth in the long program and fifth overall (232.10).

“I have no regrets,” said Abbott. “I am very satisfied with this season. I made it back to the Grand Prix Final, won Nationals, and competed at the Olympics.”

The 24-year-old said that he did not feel a lot of pressure despite skating first in the last warm-up group. “No, I mean I was very nervous today, but I was nervous because I wanted to go out and skate my best. I wanted to end this season really well. My goal was to go out there and just stay solid through the program and go for everything, not back down and just take charge.  I felt that I did that. I had two falls, but I’m not upset about them because I didn’t back down.  I really went for the two jumps that I missed. Everything else was very good quality, so I am very pleased with my result, and I bettered my two eleven places from the past two worlds, so I’m very happy with that.”

Adrian Schultheiss of Sweden produced a clean quad toeloop and two triple Axels to pull up to ninth place overall. (218.26) He finished seventh in the long with his off-the-beaten track routine in which he explores the theme of madness wearing an  imitation of a straight jacket for his costume.

“I was so tired before my performance,” admitted the 21-year-old. “It was hard for me, but I worked very very hard to be here. I thought too much about the score and I’m so happy with my performance. I will continue to work hard.”

Kevin Reynolds landed two different quads – Salchow and toeloop  – in his routine to a Led Zeppelin medley, but he popped one of his triple Axel attempts into a waltz jump. Nonetheless, the Canadian bronze medalist received the second highest technical score of the night, but his long program to Led Zeppelin medley did not suit him quite as well as his short program, and his ability to present it was particularly  lacking compared to the  top skaters.   He received 145.38
(80.68/64.70) points, and with 216.58 points in total, pulled up to 11th place overall.

“My performance was very good,” said the 19-year-old. “It is my season best. I am so happy for my score. I showed a good program. Today is a great day for me, but I know I can do better. My plans for the future is to work very hard because I want be better. I would like to improve my skating.”

Kevin van der Perren opened his “Reflections on Earth” routine with a powerful quad toe loop-triple toeloop-triple toeloop combination. The success of this unique element encouraged the Belgian so much that he simply flew through the remaining four minutes of the program, nailing one jumping pass after another, except for a triple flip which he doubled. However, his program had little to offer beyond impressive jumps and his obvious enthusiasm, and the 27-year-old only received 144.88 (72.98/71.90) to finish ninth in the free program and eighth overall (218.43).

“My grandfather died yesterday night, so I was like “I will just go and skate for him’,”  said van der Perren. “That’s probably why it worked out. I never actually did that in practice (the quad-triple-triple and then Axel). I  thought that no one ever did that in a competition, so if I do it will be good, I would just go for it. Then I will be probably dead for the rest of the program, but I just don’t care!”

Van der Perren plans to retire, but is not sure if it will be permanent. “Maybe I’ll change my mind if I’m in a top condition and go to Europeans.”

Spain’s Javier Fernandez also attempted a quad toeloop in his highly entertaining routine to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, but he fell out of the jump’s landing. The 18-year-old  recovered to land two triple Axels, but the highlight of his program were two spectacular step sequences in  which the skater reenacted the plot of the movie, complete with fencing, escaping captivity and rum drinking. The audience adored his acting skills, and he finished tenth in the long and twelve overall (215.66).

Samuel Contesti struggled with the landings of both his triple Axel attempts and fell on his last jumping pass – a three jump combination, but the audience’s response to his “Pipes from the Andes” routine played right into the hands of the expressive skater who was able to feed on this energy to produce a truly memorable performance. The Italian Champion was only 12th in the long program, but finished seventh overall (218.66).

“It has been very impressive,” said the 27-year-old. “The whole arena was dancing with me, they supported and pleased me. I had to thank them all. Unfortunately at the end, I felt maybe too confident and made a bad mistake (fell on a combination jump), but it has been a good performance, good score and a fantastic experience with this crowd.”

Takahiko Kozuka, who stood in fourth after the short program, fell on quad toeloop attempt and popped both triple Axels  to finished 10th with 216.73 points.

“I was very tired from Vancouver and yesterday’s competition,” explained the Japanese silver medalist. “I think this is the reason for my mistakes. The first mistake caused the following mistakes. I’m quite satisfied with this experience even if I think I could do better.  I have to work a lot. I hope to improve my triple Axel and also to improve my artistry.”

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