Golden Skate

Canada’s Reynolds upsets favorites to strike gold at Four Continents

Kevin Reynolds of Canada

Kevin Reynolds of Canada

It was an exciting night of Men’s skating at the 2013 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships Saturday in Osaka, Japan. Kevin Reynolds of Canada upset the favorites to strike gold, while overnight leader Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan settled for the silver medal. China’s Han Yan clinched the bronze.

World silver medalist Daisuke Takahashi of Japan faded to seventh after a major meltdown.

Not many would have predicted that Reynolds would come out on top in this competitive event, but the Canadian put out the program of his life in Osaka. Skating to Concerto No. 4 in E minor by Andre Mathieu, he pulled off three solid quadruple jumps – a quad Salchow, quad toe-triple toe, and another quad toe, as well as a triple Axel-triple toe and three more triple jumps.

Only the last Lutz was a bit shaky, but the performance overall was a step up from what Reynolds has done in the past. With a free skating score of 172.21 (92.21/80.00) points, Reynolds surpassed his previous personal best by more than 25 points and totaled 250.55 points to vault from sixth to first place. It was the first ISU Championship title for the 22-year-old, who has a bronze from the 2010 Four Continents Championships on his record.

“This was completely beyond anything what I could have expected,” said the Canadian silver medalist. “I knew I was in the range of medals if I did everything in my free program. Recently, I was able to do two strong performances at our National Championships, so that that gave me a lot of confidence, but being able to win this competition surpassed everything I could have expected.”

“This is the cleanest I ever skated,” he added. “I got the confidence. I was not concentrating on the competition at all. I had a job to do, but I was also surprised and happy. I knew that it would be a close call on the quads in the short program, so my goal in practice was to get them fully clean.”

Hanyu got off to a good start in his routine to Notre Dame de Paris with a big quad toe, but then doubled the planned quad Salchow. The 18-year-old came back with a triple flip, a triple Axel-double toe (a little wonky), a triple Axel-double toe-double toe, a triple loop, and triple Lutz-double loop, but singled the last Lutz. He picked up a level four for his three spins and a level three for the step sequence and scored 158.73 (76.95/81.78) points, the third best free skating score. Overall, however, he dropped to second at 246.38 points.

“I am full of disappointment, but after I was done, I felt refreshed and relieved,” admitted the 18-year-old. “Regarding my performance, there is a lot I need to improve, but I have not lost my confidence and I know there are still a lot of things I can do better.”

“We need to peak our condition for World Championship,” said the Japanese Champion, “so I would like to solve the issues I encountered this time toward the next competition. My issues are mainly jumps and stamina, and I would like to improve the quality of the jumps.”

“Regarding the quad Salchow, my timing was probably a bit too fast and I know that I have not been able to successfully land the quad during the competition,” he added. “Given it is an ISU competition, I was a bit nervous as well. For the World Championships, I would like to show my complete package (including quad Salchow and triple Axel-triple toe).”

Yan hit an excellent triple Axel-triple toe in the first second of his routine to Masquerade Suite by Aram Khatchaturian, but he crashed badly on an underrotated quad toe. The World Junior Champion recovered to complete five clean triples and earned a new personal best of 150.14 (75.78/75.36) points. He was ranked fifth in the free skating and slipped from second to third at 235.22 points overall.

“I hurt my shoulder on the fall on my second jump (quad toe), and started to feel my old injuries,” the 16-year-old commented. “I grew more anxious through the program, but overall I feel satisfied with this event.”

“I did not expect to win a medal here,” added the two-time Chinese Champion. “My coach had told me I might be seventh or eighth if I do all my elements. After I was second in the short, I felt a little nervous before I skated, but not because I was thinking about beating someone, but just because I wanted to skate well.”

USA’s Max Aaron moved up from 10th to fourth with the second-best free skate at 162.19 (89.63/72.56) points. The U.S. Champion nailed two quadruple Salchows (one in combination with a triple toe) and two triple Axels (one in combination with a double toe), as well as a triple Lutz in his routine set to Westside Story. The 20-year-old grew tired towards the end, however, and the last three jumps were wobbly which eventually cost him the medal as he was less than one point behind Yan. His total score was 234.65 points.

“This is my first time at a championship event and I’m glad to be here,” said the skater who trains in Colorado Springs, Col. “The fans were great, they really got me going. They get excited and cheer for everything in the program. It’s amazing. This is a good experience to get the chance to learn how championship events work at the senior level. It’s something special I can take toward worlds.”

“I’m proud of how I represented myself and the U.S. today,” said Aaron. “There were little bobbles at the end of the performance, but I’m happy.”

“I can do a quad toe,” he offered while discussing future plans. “It’s something we are dabbling with for next season, putting it in one of my programs. I know that the top men at the Olympics will be doing three or four quads in a program. If I want to be up there with them, I need to do that. I also need to add more components and faster spins.”

“The goal (for Worlds) is to get three spots (in the Olympics) for the U.S.,” Aaron added. “That’s what we are going there for. On a personal note, I want to put out two good performances there and prove to myself I can be up there with the top men in the world today.”

Teammate Richard Dornbush could not hold on to his third place finish in the short and placed fifth overall with 234.04 points. He landed a quad-double toe and four good triples, but stumbled badly on his second quad toe and singled an Axel.

“I didn’t fall at all, which is always a plus,” said the 21-year-old. “There were a few mistakes there that really dragged down my score, but I’m happy overall.”

“There’s always a certain amount of pressure whether you skate in the first or the last warm up,” commented Dornbush. “They both have their pros and cons. I think I handled myself well and I was able to get a decent program after a not-so-decent warm up. I want to regroup and plan for the next season. My main goals are going to be to stay healthy and train as hard as I can the whole way through.”

Nan Song of China touched down on his quad toe, but hit a triple Axel-triple toe as well as four more triples. Some landings were tight though, and he also put his hand down on the triple Salchow. The Chinese Champion dropped one spot to sixth (228.46 points).

“I felt a little pressure as the last skater and the skaters before me did very well,” said the 22-year-old. “I know that my free skating wasn’t the best, but I performed what I can do at this point. I am happy with what I got. Going forward I’d like to improve my performance and skating.”

Takahashi really struggled in his dramatic program to Pagliacci. Both quad toes were two-footed and underrotated, and he also stepped out of the first triple Axel and crashed on the second triple Axel (underrotated). The 26-year-old also stumbled again on an underrotated triple Lutz. In the end, he had only a clean triple loop, Salchow and flip. The 2010 Olympic bronze medalist found himself in 7th place with 222.77 points.

He did not have much to say.

“I am speechless about my performance today,” said Takahashi. “I have never skated this bad, even in my practice. My jumps were not good, so I couldn’t give a 100 percent to my performance as well. I am very sorry for all my fans who cheered for me. I am going to take this all in, and work for Worlds.”

Takahito Mura of Japan pulled off a quad toe, albeit a bit tight, and six triples, but he popped a Lutz and came too close to the boards on the triple flip. He placed eighth at 218.08 points.

“I am happy that I landed the quad toeloop (today), but I had a lot of mistakes in the second part of the program,” noted the 21-year-old. “I need to improve the second part of my free program. Compared to last year, I pay more attention to details in practice, which is some improvement, but I still encounter problems once performing in competition.”

“The lesson learned from this competition is to perform a perfect short program and to keep myself up in the second part of the free program,” said the Japanese bronze medalist. “(At the World Championships) I would like to make sure to do the quad-triple combo in the short program and to keep the momentum in the second part of my free program.”

USA’s Ross Miner remained in ninth place with 214.36 points. He slipped and fell on the entry of his quad Salchow and singled an Axel, but the rest of his program was solid as usual.

“I’m disappointed in myself,” said the U.S. silver medalist. “That’s not the way I train. It’s been a long couple of weeks since the U.S. Championships. I’m excited to get home and have a few days to mentally recuperate and get ready for the world championships.”

“I didn’t do what I came here to do or skate the programs the way I have been training at home,” the 22-year-old added. “It will put some fire in my belly to really improve and get rid of the errors that aren’t indicative of what I can do.”

Andrei Rogozine of Canada was the only skater in the top ten who didn’t go for a quadruple jump. His program was highlighted by a triple Axel-triple toe, but he made a few errors on other jumps to finish 10th (201.99 points).

“I had a few mistakes overall, but I think it was a good free skate today,” said the 2011 World Junior Champion. “I wasn’t expecting the podium, so I was just testing my strength, but overall I am happy with both my performances, especially with my short. I am going to continue working really hard until Worlds and hopefully I can improve from the skate I had here, score even higher, and skate to clean programs.”

Two more performances were notable: Misha Ge of Uzbekistan entertained the crowd as Charlie Chaplin to come in 11th (201.71 points). Except for a cheated triple Axel, his program was solid.

“Today was one of my best performances and the audience was great,” said the 21-year-old. “There were some little mistakes on the landings, but overall I did the best I can. I am happy I skated well on both my short and free program.”

“I am working on my quad, but right now I am focusing on getting a clean program,” Ge said. “I skated the full season like this (with lyrics in music) and I knew I would get a deduction. They way I see skating is being creative. I wanted to combine the old Charlie Chaplin with the new generation, and I knew it would be against the rules, but I’m glad that the audience loves it. My goal is to let them enjoy skating and see the fun part and see smiles in the audience.”

Christopher Caluza of the Philippines had a smooth performance to Concerto de Quebec by Andre Mathieu that was well received by the crowd. However, without a triple Axel and quad, he placed 14th (186.79 points).

Bothered by his ankle injury, Denis Ten of Kazakhstan dropped from seventh to 12th (197.26 points).

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