The roar and standing ovation at the end of Jason Brown’s free skate at the 2016 KOSÉ Team Challenge Cup Saturday night said it all: He was missed.
The 21-year-old’s free skate to selections from “The Piano” also contributed to Team North America’s victory at the inaugural event, which was held Friday and Saturday at Spokane Arena in Spokane Wash.
“The ponytail’s back,” said Team North America captain and 1992 Olympic champion Kristi Yamaguchi, referring to Brown’s famous hairdo. “What can I say? He was exquisite out there and I think it makes us remember how much we missed him in competition this year.”
The top two men’s scores from each of the three continental teams counted toward the overall team total.
Team North America scored 892.42 points, more than 40 points than Team Europe’s 848.06. Team Asia finished third with 820.22 points. The North American team earned $210,000 in prize money for winning the competition. Team Europe received $140,000 and Team Asia $105,000.
The audience cheered loudly when Brown’s score of 181.50, the second highest of all the men, was announced.
The program was nearly clean, only a triple Axel in the second half scored negative grades of execution (GOE). The routine also garnered the highest program components in the competition.
The performance was affirmation to Brown who returned to international competition here after being sidelined with a back injury for much of this season.
“I was gone so long! I wanted to make a splash. I wanted to make a statement when I came back,” said the 2015 U.S. champion, whose last international competition was in October. “I didn’t want to be forgotten.”
The top score for the men, however, went to Japan’s Shoma Uno who wowed the audience with yet another quadruple flip, putting his success rate, for now, at 100 percent.
“I might be too lucky that I did it twice in a row,” 18-year-old Uno said about the quadruple flip. He plans to perfect the jump during the off-season.
In addition to the quad flip, Uno also landed two quadruple toes during his program to “Turandot” and “Nessun Dorma,” earning 192.92 points. However, there were more than just jumps. The 2015–16 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist’s charisma drew the audience in and they were ready to give him a standing ovation when he was done.
The two-time Japanese silver medalist’s score helped Team Asia edge out Team North America in the men’s free skate. The Asian men scored 349.63 points, just a hair higher than 348.15 from the North American men.
USA’s Adam Rippon fell on his quadruple Lutz, which was downgraded, and had negative GOEs for his triple Lutz and triple Salchow, however, the rest of his elements received positive GOEs. The 26-year-old added 166.68 points — the third highest free skate score overall — to Team North America’s score.
“I didn’t give up on any of the levels and I tried to fight my hardest right to the bitter end,” said the veteran skater.
Yamaguchi praised Rippon’s high energy level during his free skate to a selection of Beatles songs.
“We fed off him, and he fed off us,” she said.
Mikhail Kolyada of Russia fell on the opening quadruple toe loop in his program to “The Nightmare before Christmas,” but had an otherwise solid skate to earn 165.48 points, the top score for Team Europe and the fourth highest overall.
“Today was very difficult, but it was really cool and my team was helping me from the bottom of their hearts,” the 21-year-old said.
Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic also contributed to Team Europe’s score with a nearly clean skate to “Le Corsaire” by Adolpe Adam. The 26-year-old scored 158.30 points.
“I think it was redemption for this season,” he said. (This performance was) the best I did this season, and I’m really happy with that and it’s something I can build on for next season.”
Boyang Jin of China had a tough skate to “Dragon Racing” by John Powell. He had negative GOEs on all but one of his four planned quadruple jumps and made other jump errors including on both triple Axels. He added 156.71 points to Team Asia’s score.
The 2016 World bronze medalist admitted he was getting fatigued from the long season.
“I didn’t really have time to review my (free skate) routine and get more practice in time,” explained the 18-year-old.
Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten struggled in his program to Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The skate had several jump errors, including falls on both his quadruple toe-loops and popping a quadruple Salchow into a double. Ten noted that his broken skate from the night before made things difficult, but wanted to own up to his errors.
“I don’t think it’s right to blame the (broken) skate,” he said.
The 22-year-old scored 147.77 points.
Russia’s Sergei Voronov, 28, performed his free program from the 2015 season. He skated to an eclectic mix of musical selections — including “It’s a Man’s World” and “At Last” — en route to earning 132.79 points
Canada’s Nam Nguyen’s season-long struggles continued in the free skate. Nguyen, 17, fell on his planned quadruple toe loop and his triple Axel was downgraded in his skate to “Passacaglia and Fugue in D minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach. He scored 127.10 points.
However, the 2015 Canadian champion, had one victory. While waiting for his scores in the team box, Nguyen flashed a sign at the camera: “Polina! Will you go to Prom with me?”
The question was directed at Polina Edmunds, the 2016 U.S. Nationals silver medalist. Edmunds gave her answer on both Twitter and via a text message to Nguyen: “Yes.”
And Edmunds will be more than a prom date come next season: Nguyen confirmed Saturday that he will move from Toronto to San Jose, Calif., to train with David Glynn, Edmunds’ coach.