Golden Skate

Chen takes comfortable lead at Worlds

Nathan Chen

USA’s Nathan Chen performs his Short Program at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships.

USA’s Nathan Chen took a comfortable lead in the Men’s event at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships on Thursday. Teammate Jason Brown is currently in second, followed by Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen hung onto the landing of quad Lutz in his troutine to “Caravan” which also featured a triple Axel and quad toe-triple toe. The defending champion earned many high grades of execution (GOE) throughout, as well as a level 4 for spins and footwork, to score a whopping season’s best of  107.40 points—a record breaking short program score.

Chen said he felt good going up in the air on the quad Lutz, as well as coming down. “I just completely lost my foot, but somehow managed to pull it out, and I was really happy about that,” said the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final champion.

“It is always a pleasure to skate in Japan with this amazing amazing crowd,” said the U.S. champion. “It’s such a huge crowd so that energy, I think all of the skaters really feel… I always have a great time competing with the best of the best here at worlds so I’m really looking forward to another long program.”

When asked about beating Yuzuru, he said, “I wouldn’t put it that way. At the Olympics, I was like 50, like so many points behind him. You know, you can’t just by one performance, be indicative of what a skater truly is, but at the same time, I am really happy with how I skated today. It’s not the reflection of any other skaters, but I’m just happy with the way I skated. Saturday will be a complete new day. I can’t keep using the success of the past to bring me forward, but ultimately I’m excited to perform for the Japanese audience.”

Brown was flawless in his routine “Love Is a Bitch” by Two Feet, racking up high GOEs at every turn and earning a 10 from one of the judges on music interpretation. While there was no quad, all jumps were solid: triple flip, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe. All elements received a level 4 and the 2018 Internationaux de France silver medalist scored a new season’s best of 96.81.

“It feels amazing!” said the U.S. bronze medalist regarding his personal best and the applause from the audience. “Obviously, every time I competed, I loved performing in Japan and performing for these Japanese audiences. It is something I cherish and not what I take for granted. Today, I got out there and I wanted to give them a show. I am so focused right now and staying in the moment working on the things that we were working at home, so for my free skating, I have the same goals that I had before. I just want to give it a try and I would like to put out another personal best. I’ve been training and working a lot, so all I got to do is to put it out there.”

Hanyu doubled his opening quad Salchow, but was otherwise flawless, landing a triple Axel and quad toe-triple toe. The two-time Olympic champion received many high positive GOEs, displaying level 4 spins and footwork throughout his routine to “Otonal.” While he scored the highest in the program components, he lost point for the opening jump, and was left with 94.87 points for third place heading into the free skate.

“I don’t think my focus was enough,” said the 2017 World champion. “After I missed my first jump, my mind went blind. I guess I was a bit rushed for the first jump, and put myself up too much today. Now I feel frustrated with my performance. Yes, I practiced hard for Worlds, but given that didn’t come up to my performance today, this implies that my practice was not enough.”

“Now the short program is over and I would like to utilize tomorrow very wisely to prepare myself for free program on the day after tomorrow,” summed up the 24-year-old. “I have a lot of experience in this type of environment despite not competing for the last few months, and I am not happy about the fact I couldn’t perform at my best for short program. What I can do from here is to fix my mistakes and to rest well. I definitely would like to skate my best for the free program given I am not satisfied with my short program.”

The 2018 Rostelecom Cup champion elected not to discuss or comment on his injury and recovery of the ligaments and tendons in his right leg from earlier this fall until the end of competition.

USA’s Vincent Zhou nailed his opening quad Lutz-triple toe, but then underrotated the quad Salchow in his short to “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse. Nevertheless, the 2019 Four Continents bronze medalist landed a triple Axel, showing level 4 spins and footwork throughout his routine. He scored 94.17 for fourth place.

“This program is probably the most magical programs I have ever had,” noted the U.S. silver medalist. “I am so lucky to have worked with Lori (Nichol) and established a great relationship with her. She has helped my artistry and I am very thankful for that. I am thankful for the incredible program that she and I created together and that may or may not have been the last time I skated, but I am really glad that I ended it on such a high note.”

Matteo Rizzo of Italy earned a new season’s best of 93.37 for his routine to “Volare,” placing fifth. The 2019 European bronze medalist landed a quad toe, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe while earning level 4 on all elements.

“I feel really good after my performance, it was amazing!” said the 2019 Winter Universiade champion. “The arena is huge, so I was trying to perform the best for the people who was watching. The short program went well, so I am happy with my performance. It was amazing to skate in front of the Japanese fans, maybe because I have never skated in an arena this big, so it was a first experience for me. Here, it was something that you cannot explain, so many fans. I skated well, so everybody was supporting me.”

“At this point I would like to be in the last group of skating for the free program,” said the Italian silver medalist. “I have tried my best here, and then we will see how the competition goes, and then I want to skate the best in the free program to let the people enjoy who came to watch.”

Japan’s Shoma Uno went down on an underrotated quad flip, but recovered to land a quad toe-double toe and triple Axel in his routine to “Stairway to Heaven” and “PPA” by Rodrigo y Gabriela. His footwork and two spins were graded a level 4 and the Olympic silver medalist is currently in sixth place with 91.40 points.

“I didn’t see Yuzuru’s performance so it didn’t affect me in any way,” said the defending silver medalist. “The mistake on the flip jump was not because I was weak mentally, but it was because I did not have enough speed going into it. There are going to be many reasons if I start analyzing why that mistake happened. Regardless, I am just disappointed in myself and at the same time, I am so determined to make it happen in the long program. I held back and did a quad double instead of quad triple, but that was because I knew I could not miss that jump. No matter what people say, my goal is to leave a good result in this competition. In order to be in a position to make up for the mistake in the free program, I knew I could not miss the combination so it was, in a way, a strategy that I did a quad double instead. I am so determined to skate without any mistake in the long program.”

Kevin Aymoz of France turned out the back-end of a triple Lutz-triple toe, but otherwise delivered a quad toe and triple Axel in his routine to “Horns” by Bryce Fox. The skater, who trains in Florida under John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana, also earned a level four on all elements, scoring a new season’s best of 88.24 in his debut at this event.

“I feel really good and I am honored to skate in the Worlds for the first time,” said the 21-year-old French champion. “When I saw the season’s best in the Kiss & Cry, my stress level went down and I became emotional. John Zimmerman, Silvia Fontana and I worked together choreographing the short program. This is a result of how we worked together since 2017. For this year, I trained hard on my technique in addition to the choreography with John and Silvia, and became more confident on my jumps as well.”

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic is in eighth place (86.96). The 2018 Skate America and GP Helsinki silver medalist landed a tight quad Salchow-double toe and had to hang onto the landing of a triple Axel. However, all elements were graded a level four in his skate to “Who Wants to Live Forever.”

“It was pretty good, there were tiny mistakes on the landings on the combination and the Axel,” noted the 28-year-old who is making his seventh appearance at this event. “It could have probably gave me the ninety mark, or a little more, if the landings were nicer. I am happy, it was a good beginning for the competition, and now I just have to grow.”

The skater said participating in the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final, where he placed fourth, definitely helped to push him. “It made me keep going for the rest of the season. There was this one hiccup, sadly it was the Europeans, but I tried to forget about it and to build on for Japan, and I think it worked pretty well. My goal is just to skate my programs present, do my job and make sure the audience enjoys it.”

China’s Boyang Jin fell on an attempted quad Lutz in his routine to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but recovered to land a quad toe-double toe and triple Axel. The 2019 Four Continents silver medalist is in ninth with 84.26 points.

The 21-year-old was not happy about missing the Lutz. “I probably was a bit nervous and couldn’t adjust to the jump. For the jump combination, I felt the landing of first quad toe loop jump was not good, so I decided to add double toe, instead of triple toe. My condition is not that perfect, like 80 percent, but the great audience in Japan gave me a lot of confidence and pushed me to stake at high level. For the free program, I would like to adjust myself to perform well and skate at my best level in this competition.”

Mikhail Kolyada of Russia rounded out the top 10 men (84.23). The defending bronze medalist stepped out of a planned quad toe-triple toe, not completing the second jump, and hung on to the landing of a triple Lutz.

“It was so hot!” said the 2019 TallinnK Hotels Cup champion. “I never sweated that much in a short program. There was just one place on the ice that felt a bit cooler, like the oasis in the desert, but still I didn’t feel it was hard to skate.”

South Korea’s Junhwan Cha struggled in his short program in his debut at this event, underrotating a quad Salchow and triple Axel. He is currently in 18th place.

“I felt really good,” said the 17-year-old. “I think I really worked hard on my program. I had some mistakes, but I think I tried hard, so I am happy about my performance. I want to have a good practice tomorrow and same for Saturday. I really want to do my best and work hard. It is my first World Championships, so I really want to enjoy it. My goal for the season was to end the season without any injury. I had some injury, but I think I am doing pretty well, so I want to finish the season without any injury.”