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Hanyu bags first Four Continents gold

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2020 Four Continents

Men’s Free Skate

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu easily maintained the lead to win his first title in this event after an exciting Men’s Free Skate on Sunday afternoon in Seoul, Korea. USA’s Jason Brown rose one spot to claim the silver, while Yuma Kagiyama of Japan jumped from fifth to earn the bronze in his debut at this event.

Hanyu wasn’t perfect, but showed amazing artistry and focus in his skate to “Seimei” from Onmyōji, which featured a solid quad Salchow and two triple Axels that earned many high grades of execution (GOE). The two-time Olympic champion stepped out his opening quad Lutz and later underrotated and fell on a quad toe. His triple flip also received an edge call and the footwork was only graded a level 3. However, the skating legend showed very good level 4 spins and scored 187.60 for first place in the free skate and overall (299.42) to win his first Four Continents gold medal. He was second in all three previous showings at this event in 2011, 2013, and 2017.

“There were a little bit problem with the ice in before I skated,” said Hanyu. “Because of that problem, I was unusually nervous, but I think I tried my best. I was disappointed (with my mistakes), but I will be able to prepare for the World Championship by analyzing today’s mistakes. I feel good with my result. I’m not able to say I’m happy for my performance today, but I really wanted to win here, so actually I’m glad.”

“Every time I visit Korea, I am always amazed by the support and cheering of the Korean Fans,” the two-time World champion added. “I am really thankful to all Korean fans who give me warm support, even though I am Japanese. I am even more grateful, because I know that such a heartfelt and deep cheering from the Korean fans is something that transcends all relationships between Japan and Korea. So I want to say ‘thank you very much’ to all fans in Korea.”

Brown doubled an attempted quad toe, but was otherwise solid in his routine to Schindler’s List, landing a total of eight clean triple jumps—including two triple Axels. The 2018 Four Continents bronze medalist earned a level 4 on all spins and footwork and also scored the highest program component scores of the entire group. He finished second in the free skate with a new personal best of 180.11 points moved up to second overall (274.82 points).

“I’m super excited!” said Brown. “I was really focused on going out there and skating my best performance that I could. Disappointed with my little blip, I was so close to skating completely clean, so that’s a little bit of a bummer. I think I was rewarded for what I did, so I’m really excited heading into the world championships, because I left a good 12 points on the table that I hope to get in Montreal.”

Kagiyama skated with lots of energy and style in his routine to music from the Tucker soundtrack in his debut at this event. The only mistakes were a step out on a triple Axel and an edge call on a triple flip. The 2020 Japanese junior champion otherwise landed a quad toe-double toe, solo quad toe, and five solid triple jumps, while displaying level 4 spins throughout. He earned a new personal best of 179.00 for third place in the free skate, and moved up from fifth to third overall with a total score of 270.61.

“Actually, I feel the lack of the last Axel,” said the 16-year-old from Yokohama, “but I feel very fortunate that I could do my best on skating during the first half part without any mistakes. I came here to prove my potential and skills. It was a precious time and experience. I was able to get closer to what I wanted to achieve. It was my first time attending an (international) seniors competition. I wish to have good results going into my next event as well. ”

South Korea’s Junhwan Cha was in the zone and skated with abandonment to”The Fire Within,” reeling off a quad toe, quad Salchow, and triple Lutz-triple loop right out the gate. However, he underrotated several jumps: the back end of a triple Axel-double toe, a solo triple Axel, and both jumps in a triple flip-Euler-triple Salchow. Nevertheless, the spins and footwork were very strong and were graded a level 4, and the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final bronze medalist placed fourth with a new personal best of 175.06 in the free skate. His total score was 265.43 for a fifth-place finish overall.

“I was a bit upset with the score, but I think I fought well until the end of the performance,” said the 18-year-old from Seoul. “This competition gave me a lot of confidence, because the rest of my international competition was not good. While I was performing, I kept in mind to be calm and was really happy to perform in front of my fans. This Four Continents were held in Korea, so I hope more people get interested in figure skating, and a chance for skaters to develop.”

“I practiced and trained hard for quad jumps for this competition,” he added, “and I am happy and satisfied that my effort came out of this competition. My landing was a little bit shaking, but I will try my hardest to make the jumps perfect.”

Boyang Jin of China finished fifth (171.84) in the free skate after his routine to “The Path of Silence” and “Yellow Moon,” which featured a quad Lutz, quad toe-double toe, and five triple jumps. While he doubled a quad Salchow and quad toe, all spins and footwork were graded a level 4, and the two-time World bronze medalist slipped from second to fourth overall (267.67).

“Except for the two pops in my quad jumps, the rest of my performance was good,” said the two-time and defending silver medalist. “When I go back home, I will concentrate on my quads jumps. Not only my landings, but on the overall quality. Especially the jumps I popped today, I will not let the same mistake happen again.”

Canada’s Nam Nguyen engaged the crowd with his Beatles medley, producing a quad Salchow-triple toe, quad Salchow, and five triple jumps. The only errors came when he singled a triple Axel and his flying change foot combination spin received a reduced value. The 2019 Skate Canada silver medalist finished sixth in the free skate and overall (166.36 / 251.60).

“The crowd was great, especially in the choreo step sequence,” said Nam. “They really worked with me there. I’m really happy with the recovery from that mistake (popped triple Axel) and then I just focused on trying to push to the end.”

The 2020 Canadian silver medalist is happy with how he handled himself. He noted that some practices were not as great as others

“I’m going to San Francisco after this trip for a vacation, but in terms of looking ahead to Worlds, I really don’t know that, it depends on today, I guess. If it happens it happens if it doesn’t it will be fine. (on dealing with the situation that Four Continents serve as a qualifier for Worlds) The selection for Worlds is not from the skaters’ side, it’s the executive and officials’ side, do our job as skaters it to do our work.

Kazuki Tomono of Japan showed good presentation and lots of character in his routine to music from Moulin Rouge, landing a quad toe and quad Salchow-double toe. The 21-year-old from Osaka fought for the landing of a few jumps and doubled a Salchow and two-footed a triple Axel, but displayed good level 4 footwork. He finished seventh in the free skate with a new personal best of 162.83 and seventh overall (251.05), greatly improving on his 12th place finish last year.

“Before the performance, I was not really ready, I wasn’t warmed up,” revealed Tomono. “So I was worried I was not able to perform properly and to my full potential. I tried to remain calm throughout my performance. I kept on imagining my training in my mind and that helped me perform better than usual. I was able to change my Axle jump into a combination jump. I surprised myself, because I did not expect it to go this well.”

“Actually I’m not very satisfied with the content itself,” he quickly added, “but I liked the fact that I was not properly warmed up, but still performed well. I’m proud that I’m developing and getting better every competition. My goal actually was to get over 250 points overall and I’m glad I achieved that. I wish I could go to an even higher ranking.”

Canada’s Keegan Messing wasn’t on his game lost a few too many points. The 2019 CS Autumn Classic bronze medalist opened with a quad toe-double toe, but turned out and put a hand down on a quad toe. He also fell on a triple Lutz, and the spins and footwork were graded a level 3. He finished 10th (149.90) in the free skate and slipped to eighth overall (243.93).

“I thought I was training very well at home with it back home, or at least putting in the work,” said Messing. “I’m not really sure what attributed to it here, whether it was lack of training, whether it was jet lag or time change. I felt like I was skating pretty well here, but I was never able to feel my legs get underneath. It just really felt like it came through in the long program. I did the first two elements, and after that, I felt my legs and I just got tired and more tired and it went downhill from there.”

USA’s Tomoki Hiwatashi fell on a triple Axel and put a foot down on a triple loop, but landed a quad toe-triple toe and quad toe in his upbeat routine to Stravinsky’s “Petrushka.” The 2019 World Junior champion also fought for the landing of a triple Axel, but landed a total of four clean triples to finish ninth in the free skate and overall (152.69 / 240.78).

“I did the best I could do, and just kind of ended up being that way,” said the 20-year-old.

Han Yan of China, who stood in 11th after the short, finished eighth (157.09) in the free skate with his routine to routine to music from La La Land. The three-time Four Continents bronze medalist landed six solid triple jumps, but put a hand down on a triple Lutz-double toe. He rounded out the top 10 men with a total score of 239.41.

“I enjoyed skating so much that it makes me wonder why did not I skate last season,” said the two-time and current Chinese champion. “I should have come back earlier. Although I did mistakes, I will probably have a chance to go to Worlds, but I did not make any plans specifically for it.”

“For me, I think I just want to do as I had thought I can do in training and just make every step I can,” he added. “I felt really great after the short program, and today I felt great. It has been a long time since I came back to an international competition, but skating in front of the crowd always really motivated me. And although I did a few mistakes, I feel I have done what I could right now.”