Patrick Chan of Canada defended his title at the 2012 World Figure Skating Championships, while Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi moved up one place up to capture the silver. Teammate Yuzuru Hanyu, who is making his first appearance at this event, catapulted from seventh place to pocket the bronze.
The leaders were so eager to start competing that the final flight rushed onto the ice for the warm-up before the marks for the final skater in the penultimate group, Samuel Contesti, were announced. They were called back a few seconds later.
“It was funny,” commented Patrick Chan. “Daisuke and I have been competing for a long time, so we stood at the boards when we saw the four guys go to the ice. I knew right away that it was wrong. I was thinking ‘It is not right!’ and I told the lady next to me ‘It is not right!’. There was no announcement and the clock did not start, but it was quite interesting and funny, and I think it changed things a little bit. In the end we all coped well with it. It teaches you that anything can happen, even at a World Championships.”
Skating last among the 24 participants, Chan capped the competition with a performance that looked to be one his finest until he had a stumble on a combination jump. He later also slipped off the edge on the entry into his final jumping pass–a double Axel.
“It isn’t really normal, but I always have weird falls,” he joked. “It isn’t me if I don’t make at least one freaky mistake. It was a little touch of Patrick at the end. I was behind the music at that point and I knew it, so it might have been a factor. I needed to catch up, so I rushed entry. I have to say that I have bruised my butt quite a bit, but I am lucky that it did not affect the score more.”
“The plan was to do a triple Lutz – half loop – triple Salchow combination,” Chan explained of his other mistake, “but I had a shaky landing on the Lutz – the jump I had troubles with all season.”
“Last year I was on a roll,” he continued. “Quads were great and other than the triple Axel, everything was solid. This season, however, I started to have problems with the Lutz. I decided not add a triple, but since I have never done a double in this place before, I put too much ‘oomph’ into it and ended up with too much height for a double. That’s why the landing was bad.”
“Overall, though, it was a good performance,” he claimed. “No necessarily a lights out one, like Yuzuru’s, but I skated smartly and I stayed on top. All the little details were done well.”
‘Good’ is perhaps too modest a description for Chan’s program, which featured two flawless quads and solid triple Axel woven together by intricate connecting moves. The defending champion earned 176.70 points for his free program, and won his second consecutive title with a total score of 266.11 points.
The Canadian claims that skating in Nice was a special experience.
“First of all, when the final warm-up started, it was something that never happened to me before,” Chan said of the loudness in the arena. “I know it was mostly for Brian and Florent, but I have never got so much energy from the crowd. It was to be expected. Nice is not a place where a lot of figure skating happens, and the French fans are really loyal. It was crazy. I think it is going to be even crazier next year in London, and then even more crazy in Sochi for the Olympics with all the Russians. It is a great preparation for the Games.”
There is another aspect that made skating in Nice special for the 2012 Four Continents champion.
“I can use ‘Nice’ as a metaphor of a very special place, for a laisser-vivre feeling,” said the five-time Canadian champion. “I had a chance to walk around, to enjoy myself, to take my time and see everyone else in here also taking their time. Nobody rushes anything here, which is how I’d like to skate, taking time to take every moment. Being behind the music? Does not matter! Take your time to look at the judges, to pull the audience in.”
The timing could not have been better either.
“I am not sure if you are familiar with the name of Mr. (Osborne) Colson, but it is his birthday today,” said Chan of his now deceased former coach. “He was the man who taught me how to skate and the reason why I am getting the components scores I am getting today. There are not going to be many competitions timed so perfectly. To win the second World title on his birthday… none of this would have happened if it was not for him.”
Takahashi skated a clean, but somewhat cautious, program to Blues for Klook. Despite the Japanese’s claims that he was more focused on his own improvement than on winning medals this season, his performance came across as the one delivered by a person fully conscious of the fact that he had something to lose.
2010 Olympic bronze medalist still had his suavity and the ability to express music through the entire body, but the intensity of his emotional connection to the music was not up to usual standards. He finished third in the free skating with 173.99 points, but pulled up to second place overall (259.66).
“I was nervous but I still had a good time,” Takahashi said afterwards. “The audience helped me a lot. It actually is the first time this season that I landed a clean quad in competition.”
The skater underwent surgery prior to the beginning of the season to remove a bolt in his right knee stemming from surgery in late 2008.
“After my surgery before this season, I went to France and was taking ballet lessons and worked a lot on my basic skating skills,” he recalled. “This made me improve my spins and triple jumps so that I could focus more on training the quad instead of losing time training triples. As a result, my quads got more consistent.”
The student of Utako Nagamitsu tried to make history by becoming the first man to land a quad flip a couple of seasons ago, but this year he remained focused on the quad toe loop.
“The flip is actually my second quad,” he explained. “This season I was working on getting my quad toe back. It is hard, but sometimes when I feel great I work on the quad flip in practices. Now that I feel more confident about the toe, I think I will work on the flip again and maybe other quads, too. I would like you to look forward to it.”
Coming back from surgery was not easy for the 26-year-old, and getting a medal at the World Championships exceeded his expectations.
“After my surgery, I didn’t expect to win the silver medal here,” shared the five-time Japanese champion. “My long-term goal is Sochi, so I am looking for ways to improve myself; new challenges, something new every day. I need to understand what I have to do in order to get to the Sochi Olympics. I am looking forward to the upcoming season, and I am amazed at how much I have improved this season. I do not know what other people think about my skating, but I think I have proven to myself that that I am still able to improve.”
At the time of his performance, the skater to beat was his teammate Yuzuru Hanyu.
“Before my performance I tried not to listen to anything, even the audience,” said Takahashi. “I listened to the music, but in between two tracks, I heard a very loud reaction. This is how I know that he did great. I thought I’d have to skate really well as I didn’t want him to defeat me. He scored higher in the free program, which frustrated me a bit. I can see that he will be a strong rival in the years to come.”
“It’s the first time for two Japanese men to be on the podium,” Takahashi mused, “and Yuzuru is still a very young skater. When I was competing at my first Worlds, I never expected to be on the podium. Yuzuru did a truly amazing job today. I have been around for a long time. I am the oldest of three Japanese skaters here, and finally, after so many years, we got two skaters winning medals. So now I can be very optimistic about the future of Japanese skating.”
Hanyu, who skated in the penultimate group, gave arguably the performance of the night. He was one of two men (alongside with Brian Joubert) to get a standing ovation from the crowd. He flew through his routine to Romeo and Juliet soundtrack, and nailed each and every jumping pass to score 173.99 (including a mind-blowing 91.99 for technique). The 2010 World Junior champion rose rose from seventh place to win the bronze medal in his first appearance at the World Championships.
“Of course, I’m very nervous,” admitted the 17-year-old. “I felt the pressure of the World Championships.”
None of it showed in his performance, however, as it simply oozed confidence.
“I did not expect to finish on the podium at my first Worlds,” he continued. “In the short I singled a Lutz, and it frustrated and disappointed me. Today I nailed the Lutz, so I am happy.”
The skater, who lives and trains in the area which was struck by the devastating tsunami last year, could not help but feel its impact very acutely.
“For me it was a very tough season,” he explained. “I started this season doing ice shows where I skated my exhibition piece a lot. So my goal for Worlds was to make it to the gala, to finish in the top five. When I realized that I did it, it was ok for me. I did not think about the medal. I did not know how to react to it. I was really surprised.”
“I did not skate a good short program and did not make it to the final flight for free,” Hanyu continued. “It was one of my goals. So to go out and skate a clean long program is really big. I was really, really happy. I saw a lot of Japanese fans coming all the way from Japan to support us, and I knew that a lot of people followed the event on TV, even in disaster-struck areas. I felt their power and support today. Now I feel I have overcome that rough season.”
“I used to watch Worlds on TV and I dreamt of first skating at this Championships one day and then of winning a medal,” revealed the young skater, who was not able to hide his happiness during the awards ceremony. “Now I have done it, and I am very happy.”
After taking a ceremonial bow to the public, Hanyu jumped in the air, pumping his fists, showing that despite his precocious talent he is still a 17-years-old competing at his first major event.
After weak showings for the past several years, former World Champion and home favorite Brian Joubert came close to winning a medal in front of a home crowd. The Frenchman landed all his jumping passes (his triple loop was marked as underrotated by the panel, however), and his decision to come back to his old free skating to the soundtrack of The Matrix proved to be the right one.
In the nine years that has passed since Joubert debuted this program back in the 2003-04 season, it still remains one of his finest and a perfect vehicle for him. It demands just the right amount attention to both allow him to focus on delivering all the elements and still make it interesting enough for the audience to follow. With the mileage he got out of it (at one point he also used it was an exhibition piece), the expression comes naturally for him, and today he held nothing back in front of enthusiastic home crowd.
Joubert was so excited about skating clean, that he dropped to his knees at the end of the performance and kissed the ice. In the end, however, 161.11 points for the free and 244.58 in total were only good enough for fourth place.
“I am very happy with this free skate,” said the 27-year-old, who is making his 11th appearance at this event. “It was such a difficult competition, that’s just amazing. This year, after ten years of competitive skating, I felt that I had started from zero again. I had a big back injury at the beginning of the season which made caused me to skip the Grand Prix season.”
“I always believed in myself,” said Joubert, “and now I showed that I still can hold it together. You have to go step by step to achieve such a good performance. It’s great that it happened at the end of the season, and I want to thank all the people who supported me over this season.”
Teammate Florent Amodio finished fourth in the free skate (163.07) and fifth overall (243.03) with an exciting program to Latin tunes. As promised, the student of Nikolai Morozov landed his quad Salchow today, but he made some mistakes towards the end of the program.
“It was a wonderful competition,” shared the 21-year-old. “I am a fighter and I did my job today. For the first time this season, I did such a good skate and I am very happy. It feels amazing, even magical. The level is incredibly high this season.”
Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic, who was second in the short program, slipped to sixth place (239.55) after he missed the hardest elements in his routine to The Untouchables soundtrack. He fell on his both quads attempts (toe loop and salchow) and later stumbled again on a triple Axel – triple toe loop combination.
“You don’t want to change anything once the competition has started,” said the 2011 Skate America champion, “so I did the program with two quads even though I was second after the short program. I made too many mistakes today. It’s not really what I aimed for, but it’s a sport. I’ll try to make it better next season.”
Denis Ten from Kazakhstan rose to seventh place (229.70) with strong performance to Adios Nonino. The student of Frank Carroll nailed the opening quad toe loop, but stumbled out of a triple Axel immediately afterwards. He recovered to land a strong Axel in combination with a double toe loop, but ran out of steam towards the end of the program. He finished sixth in the long program (153.770).
Despite a rather strong showing, the skater was mostly relieved that the season was over.
“I am very glad I finished this season,” revealed the 18-year-old. “It was very long and difficult, both physically and mentally, for me. I finished it with a quad. In the beginning of the season, I performed it well, but at the Four Continents and Junior Worlds, I was not able to land any.”
“Overall, I think this season was a good one for me,” Ten summed up. “My jumps became better, so now I think that I need to improve my skating. You realize it very well here with so many strong competitors around. I hope one day I will compete with them on the same level and make it to the podium.”
USA’s Jeremy Abbott pulled one spot up to finish eighth (226.19), but the performance, in which he had to fight for the landings of all jumping passes in the second half of the program, was hardly the one he wanted to end the season with.
“Today was anything but easy, and I had to fight for everything,” the U.S. champion admitted, “but I fought my way through that program and for every point out there. My placement isn’t what I wanted, but this disappointing result makes me even hungrier than I thought possible for next season.”
Spain’s Javier Fernandez slipped to ninth place (225.87). Though the student of Brian Orser landed his opening quad toe loop, he fell on a triple Axel and all other jumping passes were flawed.
“When I stepped on the ice I was pretty calm,” he stated. “I did a clean quad, but I kept thinking about my triple Axels because I couldn’t do them at the European Championships. I was afraid to have problems with them again, I was afraid to fall on them. So I think I brought myself in this situation. This season I had good competitions and bad competitions, so now I will work on good things and keep going.”
Italy’s Samuel Contesti rounded up the top ten (224.89).