2023 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships
Men’s Free Skate
Japan’s Kao Miura took his second consecutive Four Continents medal, this time a gold, in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday. Keegan Messing of Canada maintained second place to take the silver, while Shun Sato of Japan rose to claim the bronze.
Miura took the highest technical element score (102.02) in the field with his routine to Alan Menken’s Beauty and the Beast. Last year’s bronze medalist landed opened with a solid triple Axel-Euler-triple Salchow before moving onto an impressive quad toe-triple toe. He fought for the landing of a quad Salchow, but the quad toe in the second half his routine was clean. He also landed a triple Axel and triple flip-double Axel sequence and earned a level four on two spins. The young skater finished first (189.63) in the free skate, maintaining his position overall with a total score of 281.53.
“I was happy about my components and everything I was able to do,” said Miura. “I was able to make sure I had the right speed at certain times and also take it slow, or maybe relax, at some moments. I was really happy I was able to do that.”
He also thanked Messing, who he’s been watching since he was “a little boy.” They are 14 years apart.
“Today was amazing because, just before I went on the ice, Keegan put on such an amazing program,” said Miura. “The whole atmosphere was completely different and I was able to actually go with that flow. So he gave me a lot of energy by setting that wonderful program in front of me, and I was able to really skate well.”
Miura was also thrilled to share the podium with teammate Sato as they had kept each other motivated throughout the event
“Shun put on such a wonderful free skate, and I thought that I needed to make sure I could keep up with him,” said Miura. “I had to step up to the occasion. Just around lunch today, Shun was telling me a year ago exactly he was undergoing surgery today. So I could really imagine how tough it must have been for him, but he persevered and worked hard, and at the end, he got his medal. I was really happy for him and I was happy for myself too, because I have such a great rival and a friend on the ice together at this competition.”
Messing gave a brilliant performance with his popular routine to “Home” and “Lullaby for an Angel.” The 31-year-old landed a solid quad toe-double toe and quad toe right out the gate. He went on to land six more triple jumps and showed very good spins and footwork throughout. The only mistakes were a hand down on a triple Axel and an edge call on a flip. The two-time national champion picked up many high GOES in nearly all elements, easily surpassing all other skaters’ program component scores (92.88). He collected 188.87 for a second-place free skate and 275.57 overall. Both scores are new personal bests for the skater who set to retire from competitive skating after worlds.
“It felt like it was all my time to shine on the ice,” said Messing. “Everything lined up tonight, my training and everything. I couldn’t let the legs fly, because the air is thin up here, so it was a very controlled skate. But I finally put together the program I wanted to do for years now, and it was amazing! Now that I’m a veteran on the ice, I feel like that really helped control my mind from the excitement and from the emotions of knowing this is my last North American competition.”
Messing, not a stranger to the effects of altitude, stayed hydrated and made it through his practices.
“This is probably the best conditioned I have come into a competition this entire year, and I am so thankful that I really put in the work beforehand,” he said. “I don’t think I could have done it without that work.”
The two-time Canadian Champion went on to add that he recognized many faces in the crowd and that he wanted to thank everyone.
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” said Messing. “I know I’ve been saying I haven’t been skating for a medal, but it sure does feel good. I want to show a more exciting performance in Saitama. It will be sea level and we I will bring even more. I’m looking forward to going home and hugging my family. I was thinking of my kids and my wife while I was out on the ice during different parts of the program, just giving me strength to push through.”
Messing has been quoted this as saying this is his last season as balancing family and training has become more difficult.
“Honestly, putting up a career best score, winning my first Championship medal, I was definitely sitting there like, ‘man, I almost don’t want to hang up my skates yet!’ But then I stood up and I remembered why,” he laughed. “I would love to have an adventurous life with my family, with my kids, and take them on plenty of adventures with my body still intact. You know what, let’s just try to put the best foot forward and leave with our head held high.”
Sato impressed with his routine to “Red Violin,” landing a solid quad Lutz, quad toe-double toe, and quad toe—all earning many positive GOES. The 2022 Grand Prix of Espoo silver medalist landed a total of five triple jumps, including two triple Axels. Only the flip received an edge call. He earned a level two on his footwork and a level four on two spins, and finished third (178.33) in the free skate. With a total score of 259.14, he rose from sixth to third to win the bronze.
“One year ago, I was undergoing surgery,” said Sato. “And right now, a year later, I won the third place in Four Continents. So, I really want to show last year’s ‘me’ that I was able to do so much this year, and still, this season the short program is not consistent. I still have one competition left, so I want to make sure I nail a perfect short program at that next competition.”
He added that it was also thanks to Miura that he did so well.
“I owe him that much, because after the short program, I was really down,” explained Sato. “Yesterday we spent some relaxing time together playing games, and he said, ‘you know, we’re going to be on the podium together!’ It really helped me get rid of the tension, and I was able to relax. I look forward to competing against and with him, and we’ll improve each other and I hope we will have many of such occasions together in our career.”
All the men were asked how they were affected by the altitude.
“We were watching the women’s free skate, and despite all the conditions, they were all putting on wonderful performances,” noted Sato. “So we said we have to keep up with that. Altitude is no excuse. I had to make sure I skated until the very end with my full energy.”
Skating to music from No Time To Die, South Korea’s Junhwan Cha opened his free skate with a solid quad Salchow, earning many high GOEs across the board. However, he then fell on a quad toe and later popped an Axel. Both jumps in a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow were a quarter underrotated, however all spins and footwork were graded a level four with positive GOEs. The defending champion placed fourth in the free skate and overall (166.37/250.14).
Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Shaidorov rose up seven places to fifth overall (237.14). The 2022 World Junior silver medalist three quads in his routine to music from Once Upon a Time in America. He opened with a quad toe-triple toe and followed up a with a quad Salchow and triple Axel. The last jump in a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow was a quarter underrotated, but the triple Luz was clean. He also earned a level four on two spins in his debut at this event.
“It was super, I am thrilled with this performance!” said the 18-year-old. “Obviously, 12th place in the short was not what I wanted, but I went out today confident in my abilities.”
The skater had arrived just five hour prior to the short program on Thursday due to visa issues.
“I came to the U.S. for the Winter Universiade in Lake Placid, and I thought I had a multiple-entry visa, but it was a single-entry visa,” explained Shaidorov. “So, I had to get a new visa.”
The 18-year-old had to withdraw from both of his assigned Grand Prix events earlier this season after becoming very ill with the Epstein-Barr virus.
“I was in hospital and it took me long to recover,” said the skater from Almaty. “I am still not fully recovered.”
South Korea’s Sihyeong Lee rose from 14th to sixth place overall (227.79) in his sixth appearance at this event. His routine was highlighted by a solid quad toe, triple Axel-triple toe and three level-four spins.
Lee recalled when he came to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the Junior Grand Prix during the 2015-16 season.
“At that time, I didn’t know it was such a high elevation, so I came here without any concern,” he said. “I was very young (back then), and when you are young, you don’t know very much. I had also trained here in 2016, so this place is kind of familiar. So when I came here, I got very excited about this place and for this competition. As you know, I’m tall, so I’m not good at cardio. I was very worried about cardio and just breathed in and out during the competition.”
USA’s Jimmy Ma and Boyang Jin of China, who stood in third and fourth place, respectively, both struggled in their free skate. Jin finished in seventh place overall (227.47) while Ma placed ninth (221.04). Sandwiched between the two in eighth place was Conrad Orzel of Canada (226.10).
Jin said he gave all he had and had not been feeling well since Friday.
“Yesterday, during the practice, I told Brian (Orser, coach) that I didn’t want to do jumps, because I was not able to. I gritted my teeth in the six-minute warm up. I felt good that I could even land the first two jumps.”
When asked about his preparation for worlds, Jin said if he was like other skaters, he would “take this season off.”
“It is one month to go, and I hope I can be more prepared, physically,” said the two-time world bronze medalist. “I wish to present a new ‘Boyang’ at the worlds in Japan. I hope I can improve the quality of my programs.”
Ma said his legs “didn’t listen” to him during the free skate.
“It wasn’t my day,” said the 27-year-old. “Definitely a different feeling from nationals, but another experience learned. My goal is just to skate, and even this morning, the thought of medaling wasn’t even there. I wanted to come out here and do my normal job, but it wasn’t my normal job.”
The skater said he reviewed his short program and noted a log of things he liked, as well as others that needed improvement. I watched my short program a lot, and there were a lot of things I liked
“I need to get my back better first,” said Ma. “That didn’t feel good at all this week. I definitely want to do my quad Lutz and flip again. I feel a little bit old, but I know I can do it. Moving forward, I really just want to trust myself more, like I did at Nationals. I trusted myself then, and I trusted myself the other day, but I didn’t trust myself today.”