The Men’s Short Program was such a success that one would have to go as low as 10th place to find a more serious mistake than turning out of a jump landing; or as low as seventh place to find any mistake at all.
The two final flights would have been a credit to a competition of any level, and the best skaters of the night were not only flawless technically, but brought on their own unique brands of artistic expression to the ice.
Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) is currently first, while Patrick Chan (CAN) and Brian Joubert (FRA) are almost tied for the second and third places with just a little over a point behind the leader.
Skating last in the penultimate group, Takahashi held nothing back in his interpretation of his tango to music by Coba. Once all jumping passes were over and well done, the Olympic bronze medalist abandoned himself in the music and the flow of the program, bringing the audience to the edge of their seats with his passionate performance and excellent usage of whole body movement to express the character.
Takahashi earned 89.30 (47.40/41.90) – only one point less than his personal best (90.25). The Japanese skater also received a level four on his circular step sequence for which he also picked up +2.00 for Grade of Execution (GOE).
“I love not only Tango, but all Latin music and the character,” said Takahashi at the post-event press conference. “I cannot judge how good I’m at interpreting it, but I enjoy performing it and maybe my joy is translating.”
The 24-year-old, however, was not enamored with the way he skated. “I’m happy to have won a small (gold) medal for the first time. My performance was not so good. I didn’t have enough speed and my step (footwork) wasn’t too good.”
The Japanese Champion, who has been attempting the quad flip during practices in Turin, said that he would decide whether to include a quad in his performance tomorrow at the last moment.
“I’m very pleased to have achieved a high score in the Short Program without the quad, but my goal is to include the quad, especially for next season. I believe I can have an even higher score.”
Chan’s tango to Tango de los Exilados put him in second place. The skater, whose chances for success at the Olympics were undermined early in the season due to illness, finally put together a program which reminded both the fans and the judges why he was considered to be one of the main contenders for an Olympic medal.
The Canadian Champion’s interpretation of the music was less intense than Takahashi’s, but his choreography and skating skills were as just as strong. He also received level four for his circular step sequence, and posted exactly the same technical sum as his opponent. He scored 87.80 (47.40/40.40), which is by far his best result of the season.
“I felt really comfortable after the warm-up ,” said the 19-year-old, “and then after off the ice waiting for my turn to skate. I think the program went very well, just the way I wanted to, and I’m glad that the last time I’m doing this Short Program was a good one. I can get this off my chest. Finally a kind of a redemption after the Olympics disappointing short program, so I’m mostly relieved and I am happy with the result, of course.”
Despite a disappointing performance at the Games, Chan came back stronger because of it.
“After the Olympics, I kept everything the same because physically I felt good and I was in a really good shape at the Olympic Games. The thing is just my mental training, what I have to work on. The Olympics itself was a learning experience. It was kind of my psychologist in a way, and it gave me confidence here. If you can handle the Olympics, you can handle almost everything. I had that approach and it really helped today in the Short Program.”
Joubert seemed to recover from whatever prevented him from showing his best in Vancouver. The experienced skater was visibly thrilled as he nailed first a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination, and then a triple Axel and triple lutz.
The Frenchman received extremely warm and enthusiastic response from the audience for his powerful and fast routine to Rise by Safri Duo. However, despite his excellent presentation skills and ability to fully engage the spectators into the performance, his program was not as sophisticated as that of Chan or Takahashi in terms of basic layout and choreographic content. The European bronze medalist received the highest technical score of the night, and is currently third with 87.70 (47.90/39.80) points.
“I am very proud,” said Joubert. “It was very difficult for me after the Olympic Games. The six minutes warm-up wasn’t so good, but I did a good job. It was great to skate and I had a lot of fun. That’s my goal for this competition. I really want to do a clean competition with a good feeling.”
“After the Olympic Games it was very difficult,” he continued. “A lot of people said bad things about me and I wanted to show that I’m not finished yet, that I can still compete and do my job. I have to improve. I can improve and I will try it for the next few months. We’ll see for the next season.”
Joubert, who has previously been very vocal in his criticism of the new rules, which in his opinion do not give enough credit to quads, was rather nonchalant about the issue this time.
“I don’t care about the place today,” stated the 25-year-old. “I just care about my performance. I did a quad-triple and I think I didn’t get as many points for this combination like the ones with a triple-triple combination. I probably made some mistakes on the spins or footwork, because I didn’t care about the levels.”
“I was on the ice to have fun with the audience,” Joubert summed up. “I wanted to get 90 points, but it wasn’t [meant] for today. I will try for the next season. I will continue to do quads in the Short Program.”
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan sits in fourth by a mere three points. While the 21-year-old did not yet have the same presence on the ice as the skaters who placed ahead of him, his Bold As Love routine was a joy to behold for the sheer and unadulterated freedom of movement he exhibited throughout, as well as the quality of his basic skating skills. He posted a new personal best of 84.20 (46.80/37.60) points.
“I am very satisfied with my performance and I hope I will do the same tomorrow,” said the student of Nobuo Sato. “Also, I have to say that I was very excited and I did not have as much speed as I could have. I hope to do better tomorrow. I had a hard training after the Olympic Games in order to get ready for this important competition.”
Michal Březina of the Czech Republic continues his series of successful performances. The 2009 World Junior silver medalist began his performance with high, but very light and airy jumps, which matched his character in Puttin’ On the Ritz perfectly. The jazzy tune suited his overall skating style very well as it brought forth his playfulness and highlighted his rapport with the audience. He received a new personal best 81.75 (45.40/36.35) points.
“I am very satisfied because this is my 6th clean short program of the year, and with each competition I got better and better,” said the 19-year-old. “I was hoping of having this result. I hope to get at least into the last group, but I have many rivals, like Jeremy Abbott and Takahiko Kozuka.”
Abbott, who was the first to skate among the medal contenders, did really well and the complexity of his choreography was second to none. However at the day, the judges favored bolder and more commanding performances than his rather internalized routine to A Day in the Life. The U.S. Champion received 81.05 (44.20/36.85) points for a sixth place finish.
“I felt very good,” said the 24-year-old. “The last competition was quite obvious, so I wanted to come here and take a different approach than I did on the Olympics. I really focused on the program, and I didn’t get ahead of myself and wasn’t focusing on the placement. The goal is to take each element, and when I passed through the jumps, I really had fun with the rest of the program.”
Abbott successfully recovered from a weak showing at the Olympic Games. “I just kind of evaluated how I was training,” he explained. “I knew I just couldn’t turn off ‘the wrong’ on time for the competition (Olympics). I was able to do that at this competition. I trained much better and I showed that today so far.”
Teammate Adam Rippon finished seventh in the short program at his World Championships debut. The American turned out of his triple Axel landing, but nailed his unique version of s triple Lutz in which he keep both his hands above his head. His program to the soundtrack from Jonathan Livingston Seagull flowed nicely from one element to the next, with all of them fully integrated into the overall picture. The student of Brian Orser was the last skater to earn more than 80 point, and he improved his personal best by nearly five points to earn 80.11 (43.76/36.35) points.
“I was fortunate that I kept training (to replace Johnny Weir),” said the Four Continents Champion. “Today was not my best, but I had my personal satisfaction. I am happy. I think that tomorrow I will do my best. It was exhausting for me and stressful, as for everybody, to skate at the World Championships, but the score of today is a nice kind of present for me at the end of this season.”
Samuel Contesti entertained the home crowd with his comedy program to country tunes, but in this field, merely landing all planned jumps and being an exuberant performer was only enough for eighth place with a score of 78.40 (42.60/35.80).
“It is always difficult to perform at home, he was tense,” commented coach Peter Grütter. “He did not feel good. The tension was big. He was happy with his performance. He did better than at the Olympics. The public was great, very, very nice. Samuel now does not feel well as he is having a nervous reaction because of the stress.”
Denis Ten of Kazakhstan was the last to skate out of 47 competitors, and he provided a rather satisfactory conclusion to the long event. He landed his jumping passes, and the only problem with his routine was the fact that his final spin and step sequence received only level two. His presentation skills are not as mature of as those of more experienced skaters, and therefore he was not always able to match the light-hearted character of the music. He is currently ninth with 77.40 points.
“Today a lot of skaters did well,” noted the 16-year-old. “I didn’t watch them, but I heard their scores, and when I was in the dressing room a lot of skaters came in and were happy. So I wanted to join the good mood. Here everything was different from Junior Worlds. The tiredness came through at Junior Worlds. Now I don’t think about the placement. I just want to give good performances.”
Kevin van der Perren rounded up the top ten (73.55). The Belgian skater began with a strong quad toeloop-triple toe loop combination, but fell on the triple Axel immediately afterwards.
“I am having a really bad time because at home my grandfather is dying,” explained the 27-year-old. “It’s hard to stay focused on what I have to do, but I’m really happy because this is the first time I tried the quad this season and it worked.”
“Olympics were over, I came home, and the quad came,” van der Perren continued. “So I said to my coach, ‘you know, I’m gonna to do the quad, because it’s not certain anyway’. I need to try the hardest I can because this is my last Worlds.”
Russia’s Sergei Voronov also attempted the quad, but a shaky landing did not allow him to add a triple toe at the end of it and he had to settle for a quad-double. He is currently 11th (73.42).
“This is a difficult time in my career,” said Voronov. “Apparently I have to change a lot. It was good that I was able to pull myself together, even though the jumps weren’t the best. I did only a quad-double instead of a quad-triple, and I lost a lot of points there.”
“I felt obliged to skate well for my parents and my girlfriend who supported me after the European Championships,” Voronov continued. “I feel so sorry for my teammate Artem Borodulin. He is my rival, but I don’t want something like this to happen to anyone.”
Borodulin withdrew from the event after his blade broke in two.
“The blade (of the right boot) broke in two pieces,” said Borodulin. “I felt that something was wrong already on the entry (of a triple Axel), but I thought that this is not something serious. But on the landing, of course, the problem came out. You cannot do anything with this, and as they say, it is good that I survived.”
“It is very disappointing,” continued the 21-year-old. “We were prepared really well for this competition, and had big plans after the Olympics, but it is as it is. The good thing is that this was the last big competition this season, so there is no need to rush. We have time to correct everything properly.”
Kevin Reynolds of Canada landed a quad Salchow-triple toe loop combination, but popped a triple Axel into single to finish 14th.
“I found out, that I was going to the Worlds about two and a half weeks ago,” said Reynolds. “I got extremely excited. Immediately I was stuck into the training on a 100 percent going into that, and it went good, so I am happy.”
“It is interesting,” Reynolds said of first World Championships. “The atmosphere is completely different from the Junior World Championships and the Grand Prix series, and the fans here were amazing.”
To the surprise of everyone in attendance, one of the events favorites Nobunari Oda (JPN) failed to rotate any triple jumps in his short program, popping all three attempts into singles, and finished 28th – well below the cut for the long program.
“I was very shaky,” explained the 22-year-old. “My body was very rigid and I was not in perfect condition. I was frightened because I was very tight also during the training. I was not ill or injured, I was only very rigid.”