Mar 26, 2014, 8:10 AM EDT
Japan is the figure skating gift that keeps on giving.
With a crowd of over 20,000 on hand, the World Figure Skating Championships opened Wednesday in Saitama, Japan, with another skater from this country mad about the sport launching himself to the top of the heap.
It wasn’t newly-crowned Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, but instead Tatsuki Machida, the 24-year-old who was fifth in Sochi and making his debut at Worlds in front of an adoring home audience.
With a sold-out Saitama Super Arena crowd watching on, Machida delivered an Olympic-sized performance, nailing an opening quadruple toe-triple toe combination before hitting a triple Axel and triple Lutz during his skate to “East of Eden.”
Hanyu, who won the country its first-ever gold medal in men’s figure skating last month, was in third after a fall on his opening quadruple jump (91.24). Hanyu’s training partner, Spain’s Javier Fernandez, was in second, scoring a 96.42. They share a coach in 1987 world champion Brian Orser.
The American men had a so-so night. Four-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott fell on his opening jump before executing a strong short program, scoring a 79.67 to finish in eighth. 2013 U.S. winner Max Aaron was one place behind with a 78.32, called for under-rotating his triple Axel, which he touched a hand down on.
“So close! So close!” Abbott said as he skated off the ice. “I put myself in a good place,” he added after receiving his score.
Abbott and Aaron will need to make a move up the rankings in the free skate should they want to earn the U.S. a coveted third spot for the World Championships next year: a combined 13th-place finish is needed. Aaron was third at the U.S. Championships this year, leaving him off the Sochi team.
“It was tough when I didn’t make the Olympic team,” Aaron said in a statement from U.S. Figure Skating. I took that to heart because that’s something that is a goal of mine. I wish I was there but it means a lot for me to get three spots this year and moving forward. To do that, we need to have two good skates from both me and Jeremy. I think we can do that.”
In pairs, four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy kept a changing of the guard at bay at least for another program. The Germans enlisted their Olympic “Pink Panther” short and performed it flawlessly, scoring a 79.02 to own the lead going into Wednesday night’s free skate.
Reigning Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov’s absence in Saitama left the door open for compatriots Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov to carry the momentum of their surprise Olympic silver medal into Worlds.
But that didn’t happen in the short program, the younger Russian pair at times tentative and unsure in their “Surrender” routine (76.15), which seemed to drag at the end. Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, seventh at the Olympics after being third at the World Championships a year ago, were second behind Savchenko/Szolkowy, scoring a 77.01.
It was a vastly disappointing night for the U.S. pairs, two-time national champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir registering a 60.60 to finish in 11th and Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay in 14th with a score of 57.59.
“We were hoping to ride the wave of energy from the Olympics here,” Shnapir said in a statement, noting the team’s ninth-place finish in Sochi. “It didn’t happen today. It wasn’t the short program we wanted, we made some big mistakes.”
Most notably, both Castelli and Shnapir doubled their planned side-by-side triple Salchows, resulting in a major loss of points. The U.S. had an outside shot of qualifying three teams for Worlds in 2015 this week, now Castelli/Shnapir must finish inside of the top 10 in order for the team to maintain its two spots.
“We wanted to skate our best and put out a good step forward for Team USA,” Castelli added in the USFSA press release. “We’re hoping to move up to that 10th spot so we will have two teams next year for worlds. That’s our goal right now.”
The skating will continue with the pairs free skate Wednesday night (10:30 p.m. ET), followed by the ladies’ short program Thursday morning (2:45 a.m. ET). View full short program results from men’s and pairs here.
Short program standings – MEN’S
1 Tatsuki MACHIDA JPN 98.21
2 Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 96.42
3 Yuzuru HANYU JPN 91.24
4 Tomas VERNER CZE 89.08
5 Han YAN CHN 86.70
6 Takahiko KOZUKA JPN 85.54
7 Maksim KOVTUN RUS 84.66
8 Jeremy ABBOTT USA 79.67
9 Max AARON USA 78.32
Short program standings – PAIRS
1 Aliona SAVCHENKO/Robin SZOLKOWY GER 79.02
2 Meagan DUHAMEL/Eric RADFORD CAN 77.01
3 Ksenia STOLBOVA/Fyodor KLIMOV RUS 76.15
4 Wenjing SUI/Cong HAN CHN 72.24
5 Cheng PENG/Hao ZHANG CHN 71.68
6 Kirsten MOORE-TOWERS/Dylan MOSCOVITCH CAN 69.31
7 Vera BAZAROVA/Yuri LARIYONOV RUS 67.41
8 Yulia ANTIPOVA/Nodari MAISURADZE RUS 66.78
11 Marissa CASTELLI/Simon SHNAPIR USA 60.60
14 Felicia ZHANG/Nathan BARTHOLOMAY USA 57.59
Oct 31, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Ledecky, and other women, are entered in mixed-gender distance races in Delaware.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:58 PM EDT
The top U.S. man on Friday finished 10th at the U.S. Championships in January.
Oct 31, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT
The Kenyan won four straight World Marathon Majors.
Oct 31, 2014, 4:03 PM EDT
Bayern Munich soccer player won by a single point.
Oct 31, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT
Russian media reports vary on his health.
Oct 31, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
Norway and Sweden both withdrew 2022 Olympic bids.
Oct 31, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT
But Neymar’s status for Rio 2016 is still very much in question.
Oct 30, 2014, 3:50 PM EDT
Keflezighi faces tough odds to win Sunday, just as in Boston.
Oct 30, 2014, 2:23 PM EDT
The U.S. roster includes zero men who had the fastest time in the world this year in an Olympic event.
Oct 30, 2014, 8:37 AM EDT
Figure skating champion joins MLB outfielder, ballerina.
Oct 29, 2014, 4:36 PM EDT
Anderson is the two-time reigning USA Volleyball Player of the Year.
Oct 29, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT
The 2018 World Championships were already awarded.
Oct 29, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
Tennis player flew from Singapore to Denmark to New York this week.
Oct 29, 2014, 10:04 AM EDT
Rising black smoke caused brief panic, but the fire was quickly put out.
Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT
Bruno Grandi was at the helm for a judging overhaul.
Oct 29, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
One of the U.S.’ strongest skaters from last season is not on the team.
Oct 28, 2014, 1:58 PM EDT
Sundquist was a partially eaten gingerbread man, a leg lamp and a flamingo in recent years.
Oct 28, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Either Berlin or Hamburg will be chosen in March.
Oct 28, 2014, 9:24 AM EDT
Those against Boston hosting an Olympics sent a letter to the USOC.
Oct 28, 2014, 9:03 AM EDT
Judge rules in lawsuit over environmental concerns.
- Boston, Chicago Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo fails drug test 0
- Neymar will be on Brazil’s Olympic soccer team, coach says 0
- Meb Keflezighi in familiar spot as New York City Marathon underdog 0
- Matt Anderson taking break from volleyball due to depression 0
- Caroline Wozniacki nervous for New York City Marathon, even in her dreams 0
- Prosecutors to appeal Oscar Pistorius verdict, sentence 3
- Russian triumphs at Skate America; Gracie Gold third (video) 4
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (60)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (39)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)