Mar 28, 2014, 8:40 AM EDT
In the end, Yuzuru Hanyu stood alone once again – literally.
The reigning Olympic champion came into Friday’s free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships down seven points of compatriot Tatsuki Machida, the short program leader who turned in a solid free skate just minutes earlier.
But the 19 year old, Japan’s first-ever Olympic men’s champion, was undeterred. He took to the ice in Saitama and delivered a clean and thorough “Romeo and Juliet” free skate, launching himself to the top of the podium once again, his second major international crown in a matter of weeks.
Hanyu, who is coached by former world champion Brian Orser, stood alone to celebrate as his score was announced, jumping up and pumping his fists over his head. Orser was already tending to his other world class pupil, Javier Fernandez, who skated next.
Fernandez ended up third, making up for his botched finish in Sochi last month, where he fell to fourth place because he miscalculated his points during the free skate.
Yet there was no miscalculation for the U.S. men in Saitama, who earned a third spot for the World Championships for the first time since 2011.
They did so thanks to an inspired skate from Jeremy Abbott, the four-time national champion with a history of international hiccups. The Colorado native skated with gusto in his long program and moved from eighth to fifth overall. 2013 U.S. champ Max Aaron placed eighth.
— Gracie Gold (@GraceEGold) March 28, 2014
The U.S. needed the final skater of the competition, Takahiko Kozuka, to fall below Abbott. He did just that, putting his hand down on several jumps and moving tentatively on the ice.
Skating in what he’s said will be his last-ever competition, Abbott summoned the same free skate spirit he found in Sochi, connecting with the “Symphony Number 3” music as it seemed to sway him over the ice. Technically, Abbott lost little points from jump to jump, but overall the feeling of the program was one of triumph, Abbott’s final spin was not quite done when the capacity crowd rose to its feet to congratulate him.
“I have so many emotions going through my head. I’m happy with how I skated and that was exactly what I wanted to do here,” said Abbott in a U.S. Figure Skating statement. “That’s what I’ve been training for. That’s the best I’ve ever skated that program in competition. I’m so proud and honored to do it in Japan. I had such a warm welcome.”
Aaron’s long program, meanwhile, was reflective of his entire season: he skated fast but messy, attacking his jumps aggressively but seemingly unable to find his skates underneath him. Just two of his eight jumps were marked as cleanly executed.
“I’m frustrated. I came out here and gave it my best,” Aaron said in the same statement. “I trained hard for this but obviously it didn’t go the way I trained it. It’s reality. I have to go back and see what I can do for next season.”
The U.S. men needed a combined finish of 13th to gain a third spot at Worlds next year. They got just that, with Abbott fifth and Aaron eighth. This is the first time the U.S. men will have three spots at a World Championships since 2011.
Hanyu wasn’t completely alone in the Kiss and Cry: He brought along a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear, which has famously followed him around the world, garnering its own Twitter handle. He mocked shaking hands with the bear before his scores came in, a world champion already confident in what he had accomplished, yet still a playful teen at heart.
Overall, the men delivered a much more engaging, dramatic and technically sound free skate than in Sochi, where falls dominated the final two groups. Many argue that a day between the short and long programs allow for better rest and recovery and thus better skating. Saitama may have proved that.
A surprising turn of events ended the short dance program of the ice dancing competition, which is without the two teams that have dominated the discipline over the last five years.
Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were the ones to step up Friday and take advantage of that, skating a near-flawless routine to score a 69.70 and sit a half point ahead of Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.
It’s Weaver and Poje’s compatriots Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who are skipping the World Championships, as are reigning Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. The two teams own the gold and silver medals from the last two Olympic Games.
America was well represented in the short dance, however, where both Madison Chock and Evan Bates as well as Maia and Alex Shibutani put out strong performances, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively.
“We had the most fun today that we have all season performing [our short dance],” Bates said via U.S. Figure Skating. “Our goal was to pay tribute to the program and skate it well. It’s been a great program for us.”
Chock/Bates were eighth in Sochi, the Shibutanis ninth.
— Maia Shibutani (@MaiaShibutani) March 28, 2014
Chock/Bates sit just half a point off the podium behind veterans Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who have medaled just once at Worlds (bronze in 2012) and were fourth at the Olympics last month.
Sochi bronze medalists Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia looked poised to continue their strong run before Katsalapov stepped out of a sequence of twizzles, costing the team valuable points and putting them in fifth heading into the free dance.
Men’s overall standings
1. Yuzuru HANYU JPN 282.59
2. Tatsuki MACHIDA JPN 282.26
3. Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 275.93
4. Maksim KOVTUN RUS 247.37
5. Jeremy ABBOTT USA 246.35
6. Takahiko KOZUKA JPN 238.02
7. Han YAN CHN 231.91
8. Max AARON USA 225.66
Ice dance standings – Short dance
1. Anna CAPPELLINI/Luca LANOTTE ITA 69.70
2. Kaitlyn WEAVER/Andrew POJE CAN 69.20
3. Nathalie PECHALAT/Fabian BOURZAT FRA 68.20
4. Madison CHOCK/Evan BATES USA 67.71
5. Yelena ILINYKH/Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 65.67
6. Maia SHIBUTANI/Alex SHIBUTANI USA 63.55
7. Nelli ZHIGANSHINA/Alexander GAZSI GER 62.27
8. Victoria SINITSINA/Ruslan ZHIGANSHIN RUS 62.11
18. Alexandra ALDRIDGE/Daniel EATON USA 53.34
Sep 2, 2014, 7:41 AM EDT
Schild won silver behind Shiffrin in Sochi and is one of her idols.
Sep 1, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT
Lewis joins staff with two other Olympic sprint medalists.
Sep 1, 2014, 1:09 PM EDT
Germany is the latest rival to a potential U.S. Olympic bid in 2024.
Sep 1, 2014, 11:27 AM EDT
Seven from Nigeria, two from Sierra Leone out due to Uzbekistan’s restrictions.
Sep 1, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT
Olympic silver medalist swam three days after suffering allergic reaction to jellyfish sting.
Aug 30, 2014, 5:27 PM EDT
American overcame a 69-second deficit, passing 19 women on the 10km run to cap dominating season.
Aug 29, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
Olympic champion cites “medical reasons” hours before weigh-in.
Aug 29, 2014, 1:44 PM EDT
Statistically, the U.S. might be better off not winning in Spain in the Olympic scope.
Aug 29, 2014, 12:36 PM EDT
Olympic champion missed 2013 Worlds after knee surgery.
Aug 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
An accountant five years ago, triathlete is dominating after Olympic disappointment.
Aug 28, 2014, 4:56 PM EDT
Allyson Felix, David Rudisha beaten in first of two Diamond League finals meets.
Aug 28, 2014, 1:33 PM EDT
Steen and Peder Mondrup completed the Ironman Copenhagen in 15 hours.
Aug 28, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT
Olympic Flag handed over to Buenos Aires, host of 2018 Youth Olympics.
Aug 28, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT
Officials looking for 70,000 people over the Olympics and Paralympics.
Aug 27, 2014, 4:44 PM EDT
Chinese basketball star also updates on what he’s been doing in retirement.
Aug 27, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT
IOC president sits down with Lewis Johnson at Youth Olympics.
Aug 27, 2014, 1:52 PM EDT
How can we apply the results looking ahead to the Rio Olympics?
Aug 27, 2014, 12:17 PM EDT
Diamond Races up for grabs, plus Gay vs. Powell in the 100m.
Aug 27, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT
Stevenson has unprecedented junior credentials for a U.S. boxer.
Aug 26, 2014, 6:01 PM EDT
Comoros, British Virgin Islands, Romania join together in track and field finale.
- Haley Anderson wins Pan Pacs open-water 10K by .01 after jellyfish sting, move to Maui 0
- Gwen Jorgensen wins World Championship in triathlon 0
- How the FIBA World Cup impacts the Olympics 0
- Gwen Jorgensen’s glory awaits in Edmonton 0
- Tyson Gay last place in Zurich; Jenny Simpson leads U.S. winners (video) 0
- Youth Olympics wrap with Closing Ceremony, Lionel Messi cameo (photos) 0
- U.S. finishes Youth Olympics with 22 medals, 10 golds 1
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (61)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (57)
- IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics (47)
- South Korea filing official complaint over Yuna Kim’s Olympic silver (38)
- Zola Budd, 47, dominates college runners in 5K (33)