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
Aug 31, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Olympic champions came through and potential future Olympic stars broke out.
Aug 31, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT
One world record and many near marks on the track and in the field.
Aug 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT
Kidney failure, a Segway and goat blood.
Aug 30, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT
The Nigerian team is led by an NBA veteran.
Aug 30, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT
It can’t become official until later this week.
Aug 30, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT
“I’m going to cut the goat … and drink the blood.”
Aug 29, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT
Jamaica swept the relays.
Aug 29, 2015, 11:23 AM EDT
Eaton was competing in his first decathlon in more than two years and wore a cooling hood.
Aug 28, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
“That feeling of wanting to crawl out of your skin.”
Aug 28, 2015, 12:42 PM EDT
“No chance for rematch,” a meet director said.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:13 AM EDT
Davis, the second youngest U.S. Olympic basketball player ever in 2012, played the fewest minutes for Team USA at the London Games.
Aug 28, 2015, 11:11 AM EDT
Jenner explains why the medal isn’t displayed.
Aug 28, 2015, 10:39 AM EDT
Ashton Eaton clocks a decathlon world record. The third fastest woman ever in the 200m. The U.S. was shut out of the medals in its best event.
Aug 28, 2015, 7:25 AM EDT
A CCTV cameraman presented Bolt with a red bracelet.
Aug 27, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
Bolt previously said he would retire after the 2017 World Championships.
Aug 27, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT
“The rumor I’m trying to start right now is that Justin Gatlin paid him off.”
Aug 27, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT
Also, Allyson Felix broke a U.S. record for World Championships medals.
Aug 27, 2015, 11:51 AM EDT
Felix could try to race two individual events at the Rio Olympics.
Aug 27, 2015, 7:48 AM EDT
Justin Gatlin got the best of Usain Bolt in their only race before Gatlin’s doping ban.
Aug 27, 2015, 6:51 AM EDT
Pistorius could be out of prison in weeks.
- Top ten storylines from World Track and Field Championships 0
- USOC, Los Angeles agree to 2024 Olympic bid, reports say 0
- U.S. finishes World Championships with fewest medals since 2003 3
- Usain Bolt anchors Jamaica to 4x100m relay gold after U.S. mishap 5
- Ashton Eaton breaks decathlon world record, wins World Championship 2
- Aries Merritt wins bronze before kidney transplant; incredible Worlds performances 0
- Usain Bolt may retire after Rio Olympics 0
- Emotional Bode Miller medals in race that mattered most (63)
- Russian women kissing after relay victory at World Championships causes stir (62)
- 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)