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2018 Grand Prix, Helsinki, Men

by Klaus Reinhold-Kany



(5 November 2018)  In the men’s competition at the Helsinki Grand Prix 2018, superstar and two time Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu dominated more clearly than expected and won gold with 297.12 points. After his performances Japanese fans showered him with hundreds of flowers, stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh dolls (his mascot) and other presents like a pop star. The flower kids were busy for several minutes. A sponsor of the competition had donated huge paper boxes to collect everything. In the press conference Hanyu could not say what to do with all these presents, but his staff will probably donate them to children in Helsinki kindergartens.

Several hundred fans were waiting near the door from the rink to the interview and media room to take a photo of him. Everything went in a polite way, because the fans are no hooligans. Hanyu, a multi-millionaire at the age of 23 years, and his fans are worth millions of dollars for the ISU, mainly because of him Japanese TV stations pay huge sums of money to get the TV rights. And the fans fill the rinks. In Helsinki around 4,000 of the 7,000 spectators were Japanese ladies. In order to take advantage of this Hanyu was convinced to continue his career after his second Olympic Gold medal, and he is still quite young.

In the short program he skated to "Otonal" by Raul di Blasio, a music which Johnny Weir had used who was one of his idols when he was a young teenager. The quad Salchow was excellent and had four GOEs of +5, four of +4 and one of +3. The triple Axel was very good as well, but in his combination, the triple toe loop  after the quad toe loop  was a bit overturned, but nevertheless got mainly +1. His three spins and the step sequence were outstanding and he certainly got a standing ovation. His components had an average of 9.5 with three perfect 10.0 as highest ones, and he took the lead with 106.69 points.

The student of Brian Orser nevertheless was not totally happy with his program, but self-critical, “I need to train more and more. I can improve the jump landings and on the entry, I was not confident to do the jumps. Today’s performance in the short program was a bit challenging. I landed the jumps, but I can’t say that it was perfect.”

His music for the free program was "Art on Ice“ by violinist Edvin Marton, a tribute to his other idol of Evgeni Plushenko who had used this music more than one season and in shows. Hanyu began with an under-rotated quad loop, followed by an excellent quad Salchow. Later his second loop was very good and triple and his first quad toe loop  under-rotated again. In the second half, he performed a sensational new jump sequence of a quad toe loop  and a clean triple Axel. Two triple-triple combinations followed. His spins and steps were excellent as well and his components had an average of 9.3, but no 10.0 this time.

He remained a bit away from his no longer valid world records of 310 and more points, because the base value for quad has become smaller in this season and not everything was clean. After the security had helped him to get to the press conference through hundreds of fans, he said, “Actually I was fighting my condition, as it was not so good before I came here and after I came here. But I beat myself. Although the quad loop and quad toe were not perfect, I am pleased I was able to stay on my feet. I was trying hard to do the quad toe - triple Axel without a hop in between and when I was fresh I felt the confidence I can do it.” He was also asked about the quad Axel which he had announced for this season and said he had trained it sometimes. But this jump would get more priority again only after the Grand Prix Final and Japanese Nationals.

Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic skated better than at Skate America, won a second silver medal with 257.98 points and very probably qualified for the Grand Prix Final for the tirst time since 2011. For the first time in his life, he had more than 90 points in a short program. It was flawless and skated to “Who Wants to Live Forever“ performed by Queen. It contained an excellent combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop , an outstanding triple flip, a good triple Axel and very good other elements. His components were around 8.4. “Some people are saying that I’m like wine – the older, the better. But I don’t feel like wine,” the 28-year-old joked. “I just want to go out in the free skating and do my job.”

In his modern free program to “I’m a Man“ by the Spencer Davis Group and “Thunderstruck“ by AC/DC began with a good combination of quad Salchow and double toe loop . Then he fell on the first triple Axel, which was quite unexpected for him, but all other elements were at least good, the spins and steps even excellent. Later he said, “I am happy with the way I finished the program. The Rock’n’ roll music gives me energy. It felt great to perform except for the mistake at the beginning and not popping any jump.“ He also mentioned that he leads a happy life with his wife Danielle Montalbano. She raises him up if he has problems in his practice with Rafael Arutunian or if he is exhausted.

Junwhan Cha from South Korea, another student of Brian Orser, claimed his second bronze medal after Skate Canada, this time with 243.18 points. He had been invited as an alternate for the Belgian skater Jorik Hendrickx who had decided to skip at least the Grand Prix season in the post-Olympic season. In the short program, the 17-year-old Cha had an easy-looking quad Salchow, but he stepped out of the under-rotated triple loop after the triple Lutz and also under-rotated the triple Axel. In the free program he started with a good quad toe loop  but fell on the quad Salchow. Later he had seven triples, including two Axels, but two of them were under-rotated. Later he commented, “I’m really happy about my skating today, because I competed last week at Skate Canada and I competed this week again. My condition wasn’t really good, I’m coughing. I made one big mistake in the beginning, but I worked hard until the end of the program.”

World bronze medalist Michal Kolyada from Russia finished only fourth, earning 238.79 points. Skating to “I belong to You“ by Muse, he stepped out of the quad toe loop  and popped the Lutz which was planned in his short program in combination with a triple toe loop . But he pulled himself together and performed an excellent triple Axel and four other outstanding elements for which he got several GOEs of +5. In the free program to a classical version of Carmen, he fell on his opening quads (under-rotated Salchow and toe loop ), but then did five very good triple jumps including two Axels. Because of his elegant skating style, his components were around 8.4 and therefore he climbed from sixth to fourth place.

Boyang Jin from China came fifth, earning 227.28 points. He tried a combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop  in his Beatles short program, but he touched down on the Lutz and fell on the toe loop . The quad toe loop  and the triple Axel were good, two spins and the steps as well, but one spin was not totally correct. In the free program, which he skated to the Spanish music of the soundtrack of “Hable con Ella“, he dropped from third to fifth place because he fell on two quads and a triple Axel. On the other hand his quad Lutz was very good again, his second quad toe loop  almost clean and many other elements good.

Andrei Lazukin, a student of Alexei Mishin in St. Petersburg, finished on sixth place with 218.22 points. In his short program to Joe Cocker’s “I Put a Spell on You“, the quad toe loop  and the combination of triple flip and triple toe loop  were very good, the triple Axel, two spins and the step sequence good, but the last spin invalid. In his free program, several jumps were not clean, but a combination of quad toe loop  and triple toe loop  very good. His skating style is a bit boring beacuse he shows no emotions and therefore had lower components.

U.S. skater Alexei Krasnozhon who lives and trains in Plano, Texas, finished seventh in his first Senior Grand Prix, winning 211.03 points. In his short program, he skated to “Dancing on My Own“ in which he plays himself after he split from his girlfriend some months ago. His combination of triple flip and triple toe loop  was clean, the triple Axel and the triple Lutz good, but his step sequence only got a level 2. His components were only around 6.9 as he does not skate in a very elegant style. With the sixth best free skate he could move up from eighth to seventh place. Six of his seven triple jumps were good, the triple Lutz a bit shaky, but he did not try any quad jumps after getting injured on a quad at the beginning of the free program during Junior Worlds half a year ago.

The second Japanese skater Keji Tanaka sits on eighth place with 206.82 points. He fell on the under-rotated quad Salchow in the short program to the music “Memories“ by Gary Moore. But his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop  and the triple Axel were very good. The first minute of his free program to the Overture of the Opera “Wilhelm Tell“ by Rossini was disastrous because he fell on the quad Salchow, singled the Axel and doubled the toe loop  which was planned quadruple. But later he performed three good triple jumps.

Alexei Bychenko from Israel who trains in Hackensack, New Jersey, still had problems with a summer injury. He therefore did not try any quad and finished ninth, earning 202.33 points. In his free program he uses the music “Requiem for a Dream,“ a strange choice because this music is often used by TV companies all over the world to illustrate big catastrophes of nature like the Tsunami in Japan of 2011.

Phillip Harris from Britain finished on tenth place with 182.66 points. He has no quad but performed clean triple Axels in both programs. On the other hand he made several mistakes on other jumps.

Valtter Virtanen from Finland ended up 11th and last, earning 154.74 points. He is no longer a fulltime skater, but finished his university degrees during his skating career and now works as a part-time doctor in a Helsinki hospital every second week at night. In the other week, he flies to Switzerland and trains there. Many elements were not clean, but he still tried quad toe loops. 

Reigning Junior World Champion Alexey Erokhov from Russia withdrew only a few days before the competition due to injury and was not replaced.