by Klaus Reinhold-Kany
(14 November 2018) The Men’s competition at the NHK Trophy in Hiroshima had a mixed level. The two top skaters were brilliant, whereas the other made many mistakes.
Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno won his second gold medal after Skate Canada, in Japan with 276.45 points. The 20- year-old Japanese started his short program to a modern guitar version of the soundtrack "Stairway to Heaven“ with a deeply landed quad flip, but then fell on the quad toeloop and therefore had no combination. After two very good spins his triple Axel with a difficult spread eagle entry was superb as well as his step sequence and the combination spin. His components were around 8.9. He explained, “My performance was not that great, there were major mistakes, Physically I was moving well, but I bent forward on the jumps and I need to make adjustments.”
The student of Machiko Yamada opened his free program to the classical version of Ludwig van Beethoven‘s Moonlight Sonata with an under-rotated quad Salchow, followed by a good quad flip and a good quad toe loop. Later he touched down on the second quad toe loop and stepped out, then touched down and stumbled on the triple Salchow, but two triple Axels were outstanding, the second of them in a sequence with an Euler and a triple flip. His spins and steps were as excellent as usual, his combination spin received five GOEs of +5.
His programs were elegantly skated, choreographed by ice dance coach Romain Haguenauer in June and had components with an average of 9.0. He explained, “I am happy to have won the NHK Trophy and to have secured my ticket to the Grand Prix Final. However, there were mistakes in both the short and free program. The first half (of the Free Skating) I thought was going well, but the second quad toe and the (triple) Salchow were meant to be combinations, but I didn’t do them and so I had only one combination and I regret that. But I didn’t lose it emotionally and was aggressive.”
31-year-old Sergei Voronov from Russia won the silver medal with 254.28 points. He confirmed on his 22nd Grand Prix that he is not too old to get top positions although the Russian federation has not supported him much in the last three or four years. They preferred the younger ones (like Maxim Kovtun for many years until early 2018, who has failed every time). They did not send Voronov to the Europeans, Worlds and Olympic Games in the last three years although he reached the Grand Prix Final in 2014 and 2017. They do not like that he sometimes criticizes his federation, for example for having to pay his journeys to B-level events himself and without any coach. But the ISU invites him to Grand Prix.
Last year he won the NHK Trophy and the Japanese public likes him very much. He performed his short program to Prelude Number 5 by Sergei Rakhmaninov, which expresses the Russian soul very characteristically, with a lot of passion and energy. He began with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by a good triple Lutz. His triple Axel was very high and merited more than GOEs of +3. The spins and steps were very good as well, but he is not a very elegant artist. Therefore his components were only around 8.4 and he landed one point behind Uno. But he should be ahead of him in the short program, but the competition is in Japan.
He skated after Uno and commented, “I am just happy that I was able to go out after one of the top skaters of the world and show my level and what I am capable of. Some levels were lower, probably the emotions affected the quality. Rachmaninov is one of my favorite composers. I really wanted to prove something to those who were skeptical about changing the program - and this is my best score ever.”
In the free program to “Way Down we Go“ from the “Logan“ trailer he began with an excellent quad toe loop, followed by a triple loop which is planned quadruple later in the season. In the jump sequence he stepped out of the triple Salchow after the triple toe loop and the single Euler. Three more triples came next, among them two good Axels. The spins and steps had mainly GOEs of +3 and his components were around 8.3. The second overall place was correct. “I am grateful that I got to skate last and again after Shoma Uno.” Voronov commented. “It was hard today, when I went out I saw the ice covered in red [flags and towels in support of Uno], but I managed to do quite well skating last twice and twice after the host, so to say.” He has to wait and see if this second place and a third one at Skate America will be enough to reach the final again.
Behind those two top skaters, all others were much weaker. Surprising bronze medalist is Italian Matteo Rizzo in his first Grand Prix season who won 224.71 points. This was the first Grand Prix medal for an Italian man ever, but he took profit of mistakes of others. The bronze medalist of Junior Worlds 2018 opened his short program (to “Volare“ by Luca Langobardi) with a good triple Axel, but he stumbled on the triple Lutz and stepped out again on the under-rotated triple toe loop after the triple flip of his combination. His steps were excellent, however and his components around 7.6. In the free to a Rolling Stones medley, he rose from fourth to third place, but fell on his opening quad toe loop (which he has not shown well yet in competition). But he pulled together and performed five good triple jumps, but also two which were not clean or overturned. He commented, “Of course this is very important for me and for my future. The result is amazing, but I am not happy with my performance, because I can do better than that.”
Vincent Zhou of Colorado Springs, sixth at the Olympic Games 2018 and 14th at Worlds 2018, finished on fourth position with 223.42 points, just one point behind Rizzo. His first element in the short program to “Exogenesis Symphony III“ by the British pop group Muse was a combination of (under-rotated) quad Lutz and triple toe loop, followed by a very good triple flip and a triple Axel which was again under-rotated. The spins and steps were clean but not impressive and his components around 7.6. He doubled his opening Lutz in the free program which was planned quadruple. The quad Salchow and the second quad Lutz were under-rotated as well as two other jumps, but four triples were good and the components around 7.6.
Dmitri Aliev from Russia, seventh at the Olympic Games and also at the World Championships 2018, came fifth with 219.52 points, which is under the usual level of this elegant skater. He had been third in the short program after performing a good quad toe loop and a soso combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, but falling on the triple Axel. His components were around 8.1. He said, “Overall I felt good emotionally and it was a good fight. I made an error on the triple Axel, but this was probably because I was overwhelmed by emotions after I did the first jump (quad toe) very well and then I went into the Axel without control.” But in the free program he dropped to fifth place because he popped both toe loops which were planned quadruple and a Lutz.
Sota Yamamoto from Japan came sixth with 213.40 points. He did not try any quad and popped his first Axel in the free program.
U.S. skater Alexander Johnson placed seventh with 199.75 points on his very first Grand Prix at the age of 28 years. His triple Axel in the short program was a bit shaky, his combination clean, but only double Lutz and triple toe loop, and his triple flip good. Like Yamamoto, he did not try any quad jump. Three triples were good, but three others under-rotated.
Deniss Vasilievs from Latvia missed two jumps in the short and four in the free and sits eights, earning 197.60 points, which is much below his standard. June Hyoung Lee from South Korea finished ninth with 188.26 points, Hiroaki Sato from Japan tenth with 185.18 points.
Kevin Reynolds from Canada came 11th with only 182.67 points. He missed all three jumps in the short and four in the free program. He had to change the music of his free program after his first Grand Prix because of copyright problems with the Japanese composer. Yaroslav Paniot from the Ukraine, who trains in the USA, ended up twelfth with 173.64 points.