by Klaus Reinhold-Kany
(26 November 2019) To the delight of the home crowd, superstar Yuzuru Hanyu gave two very good performances in Sapporo and had no problems to get a runaway victory with 305.05 points. This was certainly less than the 322 points he won at Skate Canada, but still 55 more points than the rest of the field. In the short program he skated to the music “Otonal“ by Raul di Blasio. All his elements were looking very easy. This is one of the reasons why the judges give him so many points. He opened with a brilliant quad Salchow which had an average of +4, followed by a fabulous triple Axel which seven of the nine judges rewarded with GOEs of +5. The combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was good, the first two spins as well, and the steps sequence and last spin were excellent again (all four level 4). His components were around 9.6, with four perfect 10.0 from four different judges.
He commented: “It wasn't my best performance, but at least I can use today's performance as a baseline to continue training hard and to make sure that I can put out an even better short program in the next competition. I was really trying to feel the music, no matter how nervous I am, I can always tell myself that the music itself will never change. I tried very hard to put my emotions into the music.”
In his free program, he skated to “Art on Ice“, like the short program to the same music as last season. His first element was a soso quad loop, followed by a very good quad Salchow and later an excellent triple Lutz. In order not to risk the same injury on a quad Lutz as in 2017 and 2018, coach Brian Orser could convince him not to try any quad Lutz. Next was a very good quad toe loop. Then he doubled the second toe loop, which was planned quadruple. But being very ambitious, he decided to improvise. He added another combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop (under-rotated) instead of the first triple Axel. And instead of performing a second triple Axel without anything else he jumped an outstanding combination of triple Axel, Euler and triple Salchow. His spins and steps were as stellar as usual. Everything was according to the rules. This shows that even during his exhausting performance he is clever enough to calculate and to adapt his program without any illegal elements, which some other skaters cannot do. His components were around 9.4, with some 9.75 as highest ones.
He said: For now I'm happy that I was able to get through, stayed healthy, had no pain and no injuries. If something happens with my quad toeloop like it did today, I try to recover that and basically go over that barrier. I'm now going to the Final. I want to do some more training to be ready. Johnny Weir skated in 2006 with “Otonal“ at the Olympic Games 2006 in this Palavela Ice Rink in Torino. And Evgeni Plushenko won Gold in Torino in 2006 and my two programs to these music pieces are full of respect for these two skaters. I am happy that I will skate these two programs in this ice rink in Torino.“
Kevin Aymoz from France won the silver medal with 250.02 points and also a ticket to Torino. In the short program to “The Question of U“ by Prince, he stepped out of the quad toe loop, but his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop was good and his triple Axel very good. His step sequence was a highlight and had three GOEs of +5 because he really adapted Prince’s steps to the ice. “I'm really glad to be in Japan for this competition and tonight I had a lot of fun to skate my short program, even with the mistakes“, he said. „It was really cool to skate.“
Performing to “Lighthouse“ by Canadian singer Patrick Watson in his free, Aymoz was quite nervous and made several smaller mistakes: His quad toe loop was unter-rotated. He stepped out on his second toe loop, which was triple, and later as well on the triple flip and on the Euler after the triple Lutz, therefore the double Salchow was invalid. Then he touched down his hand on the first triple Axel. Only three triples were really good: a combination of triple Axel and triple toe loop as well as a triple loop. His spins were very good, his steps outstanding. His components in both programs were around 8.8. In the Kiss and Cry corner he became very emotional, leant against his coach and only was happy again when he realized that he had won a medal. He explained: “Today was hard to me to fight. For the moment, I'm just under tension and I'm still on ice, so I'm just happy to be there and skate. It's going to be my first Grand Prix Final. It wasn't the main goal of my season. So I'm just going to take the experience of this competition. My coach Silvia Fontana skated her last competition there. This will be very emotional for me.“
The bronze medal for Roman Sadovsky, earning 247.50 points, was a big surprise after he was only tenth with 204.35 points at his first Grand Prix in Canada. But in Japan the student of Tracey Wainman, who trains in Richmond Hills a bit north of Toronto, landed three good quad Salchows. In the short to “Fly me to the Moon“, he stepped out of the triple Axel and overturned the triple Lutz, so that he could add only a single toe loop and therefore had nine times GOEs of -5 for this element. In the second best free program, he moved up from fourth to third place. Besides the two good quad Salchows - one of them in a sequence with an under-rotated triple Salchow - he had four good triples and stepped out of two more triples. He said: “I feel I'm so really new to the senior Grand Prix circuit in general, so I'm happy that I could perform my long program really well. A little disappointed with my short, the silly mistakes that could be easily fixed. I feel honored to sit in this press conference next to Yuzuru who is my idol and a skating god.“
Sergei Voronov from Russia finished on fourth position with 239.05 points. In his clean short program to “Somebody to Love“ by Queen he landed a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, a triple Lutz and a triple Axel. He explained: “I am satisfied with my performance. Overall I really enjoy coming to this competition, the NHK Trophy, because if I continue to compete I'll get to see almost all Japan.” He began the free program with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, but later he popped an Axel and doubled a Lutz which made him drop from third to fourth place in spite of four other good triples.
U.S skater Jason Brown ruined his chances to qualify for the Final with two falls on the (under-rotated) triple Axel and on the triple Lutz in the short program. Therefore he had no combination, only an excellent triple flip and other outstanding elements. In the free to “Schindler’s List“, he could move up from eighth to fifth place, winning 231.27 points and performing six good triples, but he went down on the second Axel and on a loop.
Sota Yamamoto from Japan came sixth with 226.27 points. In the short, his combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop was clean, but he doubled the toe loop. In the long, a quad salchow, a quad toe loop and three triples were good, but he landed two more on two feet and doubled the second Salchow. Makar Ignatov from Russia placed seventh with 222.45 points. He was not as consistent as in Russia, fell on the downgraded triple Axel in the short and had five mistakes in the free. The third Russian Anton Shulepov earnt 218.38 points and is eighth. He did not try any quad at all and fell out of a spin in the short. Six triples in the free were good, but his components relatively low.
Koshiro Shimada from Japan, who trains in Switzerland with Stephane Lambiel, made several serious mistakes on jumps and therefore finished only ninth with 213.65 points. Tomoki Hiwatashi of Colorado Springs made mistakes on all three jumping elements in the short, but could perform two clean quad toe loops in the free. On the other hand he landed with his knee on the ice on the first triple Axel and popped the second one and therefore finished tenth with 202.30 points. Alexei Bychenko from Israel was a bit out of shape and is 11th with 197.83 points. Conrad Orzel from Canada ended up 12th with 196.34 points in spite of two quads in the free, but he missed several other jumps.
Besides Hanyu and Aymoz, Nathan Chen, Alexander Samarin, Dmitri Aliev and Boyang Jin are qualified for the Final. First alternate is Nam Nguyen.