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2018 Skate Canada International Men

by Klaus Reinhold-Kany

Keegan Messing (CAN)

Junhwan Cha (KOR)

(30 October 2018)  The men’s competition at Skate Canada International in Laval, Quebec had a good level and there were almost no error-filled programs, which had happened at several events last season. The reduced number of points for quads, the higher punishment if you fall on them and the fact that you are only allowed to repeat one of them seems to come out positive. Skaters risk only quads if they normally can land them cleanly in practice. Especially in the short program, there were many good performances even from the lower-level skaters. On the other hand, many male skaters criticize that the program is more exhausting since it is 30 seconds shorter. There is one less required jump, but a jump including its preparation takes less than 30 seconds. Therefore there is less time for rest and less for choreography.

Shoma Uno from Japan, silver medal winner at the Olympic Games and the World Championships 2018, clearly won with 277.25 points although his programs were not faultless. In the short program he was second with 88.87 points, skating to a guitar version of the soundtrack of “Stairway to Heaven” by Jimmy Page and performed by Rodrigo y Gabriela. His first element was a good quad flip, but GOEs of +4, which six of the nine judges gave him, was too much and only due to a bonus as Olympic medal winner. In his combination, the quad toe loop was very good but he landed the triple toe loop on two feet. Later he fell on the triple Axel. His spins were good, the step sequence excellent and his components around 8.6. He commented, “Disappointment and regret, those are the emotions about my performance.” He was the only skater to risk two quads in the short program and commented it in a funny and a bit sarcastic way, “It is not about me taking a high risk, I just can’t do triples.”

In the long program, Uno moved up to a clear first position. Skating to the classical version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata (which had been choreographed by ice dance coach Romain Haguenauer in Montreal) he began with an under-rotated quad Salchow, but then nailed three very good quads, a flip and two toeloops, the second one with a double toe loop. His first triple Axel was excellent even if deeply landed. But near the end he seemed to have lost stamina and fell on the triple flip in his combination with the second triple Axel and an Euler. Near the end he also missed the triple toe loop which he had tried in combination with the triple Salchow. His spins and step sequences were excellent and for them he even got some GOEs of +5. His components had an average of 8.8. Later Uno commented, “I was able to put in all the frustration from yesterday and I was able to perform the program. I thought I’ll go all out from the beginning, so I went at 100 per cent from the start. That’s probably why I did get a bit tired at the end. I made mistakes on the last two jumps, so this is something I’ll take as a task for the next competition.”

To the delight of the home crowd which gave him a standing ovation, Canada’s Keegan Messing won the short program. He had competed for the USA until 2014, lives and trains in Alaska and has both citizenships. Performing to the music “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” performed by Michael Bublé, he presented a flawless short program and won 95.05 points for it, six more than Uno had for his one. Messing began with an excellent combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, followed by an outstanding triple Axel (with two GOEs of +5) and a very good triple Lutz with a difficult entry showing a split jump right before it. His spins were the fastest of the competition and his components around 8.4. “The program felt very comfortable out there,” he commented. “It started off with me watching Nam (Nguyen) put down a clean program and he got a standing ovation. It made me feel like I had more energy to go out and put out a solid performance for myself. Everything really felt it came together and I’m excited to go into the long (program). This is my third or fourth Grand Prix event and I finally broke through to the top three. I’m feeling very confident with myself, especially after the Olympic and World season last year.”

But his long program to a Charles Chaplin medley was not that perfect and therefore he dropped to the second place with 265.17 points. But this is still his first Grand Prix medal and a big success for him and for Skate Canada. He tripled the Lutz at the beginning which was planned quadruple but did not work in the six minute warm-up at all. But then he nailed a quad toe loop and five other triple jumps. He only fell on the second and under-rotated quad toeloop and had components of around 8.7. Later he said, “I was very excited to win the short program yesterday and I came into the long program very excited to put on a performance for the home crowd once again. I’m a little bummed I didn’t rotate my quad Lutz, but I took every element once at a time and the crowd was right behind me, helping me through the whole program. I wasn’t really nervous after having a bad warm-up, because I know that I can go out at any time and nail jumps that I want to do.” The week before Skate Canada International, he had announced his engagement with a young lady who is also from Alaska and was a local, but no international skater.

Junhwan Cha of South Korea, who is only 17 years old and has been a student of Brian Orser in Toronto for several years, won the bronze medal, earning 254.77 points and also his first Grand Prix medal. He interpreted Prokoviev’s Cinderella and started with an excellent quad Salchow, followed by a good combination of triple Lutz and triple loop and a triple Axel. The rest of his program was good as well. In the long program, he skated to the soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet by Craig Armstrong. He fell on his opening quad toe loop, which was under-rotated, but then had a very good quad Salchow and six clean triple jumps plus one under-rotated Salchow. He said, “Today my performance was a little harder than yesterday, but I tried my best and worked hard until the finish. I had a mistake on the first jump, but kept going and I’m very satisfied. After I was in third after the short program, to prepare for today’s program I told myself to forget about yesterday and fully focus on today’s program."

Alexander Samarin from Russia is fourth with 248.78 points. He started with a step-out of the quad Lutz, but continued with a good triple Axel and a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. In the free program, he interprets the soundtrack of “The Greatest Showman” about the career of a circus director. But Samarin is no showman at all and has no elegant style. Therefore his components of around 7.6 were a bit too high. But he landed a quad Lutz with a touchdown, stepped out of the quad toe loop, but mastered seven good triple jumps.

Nam Nguyen from Canada finished in fifth position, winning 240.94 points. He began his short program to “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra with a combination of a good quad Salchow and an under-rotated triple toe loop, followed by a very good triple Axel and a good triple flip. In the free program to the soundtrack of La La Land, the first quad Salchow was under-rotated, the second one clean. Later he performed six good triple jumps and an under-rotated triple Salchow.

Jason Brown had left Colorado and his longtime coach Kori Ade in springtime after not having qualified for the Olympic Games and three months of reflection. He is coached in Brian Orser’s Club in Toronto since June. As the U.S. authorities required a coach with American citizenship for him, his official coach is Karen Preston now (who has American and Canadian citizenship), but he is really coached by several coaches in Toronto, including Brian Orser, Tracy Wilson and Lee Barkell. He finished sixth with 234.97 points.

He had had a bad short program after falling on the triple Axel, performing a combination of an under-rotated triple Lutz and only double toe loop and no quad. Skating to “Love is a Bitch” by Two Feet he was only 11th and had to perform his long program with starting number one. Even his excellent steps and spins did not bring him enough points. In the long program to a medley of Simon and Garfunkel songs, he could move-up five spots. At the beginning, he popped his Salchow which was planned quadruple, but then he pulled himself together and performed six clean triple jumps, including a very good combination of triple Axel and triple toe loop. Only a triple toe loop in combination with a triple flip near the end was under-rotated.  His spins and steps were as excellent as usual and he had components with an average of 8.5. He says his training in Toronto is a four-years-project and hopes to learn clean quads and to qualify for the 2022 Olympic Games.

Kevin Aymoz from France is seventh with 230.09 points. He trains in Florida with John Zimmerman and Silvia Fontana since the fall of 2017. He has an interesting skating style with extravagant poses and is an artist. Competing to the music “Horns” by Bryce Fox, he started his short program with an under-rotated quad toe loop, followed by a clean combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. His triple Axel was overturned. In the long program to “In This Shirt” by Irrepressibles, he began with a clean quad toe loop and a good combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop. Then he stumbled on the first triple Axel which was downgraded, but his second triple Axel and two other triples were clean.

Daniel Samohin from Israel, who trains in San Diego, California, with his father, ended up on eighth position, earning 225.89 points. He had missed most on his quad attempts in practice. But in the short program, his quad toe loop, his triple Axel and his combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop in the short program were almost clean. A quad toe loop and three triple jumps were good in the free program, but four other jumps were not.

Kazuki Tomono from Japan is ninth with 220.83 points and Alexander Majorov from Sweden tenth with 220.30 points. Brendan Kerry from Australia moved from California and now trains mainly with Florent Amodio in his new school in France. He ended up eleventh with 220.08 points after performing a very good quad Salchow in the free program, but missing several other jumps. Newby Roman Sadovsky from Canada is twelfth with 210.60 points.