Even if with a full month delay, we are bringing you the photo stories of the men’s event in Espoo, one that was highlighted by the presence of the three-time World champion Patrick Chan, in his second season after the comeback to competition. Still, in the Challenger Series event in Finland, at the beginning of October, it was Chen who mined the gold, not Chan, who took the silver. Nathan Chen and Patrick Chan have something in common though: coach Marina Zueva, who trains them both in Canton, Michigan – and the two seem to get along just fine, as Patrick pointed out in an interview we recently published: “Nathan and I push each other daily, but when it comes to competition, we are not rivals, we just go on the ice and try to do our best”. Third in Espoo was Russia’s Maxim Kovtun, who too changed his training environment during off-season, leaving Elena Buianova’s group and joining Inna Goncharenko. Here you have them – them and many others competing in Espoo – through the lens of Askar Ibragimov, Inside Skating photographer at Finlandia Trophy.
by Florentina Tone
Tall, balletic, elegant – that was Nathan Chan on the day of his short program in Espoo, skated to music from “Le Corsaire” by Adolphe Adam and choreographed by Marina Zueva. And if you need any proof that Nathan’s skating was not just about jumping technique and his quads, there you had it – this routine to classical music embraced him beautifully. Of course, it had some technical highlights – including the quad Lutz-triple Toe that he admired so much last season at GPF at Boyang Jin – but Nathan Chen is really a complete package, and if he manages to find the perfect balance between jumping and components, he’ll be a skater to watch for the following years. He already is. On the short program day, he was second, behind Russia’s Maxim Kovtun.
A day later, skating to “Polovtsian Dances” from “Prince Igor” by Alexander Borodin, the focus seemed to be on the jumps – Nathan attempted no less than five quads, four of them different, and those jumps got him points, but the overall feeling was the routine was rushed, with him struggling to stay on his feet after each big element. Some of them were wonderful, of course – such as the quad Toe-double Toe-double Loop –, and the technical proficiency is so very obvious in his case, but the program itself looked unbalanced, and there’s still plenty of work to be done in order to incorporate the jumps into a smooth, coherent free skate. The judges themselves needed time to gather all the points – while Marina Zueva, standing alongside Nathan in the Kiss and Cry, taught him an essential lesson: “The goal is to make judges’ life easy”. With 168.94 points for the long program and 256.44 overall, Nathan left for Canton with the gold, and tons of things to think about prior to his next event.
Patrick Chan chose to debut his new set of programs in Espoo – at the first Finlandia Trophy of his career – and at the end of the short program he was sitting in 3rd place, behind Maxim Kovtun and Nathan Chen. The Canadian had some issues with both his quad Toe and triple Axel, but his overall skating was purely wonderful. “The jumps were not there yet, but the skating, oh my”, we wrote on twitter seconds after his skate, and we stand by our words.
A beauty of a program this is, to a Beatles medley, and Patrick talked extensively about it in an interview Inside Skating published just a while ago: “The short program is actually not really new – it’s an old exhibition, modified to be a competitive short program. It’s on a Beatles medley. I performed it last year at Stars on Ice and I had great reviews, but the main reason why I kept it is that I love this music so much! It reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents used to always listen to the Beatles, especially during road trips. This music works as a comfort zone for me while I am skating – having a music to connect to is so important for me, whether it’s funny or emotional, it’s the only companion during those long minutes on the ice. It allows me to relax, making me feel at home. And besides this, everyone loves the Beatles – even if you are not a fan, you start singing and moving along their songs”.
On the day of the free skate, it was all about Patrick’s journey. Yes, “A Journey” is exactly the name of the song Eric Radford composed a while ago – and Patrick Chan found no better companion for his long program this season. He explained his choice in his recent interview – and Eric himself did the same during a press conference in Espoo; both of them competed in this year’s edition of Finlandia Trophy. Here you have the two stories, one mirroring the other:
Patrick Chan: “The long program is choreographed by David Wilson. We had so much fun creating this program, and it’s also so special because the music has been composed by my friend Eric. The idea started over the off-season, when we were invited to a sort of «End of the Season» party offered by Skate Canada with all the Canadian Team’s athletes; we were all in the hotel lobby, and there happened to be a grand piano. Eric, who always plays the piano anytime he sees one, started playing this melody, and once it filled the air I immediately closed my eyes and started picturing myself skating to it.
At the time I was still looking for a piece of music to use for the long program; Kathy and I kept looking for melodies and songs, but till then we hadn’t been able to find anything good. This music was perfect! It was exactly what we were looking for. That same evening I talked about it with Eric, who emailed me a couple of pieces a few days later and, after listening to them, I sent them all to Kathy Johnson and David Wilson; everyone loved them, so we decided to experiment it.
The music piece is going to change during the season, it will evolve. This is what makes it extra special, Eric is always thinking about how it can be improved, so some instruments will be added, and he plans to create a more intense sense of depth. He is a figure skater, so he understands what kind of rhythm a piece of music needs to have to be a great long program”.
Eric Radford: “I’m extremely excited that I had the opportunity, and that he likes my music enough to choose it. It kinda happened spontaneously: I was playing the piano at an event, just randomly – there was a grand piano in the lobby of this hotel, and I was playing my music – and Patrick heard it, and he really, really liked it, and he was like: «Oooh! Whose song is this?», and I was: «Ooh, it’s mine!» [laughing heartily].
So he played it for his coaches at the time, and they really liked and decided to use it. And I went back into the studio and re-recorded it, so that it sounded more professional, and I incorporated some other instruments instead of just the piano, which originally was. […]
I’m not gonna be here when he performs it: when I booked my plane ticket, I thought the men competed on Friday-Saturday, like they were in the schedule… [pairs finished competition on Friday, October 7th, while the men’s free skate only took place on Sunday, October 9th – IS note]
But I did get to see him run-through it at the High Performance Camp in Canada, and the program was amazing, David did such an incredible job with the choreography. But I also do feel a little bit nervous, because, of course, as much as, you know, people can critique our skating, which is a huge part of me, these pieces have come from my soul, so if someone will be like: «I hate this music!», it’s probably gonna hurt my feelings a bit. But I understand, that’s just the way it is, not everyone is gonna love everything.
So, yes, I’m generally very excited and I really, really hope that even though it’s very early in the season, he can show a very strong performance of it, so that people can relax and just appreciate the music as opposed to be worried for him trying to land his jumps or something like that. I’ll definitely be watching wherever I am, or maybe I won’t find out until I land…”.
One thing is sure: with Patrick, you don’t see the ice, just the flow, the glide – as if he were skating in the clouds. And Eric’s “A Journey” is a great vehicle for his skating. The Canadian earned 164.14 points for his free skate, and 248.73 overall – and he added a Finlandia silver medal to his already impressive medal record.
Russia’s Maxim Kovtun got off to a flying start in Espoo – at the end of the men’s short program he was sitting in first place, with 88.26 points. But there’s more to it than that: this was Maxim’s first international competition under Inna Goncharenko’s tutelage, and we did like what we saw. Skating to “Bahamut” by Hazmat Modine, Maxim seemed to thoroughly enjoy his short program, and this was really something new. As new was to see him smile in the Kiss and Cry – and enter the free skate with a well-deserved boost of confidence.
In the free skate this season, the Russian skates to “Iron Sky” by Paolo Nutini, and coach Goncharenko did seem a bit like an Iron lady herself when sending Maxim to the ice – instilling him power and confidence. The mood of the program suits him very well: somehow bitter, melancholic, iron-ish, and though it wasn’t perfect by all means – the 4th skate of the night in terms of scores – it kept Maxim Kovtun on the third place of the podium in Espoo, with an overall score of 229.57 points.
Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada was 4th in Espoo, with 219.55 points overall, and we are thrilled that he kept his short program from last season; it fits him so very well. The routine is set to “Nightingale Tango” and “John Gray” foxtrot by Matvey Blanter – and if the second part sounds somehow familiar, it’s because it accompanies a hilarious (and very popular) Russian animated series, “Nu, pogodi!” (“Well, just you wait!”).
In the free skate, Mikhail skates to “La rêve de la fiancée” by Jean Marc Zelwer and “A la Luna” – from Cirque du Soleil’s show “La Nouba”.
With 218.32 points, Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx was 5th in the men’s event at this year’s edition of Finlandia Trophy. The music for his short program is Josh Groban’s “Broken Vow”, while the free skate is set to “The Battle of Life and Death” (”Gods and Demons” by Future World Music).
6th in Espoo was Russia’s Alexander Petrov, with 211.80 points. His short program is set to “Ritual Fire Dance” by Manuel de Falla (choreo. by Tatiana Prokofieva), while in the free skate he’s accompanied by Frank Sinatra’s voice – “My Kind of Town”, “Chicago”, “I’m Gonna Live Till I Die” (choreo. by Misha Ge).
Israel’s Alexei Bychenko was 7th in Espoo – this season, he skates to “Chambermaid’s Swing” by Parov Stelar in his short program, and to “Pagliacci” in his long one.
Japan’s Ryuju Hino finished the men’s event at Finlandia Trophy on the 11th place – his musical choices this season are “Artsakh” by Ara Gevorkian (SP) and “Quidam” (from Cirque du Soleil) by Benoît Jutras (free skate).
In Espoo, the talented Daniel Samohin ended the competition on a disappointing 13th place. This season, he skates to Tom Jones’ “Delilah” (SP) and Maxime Rodriguez’s “The Illusionist” (FS).
FURTHER READING – 2016 Finlandia Trophy