Carried away with the intensity of the men’s short program at 2017 Worlds we might have forgotten for a second that never in the history of the event we had, on the intermediate podium, three scores over 100 points. Spain’s Javier Fernández, and current World champion, is in the lead, with 109.05 points, followed by Japan’s Shoma Uno (104.86 points) and Canada’s Patrick Chan (102.13). The current record holder for the short program (110.95, 2015/2016 GPF) and the darling of the crowd, Yuzuru Hanyu, sits in 5th place after an electrifying routine, that started a Pooh-storm in Hartwall Arena; but having to improvise a bit with the quad Salchow, the Japanese lost precious points. China’s Boyang Jin is in 4th place, a truly convincing Spiderman, while the fresh 2017 Four Continents champion, America’s Nathan Chen, is 6th after falling on the triple Axel. Four more scores are over 90 points, or around, which proves the first part of the men’s event in Helsinki was to die for.
But, despite appearances, this short story isn’t about scores – and you’ll see that for yourselves.
by Florentina Tone/Helsinki
We’re in the press room of Hartwall Arena, all 24 men qualified for the final came for the draw – but first there’s the informal ceremony of handling the small medals to the best three skaters of the day. On their feet, in front of everyone, are Fernández, Uno, Chan – all of them smiling – and in the front row, seated, just one meter away, are three other that smile: Keiji Tanaka, Yuzuru Hanyu, Boyang Jin. It’s a picture the fans loved right away – hundreds liked it and distributed it on twitter – because it says so much about the beauty of this sport, the personal connections, respect and admiration the athletes share. It might be also the definition of fair-play this joyous snapshot took at the end of men’s short program – a proof you can be a skater, but also a fan of the other ones’ performances and efforts.
And this was clearly visible, minutes later, during the press conference. Asked whether he feels rewarded in the components score, Javier Fernández, the leader, answered quickly, with a smile: “You came up with the question of the year”. And then: “When you see the judges, and they know what is a good skate or a good transition or interpretation… They value that differently from the people who don’t have it. It’s the right thing to do when you can separate [the] elements and the skating. If we are losing something in figure skating, then we lose everything”. And this: „Looking at Patrick, he said he only has one quad [in the SP]. But everybody in this room knows how good he can skate. When he gets it working, then everybody is happy because it’s what it is supposed to be, it’s fair”.
And Patrick joyously received the praises – and he showed appreciation also to everyone at the table, and in the room, while he admitted feeling „a bit of an underdog since my comeback, just because the sport has changed so quickly in such a short period of time. I am in a whole new situation and a whole new generation of skaters that I was when I won my first World title”. And then, glowingly, while looking at Shoma Uno: „I mean, this guy just said he learned the quad flip in a very short period of time…” Rightly so, minutes earlier, Shoma Uno admitted he had learned the quad flip in a single training session – he was feeling sad after the Worlds in Boston and decided to try something new: „I started to practice the quad flip right after Worlds last year. I was quite depressed and I got back to my regular routine of practicing. I wanted to change my mood because I wasn’t happy and I wanted to try something new. I was able to land it [the quad flip] within the same session. Then I was able to go to Team Challenge Cup and I could manage to land it there”.
There’s laughter in the room, and priceless interaction, and we chose for you some of the most important quotes of the three – from the mixed zone and the press conference –, the ones showing their state of mind going into the free skate at 2017 Worlds in Helsinki.
I do believe in the consecutive third gold and will fight for it, but there are so many talented skaters now. They will try to jump on top of my score and take my title.
When you’re back home and you know what is coming up, that’s when it gets stressy. When you come here and get on the ice, you forget about the rest of the world. It’s at home that you think more deeply: I might be ready, I might not be ready, what is going to happen? But if you train well and hard, you have good chances to have a good skate.
Last year, I was very disappointed at the World Championships 2016 and it ended with tears. But the experience and the failure taught me a lot. So my goal for the free program is to finish the competition with a happy smile.
When I am looking at other top skaters, they do have the quality in the jumps. I learned different type of jumps and can execute them. But still I feel that I might have to add more quality to the jumps and expression to the skating. I would like to improve in order to catch up with these top skaters.
I’m past the medals. I’ve had other medals, especially at the Worlds event, I have three championships. For me it is more about the accomplishments, like today. I’m in third, but it feels like I’m in first because I was able to achieve a season’s best over one hundred points.
I have to remind myself what my strengths are and go with that.
[This was just a teaser – more stories from the men’s event still to come]