A summary of the men’s competition at 2015 Worlds will be, at least at this moment in time, utterly futile; everyone knows by now the history of Spanish figure skating is no longer deprived of World champions, since Javier Fernandez grabbed the golden crown at the end of March. Peaking exactly when he should have, the Spaniard found himself atop of the podium, ahead of his team mate Yuzuru Hanyu and ahead of another history-maker, Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten.
Still, this recap is not about results, nor about the glorious feats of the three medalists – it is, in fact, a visual re-enactment of the entire men’s event, as seen through the lens of Wilma Alberti. Looking at the photos – with the smiles, the effort, the exuberance, one can easily say these gentlemen gave it 100% on the ice of Shanghai Oriental Sports Center; in other words, when stars collide, the spectacle is assured – and the audience, thrilled and satisfied. Need more proof? Just look at Italy’s Ivan Righini while performing his Michael Jackson routine…
by Florentina Tone
SHORT PROGRAM, March 27, Shanghai Oriental Sports Center
Is he the embodiment of enthusiasm or what? Ivan Righini showed what an entertainer he is during his short program to music by Michael Jackson. Too bad that due to his errors he didn’t advance to free skating
China’s Nan Song skated to “Night Train” during his SP – he didn’t advance to the free skating either, but the Worlds in his home country were only the beginning of his comeback, after the injury he sustained in 2014
What a beautiful short program did Florent Amodio have during the 2014-2015 season – hats off to him (and his team) for the musical choice: „Le Concert” by Armand Amar; it suited him wonderfully. From where we stand, it was redemption time for Florent at this edition of the Worlds: after an Olympic season in which he lacked strength (and also his jumps), the young men born in Sobral, Brazil, is trying to climb the rankings and reach the level he was at in the past
The 18-year-old June Hyoung Lee is too a name to follow the years to come since he’s the first South Korean male skater to win a Junior Grand Prix event and to qualify for the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final (in December 2014, in Barcelona, he placed sixth overall). At his senior World debut in Shanghai, June Hyoung Lee finished 19th – the photo shows him skating his SP to “The Wild Party”
Young as he is, the 18-year-old Michael Christian Martinez from the Philippines is already on the radar, since he competed in the Olympics last year in Sochi, the first skater from Southeast Asia to do so. Cheered by the figure skating connoisseurs for his flexibility (have you seen his Ina Bauer?), Michael Christian Martinez is definitely a talent – and his SP to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2, a beauty
Silver medalist at 2015 Four Continents – his first medal in a prominent senior level international competition, the American Joshua Farris impressed everyone last season with his beautiful lines and sense of musicality. For the SP, the 20-year-old Joshua chose to skate to Ed Sheeran’s “Give Me Love”, a jewel of a program choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle – the American finished the first Worlds of his career on the 11th place
There’s been some rough couple of years for this young man from Japan, Takahiko Kozuka, but no one can take away from him the quality of his skating. 2011 World silver medalist, Takahiko had an inspired set of programs last season – a tango as his SP and a beautiful free program, to Andrea Bocelli’s “Io Ci Saro” – and finished the event in Shanghai on the 12th place.
A barrel of energy and optimism this skater is – and his enthusiasm, really contagious. At the first senior Worlds of his career, the 20-year-old Jason Brown learned from the experience of the Olympics and was able to manage his emotions, finishing the competition in Shanghai on the 4th place. Looking at the photo above, once can easily sense he loved performing to Little Walters’s “Juke”.
Misha Ge, the 23-year-old skater representing Uzbekistan at the Worlds in Shanghai, had a sensational 2014-2015 season. Is it as if, finally, he was able to show his real potential; not to mention he’s a natural born entertainer. Still, last season, both of his programs emphasized his soft, sensitive side: Misha skated to “Ave Maria” in his SP (see the photo above) and to Michel Legrand’s “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” in the free. And, let me tell you, he was really convincing.
It was all or nothing for Adam Rippon in Shanghai – and, looking at the photo above, you can easily sense his determination. Silver medalist at 2015 U.S. Nationals, the 25-year-old Adam brought his A-game in China: a great set of programs (SP to Hans Zimmer’s “Nyah” and FS to Liszt’ “Piano Concerto no. 1”) and a quad Lutz atop of that. He finished the event on the 8th place.
Takahito Mura’s sparkling SP to “Carmen” has definitely been one of the highlights of the entire last season in the men’s competition. The 24-year-old Japanese had started the season brilliantly, with gold at Skate Canada and bronze at NHK Trophy, but the rest of the season hasn’t been that good: 5th at the Japanese Nationals, he only got a ticket to the Worlds after the retirement of Tatsuki Machida. In China, Mura had a disappointing performance in the short (he barely qualified for the free, ending this particular segment on the 23rd place), but he redeemed himself in the free, placing 16th overall.
Denis Ten came to Shanghai with a gold medal around his neck (at 2015 Four Continents), with a rock-solid set of programs and, surely, a lot of confidence. Still, the false start he faced during his SP threw him a little bit and he fell on his opening quad Toe, smashing into the boards. At the end of the night, he was third, behind Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez, but a day later he outshone everyone: his free program, „The Silk Road”, to music by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, was absolutely stunning. In the end, he got the bronze; the photo above shows him performing to „Caruso” by Lucio Dalla – he truly entered the role.
Dare to contradict me: Javier Fernandez’ energetic, eye-catching program, to „Black Betty” by Ram Jam, was pure perfection: the Spaniard hasn’t put a foot wrong all throughout the 2 minutes and 50 seconds of the routine – and, to many, this was the short program of the night. A day later, Javier will enter history as the first skater from Spain to (ever) win an ISU World Champion title. From where we stand, this young man has been nothing but consistent the past few seasons: he’s a three-time European champion (2013-2014-2015), a two-time World bronze medalist (2013, 2014) and, since the end of March, the current World champion. Now look again at his smile – he seems to thoroughly enjoy his performance in Shanghai.
Three months after the bronze he won at the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, where he finished behind Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez, the 27-year-old Sergei Voronov just couldn’t keep up with his younger or less fatigued colleagues; for Voronov, the Worlds have been the 8th competition of the season (he medaled in 6 of them). Sergei started the event in Shanghai with an encouraging 4th place after the short (his SP to „Danse Macabre” – photo above – is technically very challenging), but found himself wobbling during the free; the Russian finished the overall event on the 13th place.
I’ll tell you the truth: I love this photo – one of the reasons being it illustrates so very convincingly the wonderful qualities of this short program, maybe the best short program Yuzuru Hanyu has had so far. The calmness, the serenity, they’re all there – it is as if Chopin’s ballade has found in Yuzuru one of its best interpreters. One thing is sure: this jewel of a program, choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle, put Yuzuru Hanyu into a brand new perspective and showed how much he matured after Sochi. And with these new aces up his sleeve – softness, sensitivity, abandonment to music – it seems that only sky is the limit for the 20-year-old Yuzuru.
Young as he is (19 in Shanghai), Maxim Kovtun already competed in three (senior) Worlds – but still it’s the lack of maturity that keeps him off the podium: he was 17th in 2013, 4th in 2014 and 7th this year. The last to skate in the short program segment in Shanghai, Maxim found it difficult to focus – he doubled a planned quad Toe and popped the triple Axel – and placed 16th at the end of the night; a day later, skating to music by Muse, he tried to win back what he’d lost. 6th in the free, he finished 7th overall – but the feeling is this talented young man is still gasping for air – and for the most suitable road to follow.
FREE SKATE, March 28, Shanghai Oriental Sports Center
The 26-year-old Takahiko Kozuka, getting ready for his free skate, to Andrea Bocelli’s “Io Ci Saro”, a program choreographed by Lori Nichol
The first of the three Phantoms of the Opera in the men’s event at 2015 Worlds: after a not-so-good short program (to say the least), Takahito Mura gave it all on the ice of Shanghai Oriental Sports Center during the free skate; and he definitely was a convincing Phantom
Back-to-back with Mura, another Phantom, embodied by Michael Christian Martinez – and the amazing Ina Bauer I was telling you about (probably the best one in the men’s event at this time)
Giving himself up to the music – Joshua Farris during his simple, yet powerful free skate to music from the movie “Schindler’s List”
This was definitely a better day for Maxim Kovtun – or maybe he connected better to Muse’s „Exogenesis: Symphony” than to the grandiose Bolero. One thing is sure: this young man has huge potential – he only needs to channel it properly when the time comes
Allow me to hand Michal Brezina a prize for the most gorgeous suit in the men’s event last season. Of course, the Worlds in Shanghai hasn’t been the best moment of his career (quite on the contrary, I might add; he finished the competition on the 15th place overall), but still he is a joy to watch; and though the results are not really proving it, Michal’s progress during the last couple of years is undeniable
I don’t know about you, but, to me, Adam Rippon was the embodiment of joy in Shanghai – that much he loved being back at the Worlds after a two-year break. Of course, the overall result doesn’t do him justice (he was 8th in the end), but his comeback, alongside the courageous attempt to be the first skater landing a quad Lutz at Worlds are some of the biggest stories of the competition in Shanghai. The photo above shows him embracing the experience – and Liszt’ “Piano Concerto no. 1”.
Misha Ge: a touching performance to “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” and a well-deserved 6th place in Shanghai, at the fifth Worlds of his career (he was 30th in 2011, 19th in 2012, 16th in 2013 and 27th last year)
When Alexander Zhulin first presented him the idea of skating to this particular blend of music – “Caruso” by Neal Schon, “Come Together” by Marcus Milles, “At Last” by Kenny G, “Big Time Boppin’” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy – Sergei Voronov might have raised his eyebrow; he had mostly skated to classic music and found it hard to change it so drastically. Well, by the end of the season, this new music became Sergei’s second skin – and he definitely seemed to have enjoyed skating to it. Need more proof? Just look at the photo above.
When a program is great – and Denis Ten’s “Silk Road” was exactly like that – you always have this feeling you haven’t seen it as much as you’d have liked. I’m thrilled this was the best free program of the night in Shanghai – and I still remember the story behind it, as Denis himself told it, last Summer:
“I was born on a Silk Road. Silk Road, or aka Silk Route, is a historically important international trade route between China and the Mediterranean Sea which made a great contribution to the political, economic and cultural exchange between China, Central Asia, West Asia, India, Roman and Europe. It was named Silk Road because silk was the major trade product which traveled on this road. Telling a bit more, the northern route travelled north of the Tian Shan mountains (also known as Khan Tengri in Kazakhstan) going through Turpan, Talgar (where by the way one of my training rinks is located) and my hometown Almaty. I was born and lived my whole life on a street called Zhibek Zholy which literally translates into English as «Silk Way».
And by opening this fun-fact of my biography, I’ve just revealed the theme and music of my long program for the upcoming season. Ingenious soundtrack performed by legendary Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, with musicians from all over the world including Kazakhstan and Korea. Multiethnic and «multidirectional» program will turn me into a nomad going through a lifetime adventure, discovering new world and acquiring hands-on experience.
My choreographer says that the program’s character is actually me… She thinks we have a lot in common, particularly our life stories. Well… And I feel the same way too.
I was born on a Silk Road”.
After the bronze at 2012 Worlds and the gold he won last year in Saitama, the silver medal was the only one missing from Yuzuru Hanyu’s trophy case at Worlds – and he got this particular medal in Shanghai. Still, the defeat was hard to take for a fighter and a champion like Yuzuru – but he gracefully accepted it; and he even found resources to be happy for his team mate, Javier Fernandez. The photo above shows Yuzuru performing to “The Phantom of The Opera” in Shanghai Oriental Sports Center.
Ladies and gentlemen, here you have the winner of the night – and the current holder of the World Champion title: Javier Fernandez. Last season, the Spaniard – aka the Barber of Seville – trained as much as he could and the hard work paid off: he entered history and gave Spain reasons to celebrate. ¡Felicidades, campeón!
From where we stand, Han Yan is China’s ace up in the sleeve: the 19-year-old has loads of talent and a very interesting feel for the music; still, you never know at the beginning of a program if he’s going to make it or break it. His lack of maturity makes him vulnerable from time to time – we can only hope he’ll find the right formula to control his emotions. One thing is sure though: Han Yan does have enormous potential. Hats off to him and choreographer Lori Nichol for last season’s programs, totally different from the rest: Han skated to “If I were a rich man” (SP) and “Fly me to the moon” (FS – photo above).
The 20-year-old Jason Brown was Tristan, from „Tristan and Iseult”, last season – and he produced a great program in Shanghai, finishing the overall event on a well-deserved 4th place; this was Jason’s debut at the Worlds and, given his wonderful qualities, he’ll definitely make the podium the following years.
PHOTO-GALLERY 2015 Worlds: glimpses from the men’s practice in Shanghai