SAINT JOHN NEW BRUNSWICK – Russian teenager Julia Lipnitskaia claimed her first Grand Prix gold medal at Skate Canada on Saturday while Canada’s three-time reigning world champion Patrick Chan pocketed his fourth.
Lipnitskaia topped the women’s field with a magnificent, seemingly flawless and technically superlative performance that earned a standing ovation.
Chan also had the fans on their feet, but he was far from flawless despite opening with a quadruple-triple jump combination and sailing through a second quad moments later.
Chan’s triple axel eluded him as he doubled on one attempt and singled another in his Vivaldi-backed program.
Still, the quads alone brought 29 points for a total of 173.93 for Saturday’s free skate. In all, he put 262.03 points on the scoreboard, well ahead of Yuzuru Hanyu (234.8) and Nobunari Oda (233).
“I was nervous, honestly,” Chan said. “I started having the same feelings as I had last season and that’s when the Grand Prix didn’t go well. It was a real challenge to stay positive even before I got on the ice.”
Hanyu, fourth at the 2013 Worlds, nailed his second quad — a toe loop — but fell on his opening quad salchow and singled an axel.
“I’m in such good form that I can’t find a reason why I messed up the quad. I don’t know why (I fell),” said Hanyu, the 2012 world bronze medalist.
Oda tripled both his planned quad toes and fell on a triple flip.
“I am a long way from my best,” said Oda. “It was pathetic that I botched the quad like I did in the short program. I will try and get things right for the NHK Trophy (next month) and do my best to reach the (Grand Prix) final.”
On the women’s side, the errors were fewer and further between, especially for the medalists.
Lipnitskaia rose to the occasion, outskating overnight leader Gracie Gold of the United States, who slipped to third with a fall on her triple lutz.
The silver medal belonged to veteran Akiko Suzuki, who also brought the cheering fans to their feet with her emotionally riveting routine set to “Phantom of the Opera.”
Lipnitskaia earned 198.23 in total to 193.75 for Suzuki and 186.65 for Gold.
“I didn’t really take any notice of the rankings and just focused on what I had to do,” said Suzuki. “I am skating with more composure than last season.”
Lipnitskaia and Suzuki both tallied seven triple jumps, but the Russian showed the most difficult combinations including a fabulous triple lutz-triple toe to open.
With the 2014 Olympic Games just over 100 days away, Lipnitskaia’s success here should bolster her country’s hopes for a medal on home soil in Sochi.
“I never really think about winning because you have to keep working, there is always more you can do. But I’m very happy everything worked out,” she said.