Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu has made a habit of starting slowly during the Grand Prix season in recent years.
But as the old axiom in sports goes: “It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.”
Such was the case at Skate Canada on Saturday, when Hanyu roared back from a weak fourth-place showing in the short program a day earlier to nearly snatch the title from Patrick Chan with a strong free skate to “Hope and Legacy.”
Hanyu trailed three-time world champion Chan by nearly 11 points heading into the free skate in Mississauga, Ontario, but ended up coming in second by less than four points. Hanyu won the free skate with a score of 183.41 points and finished with a total of 263.06.
This marked the fifth straight season that Hanyu has begun his GP campaign with a second-place showing. But the Sendai native showed once again his ability to bounce back from a poor program.
Hanyu fell on his opening quadruple loop, but then pulled it together and went on to land two quads and six triples in his free skate, while receiving level fours on all of his spins. He had planned an ambitious four quads for the free skate.
With Hanyu falling on his quad loop in both the short and free, CTV analyst Tracy Wilson, who helps Brian Orser with coaching the superstar, said during the free skate, “He really feels his jumps. He pulled the loop with his upper body. He’s got to find that timing by connecting with the ice, the knees and the core.”
Hanyu saw the falls on the quad loops as part of the process of preparation for future competitions.
“I felt nervous and I didn’t have the focus for the quad loop so I could not land it,” Hanyu was quoted as saying by the ISU website. “But I think I challenged the quad loop in both programs and I can get a very good experience for the (next) Grand Prix event. I feel regrets about the result and my performance, but I am a little satisfied with the second (quad) toe.”
Two-time national champion Satoko Miyahara was also forced to overcome a weak short program, which saw her in fifth place, to make the podium. She did and took third with a better free skate as princess Leia from “Star Wars” behind Russian world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond.
Jumps continue to be an issue for Miyahara, who under-rotated three of them in her free skate.
Nagano Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, now an analyst for NBC, was moved by Miyahara’s performance but says her jump issues must be addressed.
“I have always loved her skating,” commented Lipinski. “She is not the most powerful skater out there. But there is this softness and lightness to her skating and each move has such intention behind it that I enjoy every performance.
“She has such an issue with these under-rotations as a persistent problem,” Lipinski noted. “You wonder if it is a technical issue that she has to go back and sort of re-look at her techniques and jumps and get more height and time for that rotation.”
Ice Time asked a prominent member of the international skating community for their opinion on Miyahara’s jump predicament. The individual provided an insightful opinion, but wished to remain anonymous.
“I think she did very well at Skate Canada. Exquisite in so many ways but when against ladies who also possess extreme quality in performance it may often come down to Grade of Execution of technical elements,” the source told Ice Time.
“Satoko tends to be a slightly smaller jumper and does not carry either the height or speed and flow out of some (not all) of her jumps as do some others and this can be the difference. Exploding off the ice (almost accelerating) on takeoff and keeping the speed and flow on the landings would be a huge asset to Satoko.
“It is important to note that she is not far off the best for sure and so it is the small detail that sometimes makes the difference. She does the same elements as everyone, but if it is with slightly less speed into or out of the element then the GOE might be lower and therefore could be the difference. I wouldn’t think too much about this as she is right in the mix and on any given day can beat anyone.”
Miyahara admitted she has room for improvement.
“I think it was not my best, but I had a strong feeling to do my best, that was good,” stated Miyahara after her free skate. “The main theme of my program is to be a strong woman and I am focused on performing like a strong woman.”
Jumps aside, Miyahara’s pull spins in both the short and free were absolutely sublime as was her musical interpretation.
“That to me was a program where they put a piece of music together, they planned where the elements were going to go,” said Eurosport analyst Chris Howarth. “Even that double axel at the end of the program, bang on the beat of the music. All the way through the program she skated to the music. She got the highs, the lows, the drama. Absolutely fantastic.”
Yuka Nagai finished 11th and last after a calamitous short program that saw her earn a tally of just 40.39 and appear very listless. Nagai, who was third at Skate Canada last season in her senior GP debut, acquitted herself nicely in the free skate, but the damage was done.
After Nagai’s short program, which left many scratching their heads, Ice Network’s Lynn Rutherford reported that Nagai was dealing with an ankle problem.
Up next: The GP circuit moves to Moscow this week for the Cup of Russia. Shoma Uno, who won Skate America and will be looking to lock up a spot in the GP Final, and Keiji Tanaka will take on two-time defending world champion Javier Fernandez in men’s singles.
Yura Matsuda and Kanako Murakami will represent the Hinomaru in women’s singles in a field that will feature the host nation’s Julia Lipnitskaia, Anna Pogorilaya and Elena Radionova, as well as China’s Li Zijun.
Serious business: Ice Time was saddened to hear the recent news that Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, is suffering from a benign pituitary brain tumor. People magazine first reported the story.
This is the third time the 58-year-old Hamilton has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is something of a medical miracle, having also survived testicular cancer in 1997.
Hamilton is taking his latest physical challenge in stride.
“I have a unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illness,” Hamilton told People. “It’s six years later, and it decided that it wanted an encore.”
Hamilton has enjoyed a successful career as a show skater and organizer since retiring and also worked as an analyst for NBC for several years.
Book report: Kristi Yamaguchi, the 1992 Olympic champion, has authored a new children’s book entitled “Cara’s Kindness.” It’s about a skating cat that is struggling with finding the right music for her routine but shows empathy for others.
This is the third children’s book that Yamaguchi has penned. Yamaguchi started the Always Dream Foundation, which focuses on a commitment to early childhood literacy, in 1996.