Figure Skating | ICE TIME

With full power restored, Yuzuru Hanyu looks unbeatable

by Jack Gallagher

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu opened his Grand Prix campaign in dominating fashion with a huge victory at Skate Canada on Saturday. More important than winning, however, was his return to what appears to be complete health.

Hanyu’s winning total of 322.59 points was nearly 60 more than second-place Nam Nguyen (262.77) of Canada. It is believed to be the largest margin of victory in senior GP history.

The win marked the first time that Hanyu has taken the title at Skate Canada, after finishing second three times previously to Patrick Chan.

With just two competitions under his belt this season, it is clear to both Hanyu and many observers that he can still improve on what was an amazing showing in Kelowna, British Columbia.

“About my current program, I think it is 30 or 20 percent,” the 24-year-old said of his free skating to “Art on Ice” following his triumph on Saturday. “Ultimately, I want to include the quad axel and I may want to add the (quad) lutz as well. But I’m still not sure.”

Hanyu was critical of his own performance at Skate Canada.

“I may have had good free and short programs, but in fact I made a mistake in my loop,” Hanyu stated. “And I lost my balance a little when I was jumping the toe loop in the short program. So I should have had better jumps.

“Right now I see a wall in front of me,” Hanyu continued. “So if I can overcome that wall, I believe I can see a lot better view. So I will keep trying.”

While Hanyu’s ambition is admirable, Ice Time feels he can regain the world title and win a third straight Olympic gold medal without the quad lutz and quad axel. His combination of skating skills and artistry, along with complete health, will be enough to take him back to the top of the mountain again.

Hanyu landed six quads in his two programs at Skate Canada, and his score was more than 23 points higher than what world champion Nathan Chen achieved at Skate America the week before while landing five quads.

If both skaters remain healthy, it is shaping up to be one of the finest battles ever for skating supremacy. They could meet three times this season — at the Grand Prix Final, the Four Continents and the world championships.

ISU Junior GP announcer Ted Barton was in Prospera Place for the competition over the weekend and provided commentary on the in-house feed for fans in the arena. Ice Time asked Barton for his thoughts on Hanyu after watching him in action.

“To this point there has never been anyone like Yuzuru,” Barton wrote in an email. “He is extraordinary. In addition, he has a warm and caring soul and is one of a kind.”

Tanaka takes bronze

Keiji Tanaka rallied to finish third behind Hanyu and Nguyen with two quad salchows in his free skate to “Sherlock Holmes” after being fifth in the short program. The medal was Tanaka’s second on the senior GP circuit.

“Compared to the short program, the free skating was good,” noted Tanaka. “I was able to switch my mindset. However, my jumps were not perfect. I didn’t do the quad toe and there is room for improvement.”

Tanaka’s effort was even more impressive considering that he was banged up in a taxi accident along with Marin Honda on the way back to their hotel earlier in the week.

Silver for Kihira

Rika Kihira took second place behind Russia’s Alexandra Trusova (241.02) in the women’s event. Kihira (230.33) led after the short program, with Trusova in third place, but could not hang on to the top spot after the two-time world junior champion landed three quads in her free skate to “Game of Thrones.”

Kihira stepped out of her opening triple axel in her free skate to “International Angel of Peace,” but recovered to hit a triple axel in combination and earn level fours for her spins and step sequence.

If Trusova skates cleanly, it is hard to envision her losing any competition this season. Kihira admitted that skating immediately after Trusova in the free skate was disheartening.

“I felt overwhelmed after her performance because no one out there is better than her even though we performed perfectly,” Kihira commented. “However, I would like to try for a more perfect performance. It was my first time that I felt this unprecedented experience before.”

Kihira was able to cite some encouraging notes from the weekend.

“I was able to achieve 230 points in this competition and to have mental growth as well,” Kihira remarked. “I would like to continue without mistakes.”

Barton sent Ice Time his thoughts on Trusova and Kihira as well.

“Sometimes the youth change a generation and direction of a sport so that even the elders have to follow,” Barton wrote. “Sasha Trusova has done that and with determination and innocence. She is technically brilliant.”

Regarding Kihira, Barton sees a painting that is not yet complete.

“A perfect balance of art and sport,” Barton observed. “When she will deliver a perfect technical program, it is only then that we will know her full potential.”

Honda (179.26) was courageous in competing after the accident, moving up to finish sixth after coming in 10th in the short program. But it is hard to envision the former world junior champion being a factor domestically or internationally any time soon unless something changes dramatically with her skating.

Internationaux de France

The GP moves to Grenoble, France, this week. The city was the host for the 1968 Winter Olympics.

Shoma Uno will represent Japan in the men’s event, while Kaori Sakamoto, Wakaba Higuchi and Yuna Shiraiwa will be in the lineup for the women’s competition.

Uno’s primary challenge will come from two-time world champion Nathan Chen. France’s Kevin Aymoz and Russia’s Alexander Samarin are also in the field, along with American Tomoki Hiwatashi, who will be making his senior GP debut.

Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova of Russia headlines the women’s roster, which also includes American Mariah Bell.

Straight talk from Mishina

Tatiana Mishina, the wife of legendary coach Alexei Mishin and an instructor in his group, had some interesting comments during a recent interview with the Russian website sportsdaily.ru.dd that were translated into English and posted on fs-gossips.com.

Mishina was asked about whose performances she enjoyed most amongst foreign skaters.

“Not in terms of criticism, but for me, for example, Rika Kihira is only about the triple axel,” Mishina was quoted as saying. “Satoko Miyahara skates nicer. Korean Lim Eun-soo hasn’t performed very well at Skate America, but I really liked her.

“When she just appeared, she was so pretty that I thought: ‘She will be better than Yuna Kim.’ But now she has slipped backward a little. She left Rafik (Rafael Arutunian) and began to look worse.”

New honors coming

The ISU announced on Saturday in Kelowna, that beginning with this season’s world championships in Montreal, it will host an annual skating awards show. The inaugural edition will take place at the Bell Center.

Awards will be handed out in seven categories at the extravaganza, according to a press release that accompanied the announcement.

The categories are:

Most Valuable Skater

Honors the Single Skater or Pair or Ice Dance Couple who best managed to increase the level of popularity of Figure Skating related to the fan base involvement, media attention and sponsors appreciation.

Best Costume

Honors the Single Skater or Pair or Ice Dance Couple who best managed to increase the level of popularity of Figure Skating related to the fan base involvement, media attention and sponsors appreciation.

Most Entertaining Program

Honors the Single Skater or Pair or Ice Dance Couple for the music selection, expression, creativity, contemporary implementation, originality and overall performance.

Best Newcomer

Honors a young talented Single Skater or Pair or Ice Dance Couple competing very successfully in ISU Events on the Senior level for the first season.

Best Choreographer

Honors the choreographic work of a Choreographer who successfully inspired one or several Single Skaters and/or Pairs and/or ice Dance Couples.

Best Coach

Honors a Coach who delivered professional and efficient work and achieved outstanding results with one or several Single Skaters and/or Pairs and/or ice Dance Couples.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Honors a Figure Skating legend having achieved great success and popularity and is considered as a role model in the Figure Skating World.

A list of candidates will be announced on Dec. 1 and online voting will begin, allowing media, fans and ISU members to vote. The online vote will continue until Feb. 10, 2020, when three nominees in each category will be selected and announced on March 10.

“A star-studded jury will then determine the winner in each category and the winners will be revealed and presented with their Award on the occasion of ISU Skating Awards held on March 22, 2020,” the release stated.

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