By Johanna Bear, Staff Writer
It was a day of personal bests and a newly minted world record at the men’s free skate in Helsinki, Finland as the best in the world took the sport to new technical heights.
2014 Olympic Gold Medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, of Japan, took back the title he won that year from his training partner, Javier Fernandez, who was attempting to take home the crown for the third year in a row. Hanyu was astounding as he skated a clean program to “View of Silence” and “Asian Dream Song” by Joe Hisaishi, landing four quadruple jumps and breaking his own world record for a free skate score with 223.20 points. Hanyu finished the short program in fifth place after struggling with his quad Salchow and receiving a deduction for taking too much time to reach his starting position, but surged back in the free skate to take the title with a total score of 321.59 points.
“After the short program, I was quite depressed, but I think my fans and my team believe in me so I was able to pull off this performance today,” Hanyu said after his record-breaking performance. “I demonstrated everything I was capable of for the moment, my whole package so to say. I wanted to do five quads but did not have enough energy. Great to beat my own World Record with three points, I think I can get even higher scores. This whole season I have been thinking about breaking the World record, and felt some pressure because of that,” he added.
Though he didn’t smash any world records, Hanyu’s Japanese teammate Shoma Uno was also impressive, surpassing the 200-point barrier for a free skate and medaling at the World Championships for the first times in his career. Though just 19 years-old, Uno showed remarkable poise and determination as he reeled off four quads, including a loop and flip in his tango free skate. Uno also set three new personal bests, his short program score of 104.86, his free skate score of 214.45, and his total combined score of 319.31.
“Yuzuru’s performance was perfect and I made some minor mistakes, so there is some room to catch up,” Uno said, “But this was one of the best I’ve ever done, so I’m quite happy about it. In the last World Championships, I failed and I didn’t want it to happen again. Everything I’ve been going through since the 2016 Worlds brought me to this competition. The effort paid off and I’m happy to finish this season in a best way. I can’t ask for anything more.”
For the second year in a row, China’s Boyang Jin took home the bronze medal at the World Championships, landing his signature quad Lutz along with three more quads in his “La Strada” free skate. Performing with his usual energy and enthusiasm, Jin put together a total competition score of 303.58 points for a repeat third place finish.
“I got the bronze medal last year and the same result this year. I feel very satisfied with my performance here,” Jin said after the free skate, “I don’t think too much about the medals, but I just want to focus on my program and make it perfect, and I did it today. Whether I get a medal or not I was quite happy.”
Despite finishing the short program in first place and looking poised for his third title in a row, Javier Fernandez struggled in his free skate, doubling two planned triple jumps and falling on a quadruple Salchow, which resulted in him slipping to fourth place with a total of 301.19 points.
Nathan Chen also had trouble in the free skate, due in part to boot problems that began in the six minute warm-up when he attempted the quad Lutz and worsened during his program when the impact of that same jump caused the side of his boot to cave in. Chen attempted a mind-boggling six quad jumps and was still able to land four of them, even with his boot malfunctioning. The U.S. Champion’s total score was 290.72, which put him in sixth place in his Worlds debut.
“I planned this program because I’m a strong technical skater and that’s something that has been working for me this season,” Chen said, “I threw in that extra quad but it didn’t really play out how I wanted it to. It’s a good step for me. This is the longest season that I’ve ever had and we’re here at Worlds so it’s a good experience for me. I’ve learned a lot this week. I feel sorry for some [of the mistakes that I had], but it’s a good step. Whatever happened, happened, and I just have to put it behind me.”
While 2015 U.S. Champion Jason Brown fell on his only quad attempt in the free skate, he and Chen accomplished their most important mission: getting three spots for the Olympic team next year in Pyeongchang. Brown skated a stunning program to music from The Piano, and though his technical content was lower than the other top competitors, he still finished in the top ten with a personal best total score of 269.57 points, which put him in seventh place for the competition.
“It wasn’t my best skate today, but I performed it the best I could. I gave it my absolute all. The crowd was incredible and I tried to perform to them the entire time,” Brown enthused, “I’m super thrilled [with my score]. It’s my personal best score and that’s all I can ask for—to put up a personal best at Worlds. There was a lot on my plate this week. I really wanted to do the best that I could for the U.S. team. I’m glad that Nathan and I were able to get three spots for the U.S. men heading into the Olympics. That was really, really a goal of mine. I wanted to do everything I could so that when I left the ice, I felt like I gave it my all to reach that goal.