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Florent Amodio of France was the final qualifier to the event, so he skates first. His music is from Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Single Axel, didn't get lift at all. Didn't see that coming-- he's had the jumps so easily this year. Triple Lutz/triple toe with an ever-so-slight pause in between. Triple flip looked to take off from the outside edge and he had to balance his arms just a bit on the landing. Flying camel with a catch-foot variation is rather listless and slows-- even if it matched the pacing of the music well. Circular footwork and an attempt to get into the program now.. moves nicely. Combination spin and his sit/change/sit to end-- the first sit position traveled a bit too much but all of the positions themselves were on the decent side. Well, the mistake on the Axel took all the air out of the program from the start. It really didn't have a wow factor this time around. 61.64-- 14 points below his seasons best.
Nobunari Oda of Japan is up next. He's my dark horse to do big things in this event-- and that better not be a jinx because I want him to get his confidence back and let it show. Music is Storm and this has definitely grown on me since my first viewing at Skate Canada. QUAD TOE/triple toe- absolutely perfect. Good job Nobu! Triple Axel with brackets directly into it-- another gorgeous landing. Wow. He's bringing it now. Flying camel in the typical male manner with ugly bent-leg and catch-foot variations. Triple Lutz didn't get a great amount of height but he flew into it with his footwork and landed it just fine. Straight-line step on one foot for the first 2/3-- he has such great rise and fall to his knees. The sit positions in his combination spin and sit/change/sit look much more well-centered than before. Seriously, excellent job here! He looks relieved and genuinely happy for once. 86.59. That's a HUGE short program score. Everyone else is going to have to bring it big time.
Now transitioning from dramatic to a fun program by Czech skater Tomas Verner, skating to Singin' in the Rain. Triple Lutz/triple toe with both-direction edge work leading into it, nicely done. Single Axel for him as well-- just rushed the take-off. Triple flip out of steps is completed, couldn't tell about the edge but it might have gone to the flat out outside edge as well. Flying camel sticks to the basic position and it is nothing remarkable. Straight-line step moves well but he doesn't have the ease and flow that the Japanese skaters and Chan are able to carry throughout their programs. Camel in the combination spin can be more stretched and the upright requirement is just a simple upright spin that trails off. The three jump elements were all completed right at the beginning and then from that point, the final four elements were done all in a row with no transitional work or skating at all. Where did all the time go?! He asks how he could miss a jump-- he "never do[es] that anymore". Haha. 65.37 and into second.
Patrick Chan of Canada now, Take Five is the music. Quad toe and he wants to reach for the ice, but doesn't. No combination and the steps into it were just turns-- as he planned to do the combination there I'm sure. Should drop the GOE. Triple Axel is low but he lands this one just fine. Combination spin is the best so far-- all strong positions and fast rotations, and he is centered perfectly. Triple flip/triple toe is also well done, and he kept the three-turns into it. Flying sit and camel/change/camel-- he keeps those camel positions basic and it works much better than trying some odd position that he (and all of the other men) can't do. Straight-line footwork to end reiterates how easily he flows and how solid all of his edges are. This should score extremely well, but the lack of steps into the quad should put him right about where Oda is, I'd guess. 85.59. I think that's the right decision. He "wow"s the fact that he is in second, but there's no injustice there. Oda's jumps were better and his skating skills are just as strong as Chan's (even if the judges didn't agree). Chan rightfully caught up in the other components.
Daisuke Takahashi of Japan. Triple flip/triple toe loop. He has the most natural sense of listening to the music. Triple Axel is a beauty-- they ARE really bringing it tonight. Flying layback spin that hits an intermediate position that isn't really upright (a la Joubert), but he centers it well when he actually gets into position. I still say get rid of the option to do a flying upright spin-- I know some skaters can't do camels on both feet but why not learn now? Triple Lutz out of steps that was on the inside edge. Sit/change/sit slows on the variation at the end. Music builds and like I've suspected all year, this really gets the crowd into it. He has a stumble about 1/3 of the way through, though. All of the spins in the program don't really have the speed or stretch that Chan just had, and they seem to be done as an afterthought. He's definitely going to have to catch up in the free skate. 82.57. Now I don't know. Seems a bit high.
Takahiko Kozuka of Japan rounds out the field with his Soul Man medley. Triple Lutz is forward/triple toe that winds up on the landing and it looked like he had trouble getting his free leg out. Triple Axel probably landed on the flat rather than on the outside edge and it doesn't have the best flow out. Triple flip-- all three jumps have looked a bit unsure and tight compared to the usual beautiful flow he has. Camel/change/camel-- he holds it but the positions are ugly and of average speed. Footwork is fun but the fact that he is skating right after Takahashi definitely shows that he doesn't have the command or spark in his skating just yet. At the very end of the sequence, he slams right into the boards and then scratches his head as to say, "HOW did that happen?" This will most certainly be fourth on the day, and probably a few points back from Takahashi. The speed and amazing quality to his skating were still there at least. 77.90 points and I was right. A seasons best for a messy performance, interesting.