Saturday, February 9

Canadian Reynolds Upsets for First Major Title; Asada Shows off Old Friend

Mens Free Skate

I woke up this morning having decided to skip the live broadcast of the mens free skate at the Four Continents Championship late last night on the east coast of the USA.

Boy oh boy. I should have stayed up.

Kevin Reynolds not only bested the current World silver and bronze medalists (on their home turf!), but he did it convincingly in the free skate, moving all the way up from sixth place in the short program. Who would've thought?!

Reynolds landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate-- a quad Salchow and two quad toe loops (one in combination) as well as a triple Axel-triple toe combination and three other triples to score 172.21 points and win the segment by over ten points. His overall event total of 250.55 points was four points better than Yuzuru Hanyu, who was the leader following the short program.

Hanyu doubled a planned quadruple Salchow at the beginning of his program and then singled a triple Lutz at the end. Interestingly, his program components scores only averaged 8.18 in the free skate compared to the 8.00 Reynolds received. In the short program, Hanyu averaged 8.69 while the Canadian averaged 7.61.

Han Yan, 2012 World Junior Champion, was able to win the bronze medal in his first senior international competition. He had a hard fall on a quadruple toe loop attempt at the beginning of his free skate but rallied back to land seven clean triples. Yan bested teammate Nan Song by just under seven points here-- it will be interesting to see if the Chinese Federation gives him the opportunity to compete at Worlds where a tenth place finish or higher would give two men the opportunity to skate in Sochi a year from now.

American champion Max Aaron had a major comeback from 10th place in the short program, finishing second in the free skate and just off the podium overall as the highest-placing American. He landed two more beautiful quadruple Salchows in the free skate as well as two triple Axels. Late in the program, he seemed to run out of energy and his last few jump elements were rough. So far, I've been way off about how the international judges would score him components-wise. I suggested the US Nationals free skate total (which averaged scores of over 8.00) was way too high, but he pulled off a 7.26 average here. That said, I still think there is a good chance of many men in this field having their components scores nose-dive come the World Championships.

Teammate Richard Dornbush also finished just over a point out of the bronze medal, in 5th place overall. He landed a quadruple toe loop to start the program, but fell out of a second one and singled a triple Axel. All-in-all, he has to be happy with his effort this year compared to last season, where he placed just 13th.

2010 World Champion and recent Grand Prix Final gold medalist Daisuke Takahashi completely unraveled in the free skate, finishing 8th in the segment and dropping him from 4th to 7th overall. Both of his quadruple toe loop attempts early in the program were severely two-footed and deemed under-rotated by the technical panel. He also fell on a triple Axel later in the program and had trouble on a triple Lutz. Both of those jump elements were also called under-rotated, losing significant technical points.

Denis Ten, maybe suffering from coach Frank Carroll not making the trip to Japan after his sister passed away just prior to the event, fell all the way from 7th to 12th after a 17th place finish in the free skate. Ten included a brief sweet message to Carroll in the kiss and cry following his short program.


Ladies Short Program

Ten years ago, the Japanese ladies team of Fumie Suguri, Shizuka Arakawa, and Yukari Nakano swept the podium at the Four Continents Championship. It can happen again tonight.

Mao Asada ran away with the first segment, scoring 74.49 points in a program that included a triple Axel-- a jump she had yet to attempt in a very successful season to this point. She also landed a triple flip-double loop combination and triple loop and is in front by 8.84 points.

Akiko Suzuki rebounded from a disappointing Japanese National Championship free skate (where she placed just 4th overall) and an early-2013 national competition to skate clean in the short program, earning 65.65 points. She completed a triple toe-triple toe combination, triple flip, and double Axel. Kanako Murakami also delivered at home and skated to 64.04 points, good enough for 3rd place. She completed the same set of jump elements as Suzuki.

Christina Gao ended as the highest-placed American following the short program, skating clean and earning 62.34 points. Many feel that Gao was held down at the US National Championships last month, where she finished fifth overall for the fourth consecutive season. She, too, completed a successful triple toe-triple toe combination.

Gracie Gold had trouble with her first two jumping elements- she turned out of a triple flip-triple toe combination (done on the outside edge and called appropriately), and then putting her hands down on a triple Lutz. She scored 60.36 points and is in fifth place. Teammate Agnes Zawadzki fell on her double Axel (as she did at US Nationals) and is in seventh.

Kexin Zhang, in her first competition of the season after a top-10 finish at the World Championships last year, finished in 6th in the segment.

Canadian Champion Kaetlyn Osmond made her first error in the short program this season, falling on her triple flip. She is in eighth place while teammate Amelie Lacoste is right behind her, in ninth.

None of the ladies in the top six aside from Gold received negative grades of execution for any of their seven elements.

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