Hanyu reclaims world title with majestic free skateUno earns silver, gives Japan 1-2 finish; Chen falls twice, finishes sixth
Men's skating reached new heights at the 2017 World Figure Skating Championships, with the top four competitors breaking the 300-point barrier, but it was Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan who emerged the victor, winning the event with a score of 321.59.
Shoma Uno amassed 319.31 points overall, just 2.28 behind Hanyu, to earn the silver. China's Boyang Jin garnered 303.58 points and won his second consecutive world bronze medal. That meant that the podium consisted entirely of skaters from Asia -- the first time that has ever happened at the World Figure Skating Championships.
Spain's Javier Fernández, who was first after the short program, had a disappointing free skate and finished off the podium, in fourth. Team USA's Nathan Chen came in sixth after falling on two of his six quad attempts.
Hanyu unfolded his program with precision and mastery, hitting all of his elements as planned, including four perfect quads (loop, two salchows and a toe) and two triple axels. He scored an unprecedented 223.40 points for his free program alone, setting a new world record in the process.
"I was so depressed after the short program," Hanyu explained. "I'm grateful that my team and my fans kept believing in me. They helped me achieve this program."
As soon as he ended his performance, the 2014 Olympic gold medalist received a thundering standing ovation, and the ice surface was instantly filled with flowers and plush toys.
"My music is rather quiet -- it doesn't make people cheer -- but this time I could hear nonstop applause after my spin, and I was impressed to realize how much the whole crowd, not only the Japanese, supported me," Hanyu said.
Uno also planned four quads in his program, set to a tango. Unlike his competitors, however, he landed his quad loop and quad flip in the first minute of his program and his two quad toes in the second half, and he also added two triple axels. All of his jumps received high Grades of Execution (GOEs), including +3.0's across the board for his triple axel-triple toe. He amassed 214.45 points for his free program, some 18.76 above his previous personal best.
"I'm very happy with my result," a radiating Uno said. "That was a very high score, and also it was one of the best skates this season. Most important, I'll finish these championships with a smile, after the tears I had at the end of last year's championships. That's what I'm most happy about."
Jin has completely reworked the appearance of his programs this season. He landed four quads (lutz, salchow and two toes) with ease, just as if they were triples. But he also managed to live his program, set to Nino Rota's La Strada, and to play with the audience, especially during his step sequence. Jin reeled off 204.94 points for his free, a new career best.
"I'm very satisfied with my performance," he said. "It is even better than I could dream of."
Even in recent times, Fernández' skate would not have been considered that bad. After all, he landed his quad toe and quad salchow-triple toe, as well as two triple axels. But he lost a lot of points when he fell on his second quad salchow, doubled a planned triple flip and two-footed his final triple loop, mistakes that cost him the bronze medal. His free program brought him 192.14 points.
"It's fine," Fernández said. "We know figure skating is a hard sport. We have to take this as a positive thing heading into the Olympic season."
Patrick Chan delivered probably his best program of the season, including a sky-high quad toe-triple toe, a crystal-clear quad salchow and two triple axels. He received 193.03 points for his free and 295.16 points overall, good for fifth place.
Skating fourth in the last group, Chan appeared like a relief, a breath of fresh air amid the quad frenzy -- although he didn't avoid the four-revolution jumps at all. Somehow, though, his quads seemed lighter, and completely embedded into his choreography and the flow of the program. He received the second-best component score of the event (94.92 points).
"My goal coming here was to rotate all three quads in the program. It's good for me to know that I can count on both in actual competition," Chan said. "The first step for me will be to include both in my short. I'll start with that."
Chen threw himself into his program with reckless abandon, taking off six times for a quad. He landed only four, however, falling heavily on his opening quad lutz and again on a quad salchow. In between, he landed a quad flip-double toe, a quad flip and a quad toe, and he also tacked on a quad toe-triple toe after the midway point of the program. His three spins and step sequence -- all performed at the very end of the program -- were awarded Level 4.
Despite landing it beautifully so many times in practice these last two days, Jason Brown fell on his quad toe at the start of his free skate, set to music from The Piano. He landed two superb triple axels, one of which was combined with a triple toe, and an unusual triple lutz-triple salchow combination 15 seconds before the end of the program. He amassed 176.49 points for his free program and 269.57 points overall.
"Of course, I would have wished to have landed the quad. Of course, I would have preferred to rotate the loop. But I have no regrets: I left my heart and lungs on the ice today. I think I performed a heck of a program today!" an exhilarated Brown said.
Brown's program was rich in complexity, a quality he and his team pay special attention to.
"People work on their jumps, and I do, too, but I spend as much time with Rohene [Ward] (Brown's choreographer) on each of my steps and moves," Brown said. "I'm lucky to have such a detailed eye to work on each transition and step."
Brown's strength and mastery contrasted with the gentle touch of the piano to which he was skating. He never hesitates to include a posture, a move, a step, a split jump, even though they bring no points and only serve to enhance his performance.
"A skating program is about performing, not only to go where you can catch points," he explained. "It's about touching the people's hearts, to offer them something to remember, bring them emotion -- that's what I try to bring."