Here’s a short recap of some of the things that happened during the past week in the world of figure skating.
Daisuke Takahashi Calls Time On Competitive Career
The announcement by Daisuke Takahashi at an event in his home prefecture of Okayama in Japan that he was retiring from skating in competitions signalled the end of an era for one of the most influential and popular skaters of his generation.
Takahashi began skating as an eight year old at his local rink in the city of Kurashiki and as his natural talent became apparent he moved to Osaka to train with Utako Nagamitsu who remained his coach for the rest of his career. In 2002, he became the first Japanese male skater to win the World Junior Championships. It was to be the first of many firsts that he would set over the next twelve years.
His first four years as a senior were a struggle for Takahashi and he battled with his own inconsistency. After coming third in the short at the 2004 Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris, he failed to land a triple jump in his free. He never was entered for that particular Grand Prix event again. Later on that season at the World Championships in Moscow, an injury to Takeshi Honda left Takahashi as the sole Japanese representative with the responsibility to secure Olympic spots for Torino 2006. He ended up 15th and Japan was only able to send one man to the following year’s Olympic Games in Italy.
Takahashi won his place at the Torino Games and his first Japanese national title under controversial circumstances (a computation error resulted in Nobunari Oda declared the victor initially). He went on to finish a very creditable eighth at his first Olympics.
The following quad was the most successful and most challenging of his entire career. A silver medal at the 2007 Worlds in Tokyo was the highest placing ever for a Japanese man at the time and he topped that in 2010 by becoming the first Japanese male skater to medal at the Olympics when he took bronze in Vancouver and one month later he became World champion in Torino. He also won three of his five Japanese national titles during this period.
A torn ACL in his right knee in October 2008 could have potentially prevented him from reaching him the majority of those achievements. As it was, he had to miss the entire 2008/2009 season and was fortunate enough to have rehabilitated in time for 2009/2010.
After the Vancouver Olympic season, Takahashi was faced with stiff domestic and international competition and only succeeded at medalling once at Worlds in 2012. He did finally add the Grand Prix Final title to his cabinet trophy later on that same year.
The months leading up to the Sochi Olympics were trying. Takahashi was forced to pull out of the December 2013 Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka much to the disappointment of his legion of Japanese fans. A lack of preparation for the subsequent Japanese Nationals resulted in a fifth place finish, but he was still named to the Olympic team. He also became unwittingly embroiled in a controversy regarding the composer of his short programme music immediately prior to Sochi where he came sixth.
More than all of his titles and medals, Takahashi will be remembered as one of the most artistic and charismatic skaters to have ever graced the ice and he will be sorely missed on the competitive circuit by skating fans worldwide.
Autumn Classic International Debuts
The inaugural Skate Canada Autumn Classic International in Barrie, Ontario was the sixth stage of the new ISU Challenger Series and 47 entries from 19 countries made the trip to the city which is 90 minutes north of Toronto.
Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron won their first senior international title of the season by a healthy margin and beat two Canadian teams who had finished higher than them at the 2014 World Championships. The French team, who scored a total of 150.20, relocated over the summer to Montreal, Canada with their coach Romain Haguenauer to train in Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon’s group.
Silver went to Canada’s Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier who had been in fourth place after the short dance due to a bungled rotational lift. They came back strong in the free and were narrowly pipped for first place in that segment by the French. The Canadians earned a total of 142.52.
It was an historic bronze medal for Denmark’s Laurence Laurence Fournier-Beaudry and Nikolaj Sorensen. The Danes set personal bests in each portion of the event and ended the competition on 131.62. This was the first time that any Danish ice dancers have climbed on to the podium at an ISU level event.
Barrie natives Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam had a nightmare in the free where they fluffed a spin and received no points at all for the element. They ended up in fourth place.
The ladies’ event was dominated by North America and Gabrielle Daleman took home gold for the hosts with a total score of 165.59. Daleman was vanquished in the free by Angela Wang from the United States, but the American had too much to make up after the short and finished second overall on 163.68. Fresh from qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final in pairs, Julianne Seguin notched up a score of 158.99 to claim third place.
Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford were a class apart in the pairs competition and revealed a quadruple salchow throw that propelled them to gold with a total of 203.16. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier took silver and Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu bronze.
The only gold medal won by the U.S.A. went to Ross Miner in the men’s event. The American led the field by quite some distance after the short and, despite a superb performance by young Nam Nguyen in the free, there was too much ground for any other skater to make up. It was Miner’s first international title. Nguyen moved up to silver after placing fifth in the short and fellow Canadian Jeremy Ten was awarded the bronze.
Russia Scoops Singles Titles At Coupe de Nice
The 19th edition of the Coupe de Nice was held over the weekend with the spotlight falling on two young Russians. Fresh from a bronze at Finlandia Trophy the previous week, Alexander Petrov trounced his rivals inside the Patinoire Jean Bouin and in doing so won the first senior title of his career. Petrov claimed the junior crown at this event in 2012. Artur Dmitriev, son of the two-time Olympic pairs champion of the same name, was second and Keiji Tanaka third.
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva collected her third victory of the season so far as she breezed to gold. The 2013 European silver medallist finished over thirty points ahead of Japan’s Miyabi Oba. Isabelle Olsson clung on to bronze.
While the aforementioned Russian skaters are well into their season, it was the 2014/2015 competitive debut for Penny Coomes and Nicholas Buckland. The British team laid down a mark of 64.85 in the short dance which is a score that surpasses their current ISU personal best. The European bronze medallists also posted a very respectable 92.23 for their free and appear to be ready to take this season by storm. Great Britain also picked up second place courtesy of Olivia Smart and Joseph Buckland (the younger brother of Nicholas). Lolita Yermak and Alexei Shumskiy of Ukraine came in third.
A small field of five took part in the pairs competition and, after a closely fought three-way battle, Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise won their first international title. Vera Bazarova and Andrei Deputat, who topped the free skating segment, were just over point behind and Mari Vartmann and Aaron van Cleave a further point behind the Russians in third.
Grand Prix Assignments Updated
Arina Cherniavskaia & Antonino Souza-Korderyu (RUS) have been added to the pairs roster at Cup of China.
Maria Artemyeva (RUS) has been added to the ladies entries at Rostelecom Cup.
Zhan Bush (RUS) has been removed from the entry lists for Skate Canada and Cup of China.
Charlene Guignard & Marco Fabbri (ITA) have been added to the ice dance field at Trophee Eric Bompard.
Joshi Helgesson (SWE) has withdrawn from Skate America.
Nathalie Weinzierl (GER) has been removed from the list of entries at Skate Canada.
Nikol Gosviani (RUS) is out of the NHK Trophy.
Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea (USA) have withdrawn from Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup.