The 2017 Four Continents Championships held this week in Gangneung, South Korea served as the test event for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in 12 months time. There was no shortage of thrilling performances in this year’s championships.
Nathan Chen became only third man ever to clear 100 points (103.12) for a short programme when he took the lead following the first half of the men’s competition. In the free skating, the American champion had issues with landings on a number of jumps, but five quadruple jumps pushed his score to another personal best of 204.34. With a total of 307.46, he became the youngest man to win a Four Continents title in the short history of the event.
“I was very happy with the short programme. All of the jumps that I did were well-executed. I had some tiny little bobbles here and there, and today I made more mistakes than I wanted to. But I set out to do a more difficult programme than I initially intended, so I’m happy I was able to at least stay on my feet and rotate everything.”
When he doubled a quad Salchow in the short, Yuzuru Hanyu found himself playing catch-up on Chen in the free. There were four quads in the Olympic champion’s free, as he doubled a second attempt at a Salchow. He won the free, but the deficit between him and the American from the short was too much to make up. Hanyu had to settle for a third Four Continents silver and it continues to be the one title that continues to elude him.
After Chen had skated in the short, Shoma Uno also scored over 100 points in the short (a new personal best of 100.28). He fell on both of the triple Axels he tried in the free, although he did become the second man after Hanyu to cleanly land a quad loop in competition. The reigning Japanese champion’s bronze was his first medal at Four Continents.
With many of the big names absent, Mai Mihara took advantage and claimed gold in the ladies competition in her first Four Continents appearance. The Japanese national bronze medallist skated flawlessly in both the short and the free to win by almost four points.
“At first I thought I should do my best to finish the competition with the best I have and I felt the same during the program and at the end I was proud of myself. My goal is to do my best at the World Championships and practice as much as possible to get the best result.”
Canada’s Gabrielle Daleman had been in the lead after the short, but tired towards the end of her routine and was unsuccessful in her quest to become the first Canadian woman to take a Four Continents title.
Mirai Nagasu rose from fifth after the short to earn bronze, her second successive Four Continents medal after winning silver last year. She was the highest placing American in Gangneung, but has not been selected to represent her country at next month’s World Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
Eleven months after their last competition, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were back and better than ever. The only sign of rustiness occurred when Sui fell on a triple Salchow in the free and they cruised to a new personal best total score of 225.03 and their fourth Four Continents title.
“It is a big honour for us to have won this title for the fourth time,” Han said. “But we got this medal not only for us, we owe it to everyone who is around us and helped us to come back. We were reborn in this championship. There were many challenges that we had to overcame and we are very happy we did that.”
This season continues to be a struggle for two-time World champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford. A fall by Radford on a triple Lutz in the short put the Canadians down in third going into the free. Even though their free was littered with minor errors, they pulled up to second overall.
Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch won their first championship medal when they bagged the bronze with an impressive free skate.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir continued their winning streak this season with their third Four Continents crown. The 2010 Olympic champions are looking good to capture a third World title in Helsinki next month.
” We’re really looking forward to the next five weeks,” Virtue said. “We have a lot of room for improvement and growth for these two programs and it’s a great chunk of time to build up towards the competition in Helsinki.”
Defending champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani were second this year with teammates Madison Chock and Evan Bates third.