Nathan Chen took the lead after the men’s short programme with a new personal best on the opening day of the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy that managed to throw a surprise or two at us.
Arriving at the Palavela in the morning for the official practices, you could see that something out of the ordinary was happening. A long line of mainly female Japanese fans snaked from the entrance to the venue through the car park and almost out onto the Via Ventimiglia. Inside the fans cheered enthusiastically as the six senior men went through their preparations for the evening’s short.
The competition later on got off to two false starts. The wrong music for Kevin Aymoz was played and then the audience encouraged him too loudly so he could not hear the correct music start on the second attempt. It did not faze him and he put down the performance of his career. There was possibly no happier man in Turin tonight.
Two skaters later, Chen did what he does so well and reeled off a quadruple Lutz, a triple Axel and a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination. The two-time defending Grand Prix Final champion laid down a marker that would be hard to follow. It proved to be more than enough.
Yuzuru Hanyu was the last skater of the day to compete and he was greeted rapturously by the many fans who had travelled from far and wide to cheer him on. Things started off so well with a glorious quadruple Salchow and a perfect triple Axel. However, he stepped out of a quadruple toe and could not tack any jump to make a combination which left him second place and almost thirteen points adrift from Chen.
As Hanyu sat alone in the Kiss and Cry to receive his marks, the question on many people’s minds was where was his longtime coach Brian Orser. When asked about it at the post-event press conference, the double Olympic champion replied that Orser had a busy schedule with competitions last week and was unable to come to Italy. His other coach Ghislain Briand had some sort of unspecified trouble that meant his departure for Turin had been delayed.
Despite a hand down a triple flip throw, Wenjing Sui and Cong Han took the lead in the senior pairs competition after the short programme and appear to be on their way to taking their first ever Senior Grand Prix Final title of their careers. The first group of in the pairs event had been comprised entirely with young Russian couples and you could certainly feel the ushering in of a new generation of skaters. Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozslovskii are right behind the Chinese as we go into Friday night’s free skating.
The Junior Grand Prix Final also got under way with the men, pairs and ladies in action. Perhaps the highlight of all three categories was the performance of Alysa Liu from the United States of America who landed a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination on her way to taking the lead. The Junior Ladies along with the Senior Pairs will conclude on Friday, while the Junior and Senior rhythm dances and Senior Ladies short programme will all get under way.