Friday, March 15, 2013
Chan wins 3rd title but Ten steals show at worlds
LONDON, Ontario -- Denis Ten saw his marks and his mouth fell open. He jumped to his feet, screaming and pumping his fists as if he'd won.
The title may have gone to Patrick Chan, but there was no question that the night belonged to Ten.
With a beautifully breezy and technically impressive performance to "The Artist," the little-known skater from Kazakhstan stole the Canadian star's spotlight at the World Figure Skating Championships on Friday night.
Ten won the free skate, but he couldn't overcome the big lead Chan had from the short program. He finished 1.3 points behind Chan, who became the first man since Alexei Yagudin (1998-2000) to win three straight titles.
Javier Fernandez was third, giving Spain its first medal, too.
"My dream came true. I still cannot believe that it all happened," said Ten, who had never finished better than seventh at a world championships or Olympics.
"This is my first world medal and, what's even more important is it's the first medal for my country. I'm feeling very proud, and I'm realizing that the whole country now is very proud of my little win and my little victory. It feels great."
U.S. champion Max Aaron was seventh and Ross Miner was 14th, ensuring the Americans will have two spots in Sochi.
Earlier Friday, Tatiana Volosozhar and Makim Trankov won the pairs title, Russia's first since 2005.
Ten began skating on outdoor rinks in Kazakhstan -- "I still remember how my mother would put three pairs of pants on me. I looked like a cabbage. That's how I learned all the doubles, it helped me to be quicker" -- before shopping malls with tiny rinks began springing up.
In search of better training, he moved to Russia when he was 10, then came to California three years ago to train with Frank Carroll, Evan Lysacek's coach.
But no one -- Ten included -- could have seen this coming a few days ago. Heck, Ten had been 12th just last month at Four Continents, a competition that doesn't include the Europeans or, this year, Chan.
But in one of those happy twists of fate, everything came together at exactly the right time and place for the 19-year-old.
"When I came back after (Four Continents), I was like really, really disappointed. It was hard for me to start all over for me again and to get fresh thoughts and pump up my motivation," Ten said. "At the same time, I felt worlds is coming and ... I realized that the game is not over. I realized how much I wanted to prove to everyone that I'm still playing."
Continuing a story he'd started with the short program, Ten was a revelation. He didn't so much as skate to "The Artist" as he did pick up where the Oscar-winning movie had left off -- minus Uggie.
He was a silent film star on ice, pantomiming and using every other inch of his body to talk to the audience -- and judges -- without ever uttering a word.
His skating was flawless, with centered spins and complex footwork. His quad was big and solid and the rest of his jumps were strong. But it was the landings that were most impressive, with his blades carving the ice like a diamond cutter.
Had he not doubled the first jump in his triple flip-double toe combination, he -- not Chan -- would have been standing atop the podium.
"Honestly, throughout the skate, I didn't feel I was doing really, really well. I felt like I could have done better," Ten said. "At the same time, I'm satisfied because it's my best performance of the year and maybe of my skating career."
Chan can't say the same thing.
With the Sochi Olympics a year away and these world championships in his own country, Chan wanted this title badly. Maybe too badly.
"I definitely was disappointed in myself because I really wanted to go out there and have another short program moment," said Chan, whose short program score was a world record. "It's kind of selfish of me, but I really wanted to enjoy it. ... The moment wasn't as good as it could have been but, nonetheless, it was very special."
He got off to a spectacular start, doing a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and a solo quad toe that were so technically perfect, coaches all over went running for their DVR.
Then the downward spiral began. He splatted on a triple lutz, a jump that's simple in comparison to those quads, and fell on an underrotated triple axel. He flipped out of the landing on the last jump of a triple flip-single loop-triple salchow combination and watered down a triple lutz-double toe combo.
Chan slapped his forehead several times when he finished and again as he waited for his marks. When the camera focused on him, he gave a sheepish smile.
"I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to do great program in front of such a great audience," Chan said. "But you know what? I'm going to take the win, put it in my back pocket and really learn from it next season."
Fernandez, the European champion, feared he had dug himself too deep of a hole after a flawed short program. But few skaters can sell a program like Fernandez, who oozes charisma and swagger.
At 21, he's way too young to recall Charlie Chaplin. But Fernandez's portrayal of him was so spot on, no one could take their eyes off of him.
Early in the program, he did an old-fashioned royal curtsy, rolling his hand down from his nose to the ground. He started one footwork sequence by stuffing his hands in his pockets, fixing the audience with a flirty smile and shrugging his shoulders.
He even managed a little duck walk. That's tough to do in street shoes, let alone figure skates.
The flaws in his program, hard as it may be to believe, were with his jumps. Fernandez has always had great hops, and he did two quads -- one salchow and one toe loop -- that were very nice.
But he popped both jumps in what was supposed to be a quad salchow-triple toe combination into doubles, and singled the opening lutz in a planned triple lutz-double toe combination.
"When I finished my program, I knew it was going to be really hard to be on the podium. I knew I did some big mistakes," Fernandez said. "But I still did a good program. ... I was hoping to have a little bit of luck."
He watched the final skaters with Chan, his hopes of a medal climbing with each performance.
"I was getting a little bit more excited, a little bit more excited, a little bit more excited," Fernandez said. "When (the last skater) finished and I saw I was in the third position, I didn't know what to do. Jump. Cry. Hug Patrick. I didn't know what to do. I was really happy. So happy. So, so happy."
But Ten might have been the happiest of all, regardless of the color of medal around his neck.
"I feel like I had a long way being a kid skating like a cabbage," he said. "Now I skate in a good costume at the worlds."
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