Japan Open – Part II: The Men

The men’s competition was certainly interesting… Although my favourite bit of men’s skating was this:

And he wasn’t even competing! (Nor have I seen the full program. Anyone have the link to the full program?)

In any case, this is how the competition went:

On the men’s side, Patrick Chan came in first skating to “Concierto de Aranjuez” – an overused piece of music but I still love it for other reasons. The lovely people at ontd_skating informed me that he fell even before I watched the program and prepared myself for another overmarked bad skate. The _skaters’ pronouncement was verified on the first jump – a quad toe – and I smelled a triple axel implosion coming up. As predicted, it happened but only after he completed a clean 4T-3T combination. I have to admit, the flying sit spin was high and beautiful and that was followed by a nice 3Lz-2S and a clean 3Lp and then a 3F. His roll didn’t continue because he fell on his 3Lz. After a clean 2A (because he can’t do a triple), we were treated to one of his “famous” step sequences, which, I felt, was inferior to Yuzuru Hanyu’s in terms of emotion and choreography. The choreography for this program wasn’t bad but I feel that the overall program would be a lot better with a few more intricacies and transitions. Replace Jeff Buttle with Chan and you might just get magic.

I didn’t expect much from Artur Gachinski but the young man gave a pretty solid skate. Opening with a fall on a quad toe, he came back with a strong spread eagle into a 3A followed by a 3A-3T combination. He had an interesting choice of music with selections of “Interview with a Vampire” but this program didn’t really excite me at all. The jumps were clean and there were some random hand movements and sometimes it was accompanied with a shaking of his mane. He sort of reminded me of a less shy and more platonic version of Takakhiko Kozuka. I want to see more expression from this guy and I certainly hope he’s capable of it. Just a random note, the pikachu he was holding in the kiss and cry was cute. I want one.

Takahiko Kozuka came in 3rd with a program skated to music from “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind,” the music is lovely although the film is absolutely lame compared to the stunning manga. Shy little Takahiko also fell on a 4T attempt but rallied his strength for a gorgeous triple axel. The jump layout seemed similar to his Lizst LP from last season as the proceeding jump was a 3Lz-2T combination. Takashiko seemed to get the crowd going in his step sequence but it’s such a lively violin bit, I wished he put a little more energy into it. At least the 3A-2T-2Lp afterwards as beautiful. Same with the footwork into the 3F. The rest of his triple jumps were fluid and gorgeous and the entire program was in general, well skated and solid.

Of course, we all wish that Takahiko could be less shy but what can you do? This program isn’t as intricate and well-timed/choreographed as last year’s LP but this performance seemed a little undermarked. The quality of Takahiko’s elements (minus the quad) was definitely superior than Chan’s and Gachinski’s. I hope that this program gets tweaked here and there over the season and I also hope that Takahiko starts feeling it a little more. This guy is a fine skater and it would be a pity if his skills were unnoticed by the world because he’s a bit shy.

The darling boy, Jeff Buttle came in fourth. The first half of the program was pretty good. The music choice was unique and Jeff is captivating to watch, as always. He opened with a 3F-2T (slightly forward on the landing on the 3F but still managed to land everything cleanly). Lovely 3A after that but the best part? The twizzle into a camel spin. Pure love. Jeff’s skating still melts like butter on the tongue. But then, the 2nd half of his program came and after his 3S, Jeff doubled all of his jumps. He must’ve had stamina issues, which is disappointing beause this is a lovely program. Subtle, unpredictable and entertaining. This is who Takahiko Kozuka needs to be. I hope to see an improved version of this program in the future as it’s on the road to being one my favourites.

Florent Amodio. Oh em gee, even within the first 5 seconds you could tell that this entire program is a hot mess. I mean, you had all the elements of figure skating jokes all in one program. Skin-tight animal-print costume? Check. Gyrations and self-touching? Check. Poorly executed jumps? Check. Distracting arm motions? Check. Strange roaring noises in the music? Check. I guess you could say that this entire program was something of a train-wreck. It was horrifying but you couldn’t tear your eyes off of it. At least he did manage a 4S and a beautiful 3A at the beginning… And I guess it’s… entertaining… I wonder what the judges will think of it when the season starts. Florent can do so much better, Nikolai Morozov.

Finally, we have Daisuke, who surprisingly came in last. What is going on with Team Japan? He’s skating to the blues music that was once used by Grishuk and Platov (and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje). He underrotated and 2-footed his opening 4T and his 3A was less than impeccable. This is not the Daisuke I want to see. He did rally and performed a lovely 3S. His jumps are a bit slow as they always are at the beginning of the season but his first step sequence feels a bit toned down compared to his previous exuberant displays of serious skating skills. Daisuke popped his 2nd 3A and the second half of his program was full of jumps with shaky landings, two-foots step outs and a fall. His bombage wasn’t as serious as Miki Ando’s but it’s disheartening to see Daisuke discouraged and looking defeated mid-way through the program.

I seriously hope that this was just some strange fluke and that his skating for the rest of the season will be a lot better than this. In his exhibition skate, he went back to being the talented and mesmerizing Daisuke that we all know and love. Let’s hope we see more of that Daisuke.

MEN (final standings)
1. Patrick Chan CAN – 159.93
2. Artur Gachinski RUS – 152.71
3. Takahiko Kozuka JPN – 148.21
4. Jeffrey Buttle CAN – 138.33
5. Florent Amodio FRA – 138.25
6. Daisuke Takahashi JPN – 130.79

TEAM (final standings)
1. Team North America – 518.64
2. Team Europe – 517.94
3. Team Japan – 479.57

Overall comments:

I certainly hope that the performances results of this competition reflect the performances we’ll see during the season. Right now, only time can tell.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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