Patrick Chan comes back strong at Four Continents

Shibutani/Shibutani, Satoko Miyahara and Sui/Han win gold as well

There were a lot of excellent performances again at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, although some top skaters were missing. Taiwan hosted the event for the third time since 2011 and 2014. It is not easy to find a host for Four Continents, just because there are much less ISU members than in Europe and from those not all have the experience or ability to organize such a major figure skating competition. Basically only the USA, Canada, Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan are potential hosts for now. The USA had Four Continents for the last time in 2012, since then it always went to Asia. In 2017 Korea will have it as test event for the Olympic Winter Games. The ISU is still looking for an organizer for 2018. It would make sense if the event was in Asia, otherwise most Olympians will skip it to avoid long travels. However, if it will be in Asia they skaters could use it as preparation for the Olympic Games, stay within the same (or almost the same) time zone and earn important world standing points.

The conditions for the event are very good in Taipei as the hotel is only five minutes to walk away and the modern facility has the main arena and practice rink under one roof. However, many skaters were not happy with the ice quality that improved only in the last two days. It was also too cold in the tribunes. This is something that the organizers can fix for Junior Worlds next year in the same arena.

Patrick Chan is back

Now Patrick Chan can say that he is really back. Following his rough start into the season with the Grand Prix that didn’t go so well in the short program, Chan had to overcome doubts. Yuzuru Hanyu seemed like miles away and also others such as World Champion Javier Fernandez were ahead. At Canadian Nationals Chan was able to find new confidence and proved in Taipei that he shouldn’t be counted out. It actually didn’t look that way at first in practice, where the Olympic silver medalist struggled a lot. He was fifth in the short, as he skated carefully, wobbled on the triple Axel and reduced his combo to triple Lutz-double toe. But he had a reason: the ice. “I’m going to be honest, I’m not happy with the ice. It’s been a struggle for the whole week. This morning in practice the ice was one way and this afternoon it is another way. With the experience I have competing, I think I know what I’m talking about and how the ice should be. I have to skate with the ice, not against it and today I felt like I’ve never skated before. I was so nervous going into my quad, my Axel, because everything is a little tighter and rushed, because I don’t know what’s going to happen every time I step on an edge, I don’t know if I’m going to slip or catch an edge. Maybe I’m making excuses, because Boyang Jin was able to do everything. But ice is very important to me”, Chan said following the short program. He was still relieved and happy with his performance. “It’s a seasons best and I’ll take it. I could have fallen on all of my jumps, honestly.”

Because he was distracted with the ice the three-time World Champion was unable to really pull off the fun and laid back character of his program to “Mack the Knife”.

Following the short program the Canadian star went to talk to the Zamboni driver and indeed, the next day the ice quality improved. On the day of the free skate, Chan, who describes himself as “picky” was finally completely satisfied with the ice and laid down his best free skate to date with two quad toes and two triple Axels. He also interpreted the elegant and subtle Chopin medley very well and at the end of the performance the crowd in Taipei Arena was on their feet. Also rivals Boyang Jin, Han Yan and Shoma Uno, who waited in the „Green Room“ gave a standing ovation.

I feel like all the work and the stress I had to go through this season with my coach and myself paid off. It all came out in that program just the way it was supposed to be. It just felt exhilarating. Anger turned in joy and excitement. There was a lot of worry and stress and insecurities with myself and my skating, not believing I was able to be a champion again. I know this isn’t World Championships, but this is one step closer. This year has been so successful for the first year back. We didn’t have that much expectation, so we definitely exceeded our expectations this season”, Chan, who won his third Four Continents title, commented.

The Men’s event was indeed very competitive and will be even be more competitive at Worlds. Chan knows he cannot allow himself any small mistake, because even now he edged out “quad king” Boyang Jin by less than one point (290.21 vs 289.83). The Chinese skater didn’t make any major mistake and reeled off a total of six quads in two programs: quad Lutz-triple toe in the short and quad Lutz, quad Salchow, quad toe-double toe and quad toe in the long. Nobody has done that yet in international competition and nobody has ever included three different kinds of quads in one free skate. “I competed for the first time at the Four Continents and therefore I felt I’m competing against myself mainly. I feel like my free skate is a challenge for myself from my first to my last jump. I performed quite well. I landed all the quads. I did them before at the national Winter Games and it gave me confidence for this competition. But the quality of the jumps was not as good as today”, Jin told the post-event press conference. The 18-year-old is a dynamic skater but mostly focused on the jumps and he knows that. He plans on improving the performance aspect of his programs once his jumps are consistent.

Han Yan improved significantly compared to the beginning of the season and only had some minor wobbles in his programs to “Sing Sing Sing” and “Romeo and Juliet” where he also showed his dance qualities. “The performance was the best of the season. I had to overcome a lot of problems last year with injuries and accidents, so my performance was not so good. Today I put out the best of me and I feel happy about it. This is already my third bronze medal at the Four Continents and next time I hope to get at least the silver”, Yan noted. He also shared that he doesn’t portray Romeo, but more a “storyteller” in his program. “Actually I wanted to be Romeo, but I think I have the style of a prince, so I have to be the storyteller. The music of my program is pretty mature. I try to skate well and I try to fit the elements into the music and choreography”, the 19-year-old shared.

Japan’s Shoma Uno stumbled on all three quad toes in his programs and the second quad toe was downgraded which eventually cost him the bronze. He sat in second after the short and slipped to fourth.

I’m not satisfied with my performance, but I think I tried to do my best. In both short and free program, I over-rotated in the first quad jump. The quad toeloop was not consistent until the end. However, I improved the elements other than jumps in the free compared to the short. Also I did a better triple Axel compared to the short. Though I made some mistakes in free, I stayed calmer during my performance than usual. I think I expressed my program well and that helped my score”, the 2015 World Junior Champion said.

Takahito Mura delivered two solid performances and the only major glitch came when he stepped out of a triple Axel in the free skating. “I saw the excellent performances of Han Yan and Shoma Uno, so I felt nervous. But I did the elements well except for one triple Axel. I had just been thinking I definitely would not miss the jumps. In this season I learned that the degree of perfection of a program and expression and also learned that a jump is not only a jump, but I have to the jumps as a part of the program”, Mura commented and shared some plans for next season: “I’m thinking about doing quads in the second half of the program. I have to think about the layout of my programs. I also want to improve my choreography. I’m aiming at higher scores than I had now.” (5 th )

With Keiji Tanaka another Japanese man came sixth. He had some issues with his quad Salchow and also popped a triple Axel in the free. “It is regrettable that I made some mistakes in quad Salchow and triple Axel with which I can get high scores with. I haven’t been doing well with the quad Salchow in the official practice since I arrived in Taiwan and I couldn’t improve it. I had been thinking that I would land the quad in my programs, but I still didn’t have enough power or strength to pull it off no matter in which condition I am in. For the next season, I would like to improve my skating skills and my quad”, Tanaka, whose mother actually is from Taiwan, said.

The three American men did not skate up to their potential. Max Aaron ranked seventh. He looked insecure and stumbled on jumps. “This week has been a real struggle for me. I’ve had to fight through it. There’s just been a series of unfortunate events throughout practice and in my performances here. Things happen and you just have to fight and make the best of it. Unfortunately this happened at a championship event, but all I can do now is keep fighting and look forward to Words”, Aaron noted.

Grant Hochstein stood in sixth after the short in spite of missing the quad toe and then dropped to eight after several mistakes. He had been taken ill. “I’ve been pretty sick since the night of the short program. Yesterday after practice I had some hot herbal soup and I slept from 5 at night until 6:30 this morning”, Hochstein revealed. “The fact that I was able to do something out there, I’m happy with. The performance itself was disappointing, but I pushed, so I’m proud of that. I think this shows that even though I felt awful, I was still trained enough to do a triple Lutz-half loop-triple Sal in the second half of the program. I will improve on this – this was 20 points less than my best at NHK and 33 points lower than nationals. I trust my training and I know for sure I will do better than this at Worlds”, he added.

Ross Miner finished 14 th . He lost a lot of points by popping jumps, and he had no explanation or excuse for it. “I think I need to go home and figure out where my confidence has gone and how to get it back. Obviously the beginning of my season was good with Rostelecom Cup and I was happy I could do as well as I did at nationals, but I have these little doubts that I need to get rid of so I can skate the way I’m capable of skating. For me it’s never a lack of preparation. I never go into a competition feeling like I’m not trained, at least physically. Now I need to get my mental game a little stronger so I can go out there and compete with the best and beat them. I believe I have it in me”, Miner said.

Michael Christian Martinez of the Philippines ranked 9 th and was rather solid, although he crashed on the triple Axel in the short. He is popular with fans and they love seeing his Biellmann spin, but he has back pain because of it. “So I don’t do the Biellmann in practice so often, but I want to do it in competition. Back home I’ve been doing clean programs all the time in practice, but in the competition anything can happen. Maybe it is nerves”, Martinez said. “I’m preparing a quad for the World Championships, maybe the quad toe or the quad loop. I’m close in practice, I just have to land them.”

Kevin Reynolds returned for the first time in almost two years to a major international competition. The short went really wrong – the Canadian fell four times, on his two quads, the triple Axel and a spin. “I was ready as I possibly could have been. In practice I was doing clean run throughs. It is tough to recover, especially after a hard fall on the first jump like that. I can’t say I’ve ever made this many mistakes in the short program before, but even though I wanted to try to perform as well as I could and I guess the free program is a new day”, Reynolds said. It did go much better, he landed the quad Salchow and toe this time, although they were underrotated. The Canadian bronze medalist moved up from 20 th to 11 th overall. “It was definitely a relief to be able to do the first two quad jumps, because that’s what caused all the problems (in the Short Progam). Just to get that out of the way gains a little confidence back. It puts me in a good position looking forward into next season. I think this is a huge step up from any long program I’ve done in the past two seasons, not only with the equipment issues I was facing, but also the hip surgery and just coming back and not having a lot of time to prepare for this season. But I think the results here in practice especially have been encouraging and I’m encouraged to come back strong for next season.”

Defending champion Denis Ten of Kazakhstan withdrew before the event, citing knee pain.

It’s gold for Satoko Miyahara

Satoko Miyahara always seems so shy and modest, speaks in a very soft voice (and never really says much), but she has a fighting spirit. “In the first half of the season I was happy with my performances, but I had a lot of second places. I also twice was silver medalist at Four Continents. So coming into this competition I was aiming to win. I’m pleased I met my goal and it gives me a good feeling heading into Worlds”, the Japanese Champion said. The World silver medalist put out two clean programs and convinced with her musicality in her Flamenco themed “Firedance” short program and her free set to “Un sospiro” by Franz Liszt. Now she’s heading to Worlds aiming for another win. “I want to make sure I’m not beaten by other skaters”, she said. At the same time she doesn’t see herself as a favorite. “Actually I focused on just keeping what I have at each competition. I don’t feel like a favorite or a particular strong skater. I feel I can be much stronger and still have work to do.”

Mirai Nagasu has been written off by many as she never even qualified for Worlds again after ranking 7 th in 2010 in Torino (and 4 th at the Olympic Winter Games). She struggled often with underrotated jumps and consistency. Since 2014 Nagasu has been training with Tom Zakrajsek in Colorado Springs and now their work pays off. Mirai’s jumps are higher and not a single one, including the triple flip-triple toe combination in both short and free program, was underrorated. Ranked third in the short, she pulled up to second overall and earned her first ISU Championship medal since a bronze at Four Continents in 2011. “I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t skated like this in a long, long time. It’s taken a lot to get me back on the podium and I’m so grateful to my team and support group who have gotten me here. I hope to only improve and continue on this track of improvement. I train at altitude and I think that really helps because it’s a little bit harder to push through my long program. When I come down to sea level now, my jumps are stronger because I have the confidence of knowing I can get through my program”, Nagasu explained. “Tom (Zakrajsek) is such a good technician and he’s really drilled and drilled and drilled so many jumps with me. In the past, I think my tendency was to pull back a little bit and that’s when the under-rotations would be called. Now that I’m much more confident in my skating and my jumps, I feel that that’s a lesser problem.”

The 22-year-old will continue to train as an alternate until Worlds, but she also has set her eyes on next season. “Next season I hope to continue to strengthen my programs, improve on all my elements and continue to strengthen not just my jumps, but my components as well. I want to challenge myself even further”, she said.

Rika Hongo underrotated her triple flip-triple toe in the short program and stood in fourth place. Although she fell on the same combo (this time it was even downgraded) in the long and ranked fifth in this segment, she moved up to take the bronze medal overall. “Last year I participated for the first time at Four Continents and I finished third. This time I’m glad I made it back on to the podium again, but I’m not completely satisfied with my performance. I think I have many things to improve and I can do much better. So I need to get back home and practice more”, the Japanese skater said.

Korea’s So Youn Park improved over her showing in the Grand Prix and by coming fourth had her best ISU Championship result to date. Her short was clean, but she missed a triple flip in the long program. By the way, Park had returned to last year’s “Romeo and Juliet” free program. “I’m satisfied with the final result I got and the improvements I made. It was actually good to be in the last group for my result. Maybe if I try harder, there would be a great result in the future. I think if my keep my pace like now, I could do better in future championships”, she commented. Her teammates Da Bin Choi in eighth and Na Hyun Kim in ninth place showed that the Ladies field in Korea has become really deep. Kim even landed a rare triple loop-triple loop combination in the free.

U.S. Champion Gracie Gold, one more time was not able to deliver two strong programs and finished fifth. The short program went wrong, Gracie fell on triple Lutz and triple flip. The free was much better, although not perfect as she did only do two combinations and did neither her triple-triple nor her double Axel-triple toe. Gold pulled up from ninth and was ranked third in the free. In the exhibition she skated to the song “Maybe This Time” – well, maybe in Boston.

I just wasn’t able to get up in the air like I usually do. I wasn’t really in proper shape for this event. I wasn’t able to rotate really any of my jumps well enough to land. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with my short program in practice and in my events this year. That was reflected today”, Gold said after the short program. She was definitely more pleased with the free. “It was a respectable performance, and at least the quality of what I did was nice. I came into this competition knowing that I’ve had a lot of struggles with the event. I don’t feel as comfortable with this event as I do for a lot of the other competitions, with the amount of time between competing at nationals and competing here. I came here knowing I feel this way and I wanted to see how I could do with that. Knowing that I can skate a free program at least that well, after what happened in the short, I feel hopeful about Worlds. I think anyone has a chance at that World podium, you just have to go two clean skates. This was just a trial run for me, to get the bad luck out”, the 20-year-old Champion noted.

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond has had some ups and downs in this „comeback season“ for her after sitting out last year due to injuries. She was glad to finish the season on a high note with 6 th place in Taipei, although she singled the Axel and fell in the short and struggled with her combinations in the long. “It’s exactly what I wanted to get done. Each program has gotten better this year and that’s what I’m really happy about. This is most likely my last competition of the year and so I’m happy that it ended as well as it did. Obviously I’m a little upset that I didn’t do my two big combos (triple flip-triple toe and double Axel-triple toe) in the beginning. But it’s the first time I landed my loop in competition, so I’m really happy about that. They (combos) have been going so well all week, so I can’t be a 100 percent sure what happened, it’s probably a bit of excitement, of nerves. I’m just getting used to it again. I think ending the season this way will give me a good confidence boost for next year and it can only get better”, Osmond shared. She’s an alternate for Worlds.

Kanako Murakami as so often shone in the short with a clean performance that included a triple toe-triple toe combo, but dropped from second to seventh in the long program. Again she underrotated or popped jumps, which cost her a lot. “I’ve been doing well in the morning practice, but I lose my confidence when it comes to the free skating. It is regrettable that I couldn’t do what I’m capable of. In this season I started to feel confident in the short program, but I suffered in the free skating. So next season I want to be able to do well in the free program. I’ve enough physical strength to do go through the free program, but I have many jumps that I think I’m not doing well enough”, the Japanese skater said.

Zijun Li of China in 10 th also had problems with underrotations and Canadian Alaine Chartrand made several mistakes as well.

Defending champion Polina Edmunds (USA) withdrew from the event saying that she didn’t have enough time to break in new skates. She was replaced by Karen Chen, whose family is from Taiwan. As she speaks Chinese, too, Chen was popular with the local media. She placed 12 th .

Shubutani/Shibutani dance to first ISU championship title

Ice Dance these days is very exciting as in each competition several teams have the chance to take gold. In Taipei any of the top three could have won, but in the end Maia and Alex Shibutani deservedly claimed the title. The brother-and-sister team started with a strong short dance to “Coppelia” into the competition and narrowly edged out Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje for the lead. Their free dance to “Fix You” by Coldplay was again excellent, with effortless looking yet difficult elements and strong presentation. The presentation in the past sometimes was the weak point of Shibutani/Shibutani, but they’ve really grown as performers. “It (winning) is a really gratifying feeling. We’ve been working so hard over the past four seasons in particular, but this season we’ve been really focused on making sure we make the most of every opportunity. This was a great opportunity today and we’re very excited looking forward to Worlds”, Alex said. “I think nationals was definitely a highlight of our season. We were very excited to win the national title for the first time and that has a level of confidence that comes with it that we took into this week. I think that our skating has reached another level and we’re excited about the possibilities. We’re always looking to improve and this is a great start”, he added.

I don’t necessarily think that anything has changed. We’ve always had such a great support system around us in our coaches. We’ve always believed in ourselves and the group around us has always had a strong belief in us, so it’s really been about taking each experience and learning from it and continuing to grow. We feel like we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what our potential can be and we’re really looking forward to the lead up to 2018”, his sister answered when asked about their breakthrough in placements this season.

Madison Chock/Evan Bates surprisingly were ranked only fourth in the short dance as their wobbly twizzles were graded a level two. At this points, with so many teams skating so well, little things can make a big difference already. The 2015 World silver medalists rallied back in their emotional Rachmaninov free dance to pull up to second and repeated as silver medalists at this event. “We had a pretty rough skate in our short dance yesterday and that was tough for us. Today we looked at the free dance like we had nothing to lose and we just enjoyed every second of our program. We just enjoyed skating together and I think that’s the attitude we’re going to have going forward. It felt really good to be out there and the audience was great”, Chock said. “This sport, as competitive as it is, when you’re out on the ice, your biggest competition is yourself. For us, we have a lot of room to grow still and so do our programs. We’re just going to keep working on making our programs better and being stronger skaters leading into Worlds”, she continued.

Weaver/Poje put out a strong short dance to the classical “Blue Danube” Waltz and “Annenpolka by Strauss. However, one Waltz pattern and the step sequence garnered a level three while the Shibutanis had a level four on all elements. In the free dance the Canadians held back and Poje was shaky on the twizzles and a rotational lift. As a result, the defending Four Continents Champions were ranked only fourth in the free dance and slipped to third. “I think we had a few distractions mainly the ice quality. Which I think took our focus a little bit away from the normal things. Everything felt a little different, a little bit less speed, a little bit less flowing momentum. We started to use little bit too much force. This is one of those times that we say, oops, go back home and work harder. In a way it helps to take the pressure off for Worlds a little bit”, Weaver shared.

We didn’t have a great skate here today. We had some things to fight for and this is one thing I’m definitely proud of us is - we fought to the end. We definitely look to the next competition to bring a better performance for the audience and for ourselves. I did stumble in the program a couple of times and I’m not proud of that. I’ll definitely go home and work on that to make sure that that doesn’t happen again”, Poje added.

Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue came fourth, although they were ranked third in both short and free dance with strong performances. They made no mistakes and had very good levels. “This whole competition in general has been an experience and a welcome part of our journey. We’ve worked really hard this season to change all that we felt were our weaknesses, build on our strengths and really identify who we are as a team. I think that this is just the tip of the iceberg, really. We’re finally becoming comfortable and understanding who we are as a team. Yesterday really affirmed that. I think we pushed ourselves out of what our program has been and into what it could be. For the free today, I think we did a great job of communicating with each other physically. In the program we really relied on our training, on our partnership and who we are as a team. It wasn’t our most powerful performance, but we learned a lot from it”, Donohue commented.

Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier put out two solid performances of their extravagant programs and came fifth.

We’re really glad that we were able to do two clean performances. We’re fairly happy with the skate. There things we should improve on before Worlds definitely. We can just congratulate ourselves for a good job and move on”, Poirier said. The Canadians were not distracted by the music starting too early (before their names were announced) in the free dance. “You have to put these things behind you. We laughed a little bit and we got right back into competition mode. That’s all you can do. These things do happen. I think an important part of being a good competitor is to ignore those things and get your job done”, Paul said.

Their teammates Elisabeth Paradis/ Francois-Xavier Ouellette had bad luck when in the middle of their free dance her top came lose and they had to stop to attach it back. However, the music is not stopped in this case and they had to continue. The team from Montreal had left out the spin to deal with the costume failure, but they were smart enough to just throw it in at the end, instead of the choreographic lift. Although the French-Canadians received a deduction of three points for “interruption in excess”, they still had a seasons best. In the short dance, they achieved the minimum score for Worlds and now can go to Boston. “My top is attached with a clip and a button, and I suddenly felt that the clip was gone and I only had the button to hold the costume. I was worried, because I knew the whole top would come off and then it came lose. We had to improvise in the program. We missed the spin because of the interruption and during the diagonal sequence we talked to each other and decided to put it right at the end”, Paradis explained.

Kana Muramoto/Chris Reed in their first season as a team continued to progress and finished a respectable 7 th . Yura Min/Alexander Gamelin of Korea are another new team that only has been skating together since last spring. They surprisingly were the best of the three Korean teams, especially since the National Champions Rebeka Kim/Kirill Minov had a rough skate in the short dance.

Sui/Han jump with two quads to gold

The much anticipated duel between2015 World Champions Meagan Duhamel/Eric Radford and World silver medalists Wenjing Sui/ Cong Han failed to happen as Duhamel fell sick with a stomach flu. The Canadians still competed in the short program, but Meagan looked definitely ill and it was for sure the right decision to withdraw before the free.

So it was a clear win for Sui/Han, but they risked all they had. The short to “Spanish Romance” was precise and clean. In the long to „Samson and Dalilah“, the Chinese couple produced a quad twist and quad throw Salchow, but Sui missed the side by side triple Salchow and touched down on the throw triple flip. “We’re actually not very happy with our performance today. We didn’t have systematic training coming into this. My partner fell on a throw jump which hurt her and she got sick with the flu. When she fell, she hurt her head and can’t see well with her left eye. Once we got to Taipei we adapted quickly to the weather and the atmosphere and we recovered. However, I think that we only showed 50 percent of our level. We didn’t get the high levels a usual and we had problems with the side by side jump. We hope we can prepare well for Boston”, Han told the press.

It was the third Four Continents title for Sui/Han, the first time they won in 2012 in Colorado Springs, then in 2014 in Taipei as well. “The first time we were still very young and energetic. I remember it was in Colorado in high altitude and we were exhausted after our skate. But we felt excited about winning the title. The second time, we had changed coaches. Because it was in the Olympic season many top teams hadn’t come and the field wasn’t very competitive. At that time we felt the competition was against ourselves. We didn’t make the Olympic team and despite we won the title for the second time we had some regrets about that. For the third time now I think we’ve become more mature skaters and have grown a lot. We have experienced many things. Now we feel confident, capable and well prepared coming into this championship”, Han shared.

Alexa Scimeca/Chris Knierim improved a lot over their rough performance in the Grand Prix Final over U.S. Nationals where they had lost their title to Tarah Kayne/Daniel O’Shea. In the short he touched the ice on the side by side triple Salchow while she landed the throw triple flip on two fee, but the long was the best they ever skated. It was clean and highlighted by a huge quad twist that merited even a level four. The Americans scored 140.35 points for their free and broke through into the world elite of pairs with this performance. They moved up from third place after the short to take the silver medal. “We are thrilled. This is our career-best performance by far. When we arrived it was sort of like redemption for us because two years ago we didn’t skate very well here. We wanted to get on the ice and skate better and we did. This is a great way to head into the World Championships. It’s very motivating and it gave us a lot of self-confidence. We’re looking forward to the future”, Scimeca said.

Xiaoyu Yu/Yang Jin claimed the bronze in their debut at Four Continents, but they were not in top shape. Yu fell on the triple toe in the short and on the throw triple loop in the long. The two-time World Junior Champions did not risk the quad throw Salchow and overall looked a bit slow. “We participated for the first time in Four Continents and we’re happy with the bronze, but we’re not pleased with the performance. My partner caught a cold with temperature and before the National Winter Games she hurt her leg. So for two month we didn’t have systematic training and coming here we were not in a good condition”, Jin commented.

Kayne/O’Shea also had to overcome some health issues. Kayne fell sick like Duhamel, just a little later. She missed the side by side toe in the short and fell on the throw triple Lutz in the long. The U.S. Champions nevertheless finished fourth. “It’s been rough for Tarah this week because she’s been dealing with a little bit of sickness. We decided that we were going to go for it because she’s a fighter. I think she’s proven that time and time again. We went out there and we took it one element at a time. We were really trying to focus on our breathing. It was a program focusing on each thing as it came and I think she did an amazing job. I’m really proud of her”, O’Shea said. “I have a viral infection. We did one practice yesterday and I was able to do all the elements, which was the goal. I figured it wouldn’t be fair to my partner if I gave up and he wasn’t given the chance to skate the free program. I tried my best to get through the program and just believed in all the work we’ve put in so far this season. It wasn’t our best performance, but I think we stayed together through the whole thing”, Kayne added.

Lubov Iliushechkina/Dylan Moscovich of Canada ranked fifth. Iliushechkina had some problems with the solo jumps, but the team showed off nice lifts. “We fought hard through that. It was definitely a disappointing program in some aspects for us. I think we really made a big improvement at Nationals and we’ve been training and skating much better even since then. Our practices here have been great. It’s a little disappointing to not have delivered what we were ready to do what we are capable of doing and came here to do, but there are some good things in there. We’re definitely going to take the good things we did here home and keep building them, leave the negative stuff here and just get ready for Worlds. The key with any competition, any sport is to be able to be in the moment and not add more than you need to and just be confident, trust your training and trust your body and your mind. I think that is the hardest part of competing and also the easiest part once you find it. I think everything is in place for us in terms of preparation”, Moscovitch explained.

Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) placed sixth. They both struggled with the side by side triple Salchow and had a weird fall in the long when she crashed after he caught her on the twist. “We’ve been a little off on it (the twist) all week, so we were really pushing hard to get that clean catch. We did it in the program and I wasn’t expecting it, so when he got me I just went back a little bit. It happens occasionally, I just didn’t expect it to happen in that moment. I think we recovered from it really well. Mistakes happen”, Castelli said.

The Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea was represented for the first time at Four Continents with pair skaters Tae Ok Ryom/Ju Sik Kim. The championship was only their second international competition, but they skated well. Their programs are a bit old fashioned, but the elements were solid. They have a side by side triple toe and triple throws. “Our score wasn’t really good, we were hoping for a better score after a lot of training. We are still satisfied with the performance. We’re here to learn and to compete with others and that is more important to us than the result”, Kim shared. He also said that they have many other pair skaters at home and that they hope they’ll get to Worlds. The team has the technical minimum score.

Originally written for Ice Skating International by our writer.