The Japan Open has often been a cruel rite of passage for Patrick Chan. Not this time.
Early Saturday, Chan won the men’s free skate with a powerful performance that had teammate Jeff Buttle looking pleasantly delighted and shocked in Team North America’s kiss and cry. This team included Chan, Buttle, Mirai Nagasu and Ashley Wagner.
Chan was vintage Chan, as good as he could be, better than he has ever been in early October. He fired off a quad toe-triple toe loop painfully close to the end boards, but he seemed unfazed. Not a problem. Got heavy duty marks for it, a 15.97 to lead him to his final score of 178.17, almost 23 points more than Javier Fernandez of Spain, who had a rocky day and fell once on a quad Salchow.
Of course, rocky days are often de rigeur at this part of the season, so not to worry for future events. Takahito Mura was third at 146.41, while Tomas Verner was fourth, Buttle himself was fifth, and Takahiko Kozuka was fifth.
Little smiling Elena Radionova won the women’s event with 136.46 points, safely ahead of promising Japanese skater Satoko Miyahara with Anna Pogorilaya third, Kanako Murakami fourth, Mirai Nagasu fifth and Ashley Wagner fifth with more bobbles than all of the rubber duckies at the Ripley Fall Fair midway.
This was a rare chance to get a glimpse of Chan’s new program choreographed by David Wilson, and a rare chance to see Chan in competitive mode this season and he passed the test big time. We’ll miss him this year, because he’s taking the season off, although he promises to return next year. For now, the rest of the Canadian crew will be fighting for the national championship title this year.
Half a world away, Roman Sadovsky made a case for himself, too. After a tough go in the men’s short program in a Junior Grand Prix in Dresden, Germany, he came back fighting in the free, finishing second to Russia’s Andrei Lazukin who fired off a triple Axel – triple toe loop to win the free with 133.95 points. Sadovsky had no triple Axel this weekend (although he’s been working on them), but used his superior skills with spins and footwork to finish a breath behind in 132.54.
Sadovsky earned level four on all of his spins and even his footwork sequence, which isn’t easy to do. And he was getting a lot of +2s on the spins. His best point-getting jumps were his triple Lutz – double toe loop and a double Axel – triple toe loop at the end of his program. Sadovsky ended up fourth overall. One boy that he defeated in the free (but not overall) was He Zhang, who landed a mighty quad and had a couple of level four spins, to finish second overall. Sadovsky defeated him by almost four points in the free.
Sadovsky, at age 15, is two years younger than Zhang, who is a veteran of the Junior Grand Prix circuit, having made his debut in 2010. Sadovsky debuted in 2012, and won his first JGP event this year in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
So Sadovsky has big shoes to fill and many steps to go, but Chan is still hovering and mighty and even landed a triple Axel, his nemesis, with ease today, at least enough that a couple of judges awarded him a +2 on it.
Of course, we did not see Olympic/world champion Yuzuru Hanyu compete in his home country; he’s had to withdraw from Finlandia Trophy reportedly with a sore back. His competitive season starts with Cup of China Nov. 7 to 9 and then NHK at the end of the month.
But the next two years will be fascinating, to see how everything plays out. And Chan has dropped a note, indicating that you can’t forget him.