Denis Ten knew he wasn’t in his best condition when he contested the Four Continents championship in Seoul on Valentine’s Day, exactly one year after his Sochi Olympic medal-winning effort.
What’s he going to do when he is in top shape?
The 21-year-old from Kazakhstan gave a drubbing to all competitors when he won the men’s event with 289.46 points, a stratospheric mark, third highest mark ever awarded to a men’s competitor in front of international judges, behind only Patrick Chan and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
His winning free skate score of 191.85 was higher than Denis Margalik’s total score, which placed him 16th at this event. It was 16.13 points higher than second-placed Joshua Farris. His total score was 29.45 points higher than Farris’s silver medal- winning effort. There don’t seem to be enough superlatives to explain Denis Ten at this event. He even extracted a couple of 10s for component marks (performance and execution and choreography). He’s the only male to get a 10. Clearly, the judges at this event were placing Ten in a very special category.
Ten chalked up the marks by landing two quads, one in combination with a triple toe loop, both with great ease. His solo quad, worth 12.30 points, earned the highest score for a single element in the men’s event. He did put a foot down on a triple Axel – double toe loop combo, but judges didn’t seem to mind because he actually gained .29 bonus points from it. Only two of the nine judges gave him a minus. He turned out of his next triple Axel, but he still lost only 1.14 points for that.
He was so relaxed, he managed an impish grin just before he started some moves in the field. And the jumps kept coming. As soon as he finished, people were standing and Ten was collapsed onto the ice, his head in his arms.
Ten later said that final embracing of the ice was a way for him to say thanks to all of his supporters in the rink, who carried him along. Really, he just looked exhausted. He said he wanted to do his best. After all, in five previous attempts at the Four Continents, Ten had never so much as won a medal. Now he had gold, in a most emphatic, gauntlet-throwing-down kind of way.
It was fitting that this wild, big win came in South Korea, because Ten’s heritage is Korean. He feels close to Korea, he said, (and good thing that the next Winter Olympics will take place in South Korea.) “I feel like I am in my home city,” he said.
In a post-competition interview, Ten was clever enough to push all the right promotional buttons, to talking about the pretty Korean girls he saw in the audience as he skated by, and to mentioning Yu Na Kim, which got a whoop from the audience. And he knew it would. (He has taken part in her All That Skate shows in Korea.) The kid wasn’t born yesterday.
Ten wasn’t the only revelation in the men’s event. Joshua Farris picked himself up from the basement of his career after a dismal international season, in which he finished last in both the short and long programs at NHK Trophy, an effort that earned him only 111.53 points for his free skate. No wonder Farris was in disbelief when his free program marks came up: 175.72. Do the math and that means he exceeded his previous season’s best effort by 64.19 points. And then came the total mark: 260.01. Way beyond expectations. Clearly, he has technical abilities – his quad wasn’t far off, and he’s been injecting it into the program longer than Jason Brown. Interesting note? Farris’ sole triple Axel was worth more points than Ten’s triple Axel combo. Judges loved Farris’s step sequence, where he maxed out points. And Farris was able to even almost double the points from a choreographed sequence.
The coolest part? Farris’s artistic sensibilities come from within. The acid test of how special a performance his Schindler’s List routine was? Among those giving him a standing ovation were other skaters, watching in the rink. At the U.S. championships, Farris gave a hint of all this when he was a surprise bronze medalist. At Four Continents, he showed it to the world.
This time, Farris got the measure of Jason Brown, who has been flying high since last season, what with his stunning effort at the 2014 U.S. nationals. Farris and Brown have been two kids riding in the same bumper car since they were 10. Farris is 22 days younger than Brown. When Farris won the world junior championship in 2013, he defeated Brown. Then the following year, Farris took a back seat to his ponytailed friend, while he sorted himself out. Now, it appears to be Farris’s turn. He’s still only 20.
Brown finished sixth after he did lots of stuff(no quad). His spins were generally awesome, his footwork got level fours. But in the end, Farris defeated him by 16.80 points. Watch for the American bandwagon to shift.
Chinese skater Han Yan dialed in “Fly Me To the Moon,’’ to win the bronze medal with 259.47 points – and Yan says he hasn’t reached his full potential yet. He’s 18. He has a powerful look to him and does the biggest, longest triple Axel in the business. He may also be the most expressive men’s singles skater to come out of China.
Yan actually finished fourth in the free skate after having turned out of his quad toe loop, and was defeated by Daisuke Murakami of Japan, who landed two quads, delivered lots of goods (he didn’t experience a single negative GOE for any element) and collapsed on the ice when he finished, with 256.47 points for fourth place overall.
Shoma Uno, the 16-year-old sensation of the short program, crumbled under the pressure and finished fifth overall. Takahito Mura, the veteran of this team, made too many mistakes to finish seventh overall.
Canada’s champion Nam Nguyen roared back to finish eighth in the free skate, although he clearly underrotated his quad Salchow and earned only 2.10 points out of it. There were more troubles with his triple flip combo, but as Nguyen does, he pulled things together to finish 11th overall (209.33 points), tops among Canadian men.
Jeremy Ten was 12th after taking stumbling out of his quad (which really became a triple toe loop), falling out of a triple Axel, and flipping out of a triple flip. Canadian bronze medalist Liam Firus fell hard on his opening triple Axel, and again on another one, and singled a double Axel later. Firus finished 14th with 199.81 points.