COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – Patrick Chan has developed a short memory when it comes to miscues.
Shaking off a poor morning practice session, the world champion from Canada nailed his program Friday night in the men’s free skate to win the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. Chan, also the 2009 winner, had a season-best 185.99 points to take the title with 273.94 points.
“This whole week was a big test for me,” Chan said. “It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t like I just walked in and thought I was going to have it in the bag. Coming into the long (program), I was very unsure and very nervous – more nervous than I’ve been in this past year and a half.
“But with the program, I just went with the flow. I knew that, if I just let things go, it would happen the way I wanted it to.”
Earlier, two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan won the women’s short program.
Chan easily outdistanced Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, the Vancouver Olympics bronze medalist and defending Four Continents champion. Takahashi earned 161.74 points in the free skate and 244.33 overall.
Takahashi was unable to stick to his program, turning a triple axel into a double early in his routine, but was still pleased with his showing.
“I missed two jumps, and my performance was not so good, but I am still happy,” Takahashi said. “Overall, my performance (for the competition) was not bad, but I have many points to improve. I just need to continue to practice and work hard.”
Chan spent the afternoon trying to settle his nerves by walking around downtown Colorado Springs – the city where he trains – and the regrouping session paid off.
“During that whole time, I was just scared, nervous and was having doubts,” Chan said about his pre-performance walk. “But I got here, did what I needed to do and got to the 6-minute warmup and felt great. Just the environment and the energy felt good, and I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.”
A morning practice full of miscues could have derailed the 21-year-old star, but he rose to the challenge in the free skate.
“This week, I learned a lot about not getting hung up on little things from practice or on feelings from off the ice,” Chan said. “This morning’s practice was great for me, actually. I think I needed the mistakes to kind of wake me up, get me back on my feet and remind myself that this is not a walk in the park.”
Chan remained focused not only on the Four Continents event, but also where the 14-year-old competition fell in his long-term plans.
“I think some of my success comes from not taking things for granted and taking each competition seriously,” he said. “For me, this is still a building step to the Sochi Olympics.”
American Ross Miner, the 2012 U.S. bronze medalist, survived a fall in the free skate to post a season-best 146.34-point score and earn the bronze with 223.23 points. He narrowly edged fellow American Adam Rippon, the 2012 U.S. silver medalist and 2010 Four Continents champion, for a spot on the medal stand. Rippon had a season-best 146.63-point score to finish at 221.55.
“The goal for me coming in was for a new season’s best,” said Miner, who will sit out next month’s World Championships because the United States can only send two skaters to the event in Nice, France. “(Medaling) was just the cherry on the top, the icing on the cake. It wasn’t actually my best performance, but my run-through and my coach running around and trying to murder me obviously paid off.”
Rippon felt good about his performance, which came just 10 days after the U.S. Championships.
“I told myself that I was well-trained and I worked really hard for nationals, and I just really wanted to keep that momentum going,” Rippon said. “This wasn’t as strong, but I don’t really think I showed much weakness or letdown from nationals.”
In the women’s short program, Asada’s 4-minute routine was clean enough to earn a score of 64.25 points, just ahead of 2012 U.S. champion Ashley Wagner at 64.07. Japan’s Kanako Murakami, the 2010 World Junior champion, was third with 63.45 points.
The only hitch to Asada’s program came on her first jump, a triple axel rare for women, which she was unable to land cleanly.
“My performance was good, except the triple axel in the beginning,” Asada, who won the event in 2008 and 2010, said through an interpreter. “I want to take this as a learning experience and skate well tomorrow. My biggest goal of this competition is including the triple axel, and at least I tried it. It wasn’t perfect, but I’m pretty happy to land the triple axel.”
Asada, the 2010 Olympic silver medalist, wasn’t the only member of her team who enjoyed the day. Her coach, figure skating Hall of Famer Nobuo Sato, will be honored by U.S. Figure Skating at the World Arena before the men’s free skate.
Wagner wobbled a bit while landing her first triple flip-double toe loop combination, but still managed her highest short program score in international competition.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Wagner said. “I had a wobbly triple loop in the warmup, so I’m happy I did such a strong one in the performance. I think it’s the best I’ve ever scored internationally, which for me is huge.
“This whole Grand Prix season, in the short program I don’t think I scored higher than 55. So, to up the ante by nine points I don’t think is too shabby.”
American Caroline Zhang couldn’t complete back-to-back triple loops, putting a hand down on the ice on her landing, but still managed a fourth-place finish at 58.74.
“I’m a little disappointed in myself since that’s the first loop-loop I’ve missed in a program this week,” said Zhang, the 2010 Four Continents bronze medalist. “I’ve been doing clean shorts, so that’s disappointing.”
The only other American in the 30-skater field was Agnes Zawadzki, a senior at nearby Cheyenne Mountain High School. Zawadzki, the 2012 national bronze medalist, fell while trying to land a pair of triple toeloops and had to settle for sixth place at 52.87.
“The fall threw me off, but I feel like I regained my mental focus right back,” Zawadzki said. “I did a lot of good things after I fell, and that is always important. The stuff after you fall is what matters. I really showed that and that I’m mentally strong.”
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