Ice Network

Fernández gives Spain first world figure skating title

Hanyu claims silver after suffering fall; Bronze for Ten; Brown places fourth
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Javier Fernández brought Spain its first world figure skating title Saturday, knocking off reigning champion (and training mate) Yuzuru Hanyu. Landing two quads (one in combination) and six triples in his 'Barber of Seville" free skate, Fernández compiled a score of 181.16 for the segment and finished with 273.90 for the competition to take the title by 2.82 points.

Javier Fernández, the likeable Spaniard who combines extraordinary jumping ability with style and musicality, won his country's first world figure skating title Saturday with a charming program to Rossini's Barber of Seville.

"I think I am so lucky, because I come from Spain," the 23-year-old said. "We don't have (a big) skating history. I started to train on a very little ice surface in Madrid, which is a restaurant now."

The second-place free skate, combined with his second-place short program, gave Fernández 273.90 points, some 2.82 points more than his training partner and friend, Yuzuru Hanyu. Denis Ten had the event's best free skate but could not make up a nine-point gap after the short and settled for the bronze medal.

The men's free skate was the highlight of the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai. Thousands of spectators, especially those from China and Japan, screamed whenever their favorite skaters were visible on the ice, or shown warming up or cooling down out of the rink.  

Hundreds of fans waved flags from different countries; many brought large bags to hold several different flags for all of their favorites. They threw hundreds of stuffed animals and other presents on the ice, sending young local skaters scrambling to clear the surface. They clapped long and loud.

Fernández showed humor and energy in his free, opening with an excellent quadruple toe loop, followed by a fall on his first quad Salchow. After a triple Axel, he performed a second quad Salchow, in combination with a double toe loop. Five triple jumps and three good spins followed. His program components averaged about 8.9 and included two marks of 9.75. 

"This gold medal exceeds my highest dreams -- it helps me to stay motivated and to keep competing for the next few years," Fernández said. "I was a bit afraid before my first quad Salchow, but then I told myself, 'Let's attack it.' Then, the rest of the program [was] easier."

The skater's popularity -- no doubt aided by his good looks and outgoing personality -- has spurred interest in figure skating in Spain, a country with little previous international success in the sport.

"I am trying to help this sport grow in my country," he said. "The Grand Prix Final (held in Barcelona) last December helped a lot to bring more interest for skating. And you see now we have the final again in Barcelona (next season)."

Fernández trains at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where he is coached by two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser. Hanyu, the Japanese Olympic champion, and Canadian champion Nam Nguyen also train under Orser.

"One of the reasons for my and Yuzuru's success is the good atmosphere in our club in Toronto," Fernández said. "Brian, for me, is not only coach but also kind of a father and friend."     

Hanyu, who led after the short, won the silver medal with 271.08 points. He has almost recovered from his abdominal surgery in late December but said that after restarting practice in February, he sprained his ankle. Therefore, he had to wait another two weeks to resume full training. This week in Shanghai during practice, he often missed his quads and triple Axels.

Skating to music from Phantom of the Opera, Hanyu doubled his first Salchow, which was planned as a quad, and fell on his next jump, a quad toe loop. The remaining eight triple jumps in his program were solid, and his spins -- including one that featured the Biellmann position -- were excellent. 

"As I had a few mistakes, I feel very regretful," Hanyu said. "The crowd reaction was excellent, and I felt as if I was skating at home."

Hanyu, who skated immediately before Fernández, cheered the Spaniard on from the kiss and cry.

"I am really happy that my training mate, Javier, won the title," he said. "He always supports me, and I know how he felt when he didn't win over me a few times. Now, finally, he wins."

Ten, who hails from Kazakhstan but spends much of the year training in Southern California under Frank Carroll, skated to exquisite choreography by Lori Nichol. He stepped out of the opening quad toe loop and later a triple Axel, but a quad toe-triple toe combination was excellent, as were five other triple jumps.

His winning free skate was appreciated by the public as well as the judges, who awarded components averaging around 8.8, including a perfect 10 for interpretation.

"I am pleased that it was better than (my short) yesterday, but still, I had some mistakes," Ten said. "So, it does not make me feel better, because I wanted to finish this season on a high note -- but it was not great."  

Jason Brown finished an excellent fourth, but without a quad, the U.S. champion was still 19 points away from a medal.

Skating to Tristan and Isolde by Maxime Rodriguez, Brown began his program with a clean triple Axel-double toe loop. Six other triple jumps and a downgraded second triple Axel followed. As his natural body flexibility makes difficult movements possible, he was awarded a perfect 10 for transitions by one judge. On average, his program component scores were about 8.5.     

"I feel great. I wish that second Axel could have been a little better," Brown said. "I'm so proud that the U.S. men have three spots going into worlds next year in Boston. It's crazy to be fourth in the world. I couldn't ask for anything more right now. I skated the best that I could in those moments."

Canadian champion Nam Nguyen, just 16, had the free skate of his young life, finishing fourth in that segment and fifth overall with 242.59 points. He landed a flawless quad Salchow (1.57 Grade of Execution) and eight clean triple jumps, and he entertained the public with his interpretation of the soundtrack from La Strada.

Misha Ge of Uzbekistan, who splits his training between China and California, placed a career-high sixth with 234.89 points after a clean program that included eight triple jumps, but no quad. Russia's Maxim Kovtun moved up from 16th after the short to seventh overall after landing two excellent quad Salchows.

U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon was eighth with 229.71 points. He did not fulfill his dream of being the first skater to perform a clean quad Lutz at the world championships, as he doubled his attempt. Six of his seven triple jumps -- including two triple Axels -- were clean, and his closing combination spin was outstanding.

"It definitely wasn't my best today. I had a few troubles with the jumps, but after my short program, I wanted give a nice long program performance," Rippon said. "I felt free out there. Maybe a little bit too free, making that mistake on the quad. I never gave up throughout the program. Coming away, I'm happy to be in the top 10."

Brown's fourth and Rippon's eighth place means the U.S. will bring three men to the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

Joshua Farris, third at the 2015 U.S. Championships, finished 11th with 223.04 points. After a great triple Axel, he fell hard on his quad toe loop, but recovered with five clean triple jumps. His interpretation of music from Schindler's List was captivating, but overall, he was not at his best in Shanghai.  

"After I skated my short program, I talked to my coaches Christy [Krall] and Damon [Allen] on the bus," Farris said. "Christy sat next to me, and I starting crying a little bit. She shared some incredible words of wisdom and really helped me prepare for today." 

Shanghai slings: Hanyu was one of five men who used music from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera for his free skate. ... Europe rising: In the ladies, men's and dance events, the reigning European champion also became the world champion. ... A total of about 120,000 spectators attended the event during the four days of competition and the exhibition gala Sunday.