Ice Network

Tapas Grandes: Will Chen go for four quads in free?

Cinquanta makes proposal for audience voting; Zhou reaches milestones
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Nathan Chen has a very ambitious plan laid out for Friday's free skate. -Getty Images

Welcome again!

Imagine yourself entering the giant Barcelona International Convention Centre. It's still the early morning, and the sun has not yet risen. Sitting above the sea, the wide horizon is painted with a purple-to-reddish hue. As you enter the arena, you are welcomed by the kind "Hola!" of the Spanish security officers. All of a sudden, you are greeted by the monumental ending of the first movement of Tchaikovsky's first piano concerto. The arena is nearly empty for the early practice session -- with only a hundred or so Japanese fans in their big coats. The world is yours!

Un trabajo bien hecho

"It was a first, and we've done our best. I hope we've convinced the ISU that we were able to organize a major event," a Spanish federation official said at the conclusion of the 2014 Grand Prix Final.

The ISU took notice, as the decision was made to allot the 2015 Grand Prix Final to Barcelona again this year, a first in the history of the Grand Prix. Up to this hour, each practice session or competition segment has started and ended exactly to the minute it was planned. Hats off to the Spaniards!

The four skating Musketeers

At the end of their practice session Thursday morning, four skaters remained on the ice: Patrick Chan, Boyang Jin, Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernández. They were all standing in the center of the rink, each one at the angle of a rough square. They all bowed to the audience at nearly the same time, as if they were at the king's court in the late 1600s. For sure, the four of them were making a royal offering.

Skating's backpack

"As a coach, you need to plan the future of your athletes. Why do you see young kids beat more senior skaters? Because the older skaters don't progress as fast as skating does," coach Rafael Arutunian reflected. "It's like if you had a backpack that would get heavier and heavier along your path. When your backpack becomes too heavy, you can't carry it anymore, and you have to quit competition. That's what makes the difference: If you have a good backpack, on the contrary, you can skate a very long time and stay on the top. You become a Michelle Kwan or a Evgeni Plushenko. Otherwise, you'll have to take some of the load away, if you want to keep improving."

Ashley Wagner must be a great backpack organizer then: She's always managed to stay at the top -- if not build the top herself!

Skating and reality shows

ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta was wandering the lobby of the Princess Hotel on Wednesday afternoon. He expounded on his idea of expanding the judging of figure skating.

"I'd like it to be evaluated by the audience," Cinquanta said, coming back to an idea he expressed in an editorial in the ISU magazine. "We need to make our judging more modern, not more complex. I need to lead the sport where one, sponsors, two, television, and three, the audience want it to go. I am starting with the audience. I invented the IJS system, but I did not invent it (to be) that complex. In speed skating, for instance, each skater turns so many times around the rink, and that's it! Everybody can understand!"

Seeing the number of different flags in the arena, it remains to be seen how including the audience's opinion would simplify judging, however.

A quadruple quad...

A rumor was going strong in Barcelona these last few days, as Nathan Chen suggested that he might attempt four quads in his free program.

"It would be two sal(chows) and two toes," Chen explained. "After practice tomorrow (Friday), I'll see which layout I decide to do."

…and a quad spiral

In the warmup for the second group of junior pairs, two teams gave an ephemeral show: Ukraine's Renata Oganesian and Mark Bardei, and Russia's Amina Atakhanova and Ilia Spiridonov both entered into their death spirals at the same time. They were skating close to one another, and the four of them displayed a beautifully synchronized double death spiral -- a feat that is hardly seen any more in ice rinks, although it can be so beautiful!

A brilliant present

Team USA's Vincent Zhou reached two important milestones in Thursday night's junior men's short program. For one, he landed his first triple axel in competition (in a short program). Second, he earned 70.48 points for his program.

"Breaking the 70-point barrier in the short program is quite a milestone," his coach, Tom Zakrajsek, emphasized to journalists and ISU volunteers in the mixed zone.

"That's a nice birthday present, right?" a volunteer suggested.

The skater and coach erupted in laughter.

"Yes it is! I didn't ask (for it), though…" added Zakrajsek, who celebrated his 52nd birthday on Thursday.