Motivated by new family, Oda wins short
Reynolds makes history while Chan falters
|Family man Nobunari Oda says his wife and new baby have encouraged him to do better on the ice. (Paul Harvath)|
The Japanese silver medalist, who placed a disastrous 28th at the 2010 world championships, rebounded with a solid, speedy short to the exotic "Storm" by Yoshida Brothers to take first place with 81.37 points.
Kevin Reynolds, who made history by taking advantage of new ISU rules and becoming the first skater to hit two quads in a short, sits second with 80.09. Adam Rippon overcame a frightening practice collision with Patrick Chan to skate a clean program, good enough for 77.53 points and third place.
Oda, who won both of his Grand Prix events last season, married this spring, and he and his wife welcomed son Shintaro earlier this month. While the skater traveled back to Japan for his son's birth, he soon returned to Barrie, Ontario, and coach Lee Barkell.
"Every time you mention Shintaro's name, his face just lights up," Barkell said. "He's definitely skating with renewed confidence."
Friday night, Oda was crisp and clean, hitting a triple Axel; triple flip-triple toe; and triple Lutz. The highlights of his program were three spiffy Level 4 spins, particularly a forward camel that drew cheers from the knowledgeable Canadian crowd.
"I did a good job with my jumps, spins and steps, but of course, I can still work more," Oda said.
"I was really upset after worlds, and I just wanted to practice more and more, to be more confident. I really have more confidence now."
The skater added that his new family has a lot to do with his renewed outlook.
"My wife supports me a lot back in Japan, and my baby motivates me to be better," he said. "They make me so happy right now."
Barkell said Oda will definitely try a quad-triple in his free skate tomorrow.
"There's no doubt, that's the plan; he's doing it in practice, and it looks good," the coach said.
Reynolds added his name to the record books by opening his program with a quad Salchow-triple toe, followed by a solo quad toe. Although he turned out a triple Axel he did between the quads, the big jumps earned him a combined 24.90 points, and he landed in second place with 80.09.
"I was so excited when I landed the second quad," Reynolds said. "It was a little unexpected. That's the first time I've tried the quad toe in a major competition. I tried it this summer, and it wasn't successful, so I looked on this as a bonus opportunity. I'm absolutely thrilled."
Reynolds is considering trying three quads -- the Salchow, toe and loop -- in his free skate tomorrow.
"I'm about 50-50 on the loop; it will depend on how the practice goes and where I am in the skate order," he said. "If I have to wait [a long time] to skate, then I lose some of that fast twitch I need [to land quads]."
Rippon put out a controlled yet deeply felt performance to Tchaikovski's "Romeo and Juliet," choreographed by David Wilson.
The 2010 Four Continents champion, fifth at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships and sixth at 2010 worlds, opened with a fine triple Axel, a move that has troubled him in practice. He backed it up with a strong triple flip-triple toe and his spectacular "Rippon" Lutz, done with both hands over head.
"I'm very happy with it; it was good for my first short of the season," he said. "I definitely think I have some room for improvement. I think I can continue to work on my speed, the stability of the jumps. I missed a level on the flying camel; I was going for Level 4."
At the early morning practice, Rippon and Chan had a crash that rattled the entire arena.
"I don't know if it was the worst collision I've ever had, but it was definitely the most exciting," Rippon said. "I was doing a walley, Patrick was doing footwork, I think. I was in the air when I heard people screaming; I thought, 'I can't wait to see this.' Two seconds later he was helping me up."
Although Rippon hit the ice with his cheekbone and shoulder, catching some nasty bruises, he said it had no effect on his performance.
"I actually think it helped knock the nerves out of me," he said.
Chan, who has been spot-on with the quad toe in practice here, fell on the jump in his "Take Five" program, although he still picked up 7.30 points for rotating the maneuver.
Things went downhill from there, with the world silver medalist also falling on a triple Axel and taking a tumble on his steps. He ended up fourth with 73.20, some 8.17 points off the lead.
"I have no idea what happened, a combination of everything," Chan said. "When I missed the quad, I started doubting myself. The quad is a big jump; it's important to me. It was lack of experience; now I understand how guys who do it [all the time] feel. It's a learning process. I have no doubt I'll do it tomorrow."
While this morning's collision left Rippon a bit battered, Chan said he was no worse for wear.
"I was a little winded afterwards, that's all," he said. "Adam helped me up, helped me shake it off. I'm shocked he has a bruise on his face; now I'm really sorry about it."
Despite the falls, the judges kept Chan in the hunt for a medal with high program component scores, ranging up to 9.25 for skating skills.
"That shows the importance of [good] practices," he said. "The judges know I can do the program. It shows they want me to do well. That's good to know; it definitely cheered me up a little bit."
American Grant Hochstein fell on his triple Axel attempt, but gained Level 4's on all three of his spins. He sits 12th with 56.98 points.