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Fernandez wins Spain's first-ever Grand Prix gold

Orser protégé rebounds from fall on first quad; Philosophical Chan settles for silver

Javier Fernández is in uncharted territory for Spanish skaters.
Javier Fernández is in uncharted territory for Spanish skaters. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(10/27/2012) - When Javier Fernández fell hard on the opening quad toe in his free skate, all hopes of defeating Patrick Chan for Skate Canada gold might have vanished.

Another time, the personable Spaniard might have backed off the rest of his jumps, become too tired, or distracted, to buckle down and fight.

No more.

"What ran through my mind, I'm not going to say, because it was too strong," Fernández said. "I got so scared; I really got really scared. But then I just opened my eyes and thought, 'What am I doing? I have to do my next jump.' So I just got up from my fall and continued with my program."

That fall was the first, and last, mistake Fernández made Saturday night at Skate Canada. His program, choreographed by David Wilson to a Charlie Chaplin medley, was a minefield: quad Salchow, quad toe combination, triple flip-triple Salchow sequence. Fernández conquered them all, and also conjured up some of Chaplin's charm and pathos in his steps and choreographed sequence.

"I know no skaters are going to let me win. They are going to fight, and I have to fight," Fernández said. "I have to keep working."

Fernández fought his way to 168.07 points, a new personal best, and finished with 253.94, another new high.

When the Spaniard arrived in Toronto in the spring of 2011 to be coached by Brian Orser, he didn't like to do run-throughs and didn't always embrace a tough practice regimen.

"He's been training much better this year, and that was evident," Orser said. "Even after missing the first quad, he pulled it together. This is the strongest I've ever seen him. Usually at the three-minute mark the wheels start to fall off, but he kept it strong right through. That's been our goal, and it proves the training is working, and now he gets it, too."

Fernández' new work ethic was bad news for Chan, who was able to defeat the Spaniard at Skate Canada last season despite losing the short program to him.

Canada's two-time world champion skated a far better free to La Boheme than he did at the Japan Open early this month, but several jumping mistakes -- he turned out of his second quad toe and second triple Lutz, and fell on an under-rotated triple Axel -- likely cost him the title here. He settled for silver after earning 160.91 for his free and 243.43 overall.

Chan turned philosophical in his press conference, comparing his situation to that of professional surfer Kelly Slater.

"He's an 11-time world champion in surfing, but he lost this year, so you got to win some, you got to lose some," he said. "I learned a lot from this competition. Whether I won a gold medal, silver medal or bronze medal didn't really matter. I checked off my list of things that I had been worried about in the program; the jumps, the patterns -- all of those things I was able to check off and put behind me, so that the rest of the season can be about going out and having fun and performing."

Chan had an unsettled off-season, parting company with coach Christy Krall and turning to modern dance expert Kathy Johnson as his primary coach. He appeared vulnerable in Japan, and even as recently as yesterday said he was intimidated by the competition at this event.

But on Saturday night, he fairly beamed at reporters.

"This time, I felt comfortable in my skin as opposed to the Japan Open; I felt comfortable skating in front of the judges, looking them in the eyes and just playing with them, performing," he said. "That's what we do as figure skaters: We perform with, I guess, some acrobatics."

Japan's Nobunari Oda, who won the Nebelhorn Trophy in September, continued his comeback from the knee injury that kept him out of competition for a good part of last season. The 25-year-old from Osaka delivered an inspired skate to Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice, opening with a quad toe and landing seven triples, including a triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe combination. He also gained Level 4s on his steps and spins.

Oda earned 156.20 points and won bronze with 238.34.

"I am really happy to be here; even though I did a few mistakes in my free program, I'm still happy with a medal," Oda said, later adding that he doesn't plan any big changes for his next Grand Prix event, the Rostelecom Cup.

"I am very satisfied with my steps and spins, and those elements will not change," he said. "I can think about changing some jumping elements, but I don't think I will be adding a second quad."

U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner had the fourth-best free skate of the night, to Korngold's theme to the 1935 Errol Flynn film Captain Blood, music used by Dorothy Hamill to win the 1976 Olympics.

The Boston skater doubled his opening quad Salchow attempt, but went on to skate a regal, polished program including two solid triple Axels and a triple Lutz-triple Salchow sequence.

He earned 144.19 points for the free and finished in fifth place with 213.60.

"I felt the stuff I did was very solid, and I was really happy I stayed in character throughout the whole performance," Miner said. "It's a really good program for me, and I can really develop it.

"Obviously, doing all of the jumps will get me a lot more points."