Figure skaters perform to packed crowds at Gangneung Ice Arena
Over one hundred skaters from 14 countries congregated at the Gangneung Ice Arena on 16-19 February to take part in the ISU Four Continents, which doubled up as the figure skating test event for PyeongChang 2018.
The event, which is only open to skaters from outside Europe, included men's and women's singles, pairs and ice dance, and attracted big crowds, with just under a third of spectators travelling from outside the Republic of Korea.
In the men’s singles, the USA’s Nathan Chen held off a challenge by Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. The American champion, who is just 17, was first after the short programme and came second in the free skate for a total of 307.46 points. Hanyu, third after the short programme was first in the free skate for second overall with 303.71 points. Shoma Uno, also of Japan, was third with 288.85.
Chen opened his routine with a quadruple lutz-triple toeloop combination and followed that with four more quadruple jumps in a free skate that received 204.34 points. Meanwhile, Hanyu had four quadruple jumps to top the free skate with 206.67 points.
American Nathan Chen took first place after opening with a quad lutz-triple toeloop combination at the Gangneung Ice Arena and adding a quad flip and a triple axel for 103.12 points.
“This feels great," said Chen. "This is the first [international] championship event that I've won. I had a good lead coming out of the short programme, which really benefited me in the long programme."
Meanwhile Olympic champion Hanyu said he expected the duel between he and Chen would push them to raise the bar at the Olympic Winter Games next year.
"This is my third silver medal at the Four Continents and I enjoyed this one the most," Hanyu said. "I felt the threat posed by Nathan, but he will push me beyond my limit, no doubt abo that.”
Teenager Mihara wins women’s singles
Japan's Mai Mihara, who was making her ISU championships debut, was a surprise winner in the women’s singles. The 17-year-old, who was fourth after the short programme with a score of 66.51, posted her career best score of 134.34 in the free programme, to finish almost four points clear of previous leader Gabrielle Daleman of Canada. Third place went to the USA’s Mirai Nagasu who scored 194.95 after a strong showing in the free programme.
American Mirai Nagasu, who had a personal best of 132.04 in the free skate, was third with 194.95.
"When these moments happen, it's so exciting and so gratifying," Nagusu said. "It just validates my reason for training hard every day, doing programs even when I don't feel like it and getting up when I fall."
Virtue and Moir maintain golden dance streak
2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won the ice dance to maintain their unbeaten season. The Canadians scored 196.95 points, five points clear of second-placed Americans Maia and Alex Shibutani (191.85).
Virtue and Moir, back competing after a two-year hiatus, were thrilled to claim the gold. “What an honour for Tessa and I to be Four Continents champions. It was obviously a goal of ours just to qualify for this event at the beginning of the year,” said Moir. “It was really special for us to be in that venue.”
Wenjing Sui and Cong Han claim pairs title
China's Wenjing Sui and Cong Han won the pairs title, ahead of reigning world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada, with fellow Canadians Liubov Ilyushechkina and Dylan Moscovitch taking bronze.
It was the fourth time the Chinese pair had won the title, but was particularly special as it was their first event of the season following a long lay-off for Sui due to injury.
“First of all, I am lucky to be back,” Sui said. “When we chose the long program, everybody loved it, the coach and (choreographer) Lori (Nichol) loved it,” she continued. “The lyrics describe our experience after the operation. It was such a hard time. My life was very painful and I was crying every day. My partner helped me a lot and encouraged me. He said things will get better and you’ll get back soon.”“It is a big honour for us to have won this title for the fourth time,” added Han. “We got this medal not only for us. We owe it to everyone who is around us and helped us to come back. We were reborn in this championship. There were many challenges that we had to overcome and we are very happy we did that.”