The Four Continents Championships should have been a chance to get a final look at some the big names heading to worlds. But it seems the Osaka event has only increased the number of skaters vying for the big prize in March. Kevin Reynolds
, Canada's national silver medallist, jumped into the mix in a big way by winning the Four Continents men's title against some very stiff competition. Reynolds beat both Yuzuru Hanyu and Daisuke Takahashi on home turf.
Hanyu has beaten both two-time world champion Patrick Chan and also former world champion Daisuke Takahashi. Reynolds has now beaten them both. Clearly it's not that simple to assume that beating somebody once means they're beaten for good but what it does mean is that it can happen again.
When I was watching Kevin at the Canadian championships, I was struck by two things: 1.
He had continued to improve his overall performance quality dramatically 2.
Reynolds had been undervalued in some respects.
I felt it was just a matter of time for him to hit the big times. Given the calibre of competition in Osaka and Reynolds' 6th place finish in the short, I didn't think it would be now.
Skating a near-flawless free program that included three quads, Reynolds won the free and catapulted from sixth into first place overall.
Yuzuru Hanyu won the short program but finished in second overall. Han Yan, the 2012 World Junior Champion from China, continues to impress and took the Four Continents' bronze in his senior debut.
In watching the men's competition at U.S. Nationals, I wondered if newly-crowned champion Max Aaron would be a one hit wonder. He seems to be a free program skater and I am mentioning him here because on the strength of a second place free program he moved from 10th to finish in fourth place overall.Mao still undefeated
My pick for women's gold in Osaka was Canadian champion Kaetlyn Osmond based on the strength of three consecutive outstanding outings so far this season. This competition was not to be for Osmond and she finished in seventh.
The other woman who has been undefeated this season is Japan's Mao Asada who picked up a third Four Continents' title. Asada is a gorgeous skater who seems to be back on track after a couple of bumpy seasons where she patiently worked on taking apart her jump technique and putting it back together again. Her overall total score of 205.45 becomes the third highest personal best score ever, only .05 behind the next closest score ... which Asada also earned at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Asada was joined on the podium by team mates Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami who finished in second and third respectively.
To me, the pairs event was going to be a coin toss between Canada's two strongest teams; current and two-time national champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and former Canadian champions Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch. Ultimately Duhamel and Radford were able to capitalize on their lead after the short program to take the title earning personal best scores in the short, free and overall totals along the way.
Fellow Canadians Moore-Towers and Moscovitch won the free program and also earned personal best scores across the board on their way to their silver medal.
First-time American champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir followed up their national title with a first trip on to the Four Continents' podium as bronze medallists.
Virtue & Moir fall to rivals
Canadian two-time and defending World champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were able to capture a tiny lead after the short dance only to come second in the free and second overall.
Part of the problem was the interruption in the program when Virtue and Moir stopped about three quarters of the way through their program. Virtue had started experiencing leg cramps. After consulting with coach Marina Zoueva, they continued and finished the program.
Virtue and Moir were the defending Four Continents' champions but lost this time to closest rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White from the United States.
It is true that this is maybe the closest of all rivalries ever in the world of skating. It is also true in my opinion that the two teams have equally superb short dances where the result could go either way. It is also true that these two teams are among the best ice dancers who have ever skated.
Davis and White have a superb track record and recently won the Grand Prix Final against Virtue and Moir. This becomes their third Four Continents' title and sets them up to try and regain their world title in March in London, Ontario.
I know I am going to rattle some cages when I say this, but what mystifies me are Davis and White taking the free dance across both technical and program component aspects of the scores, with the exception of the choreography score.
I could see on any given day the Technical Element Scores as going either way. In my opinion there should not be an occasion where Davis and White's choreography score for example in the free dance is ahead of Virtue and Moir's this year.
I can rationalize all the other program component scores and technical element scores if I have to when comparing the programs skated on the day but not choreography.
Regardless of the result, the difference between Virtue and Moir's Carmen
and Davis and White's Notre Dame
programs are like comparing a fine old cheddar cheese to Kraft slices. Both are yummy. Both have their place. But one is definitely finer than the other.
Before people start lobbing rotten tomatoes at me, I am talking about the Virtue and Moir and Davis and White free dance programs this year and not about the quality of the skaters. Both teams are worthy champions on any given day and as closely matched as any skaters can be.
Now, if we had a season pitting this season's Virtue and Moir Carmen
against last year's Die Fledermaus
from Davis and White; that would be two brilliant programs going head to head and something to see.
A girl can dream.
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