LONDON, Ontario — Patrick Chan didn’t give his fellow Canadians the flawless performance he had hoped, stumbling uncharacteristically on three fairly routine jumps after opening with a beautifully rendered quadruple toe-triple toe combination.
But the signature elegance with which Chan skated throughout Friday’s free skate at the 2013 World Championships, combined with an ethereal short program earlier in the week, delivered Chan, 22, a third consecutive world title and turned London, Ontario’s Budweiser Centre into a Canadian flag-waving, cowbell-clanging, shrieking celebration of national pride.
Denis Ten, a largely unheralded teenager from Kazakhstan, was the surprise silver-medalist. Ten, 19, turned in the performance of his young life, mirroring the bye-gone charm of his music, from the silent film, “The Artist,” at every spin, clever step and well executed jump.
For the two American men in contention, the night delivered mixed results. Reigning U.S. national champion Max Aaron acquitted himself well in his World Championship debut despite a run-in with the wall during his program, set to the rumble scene from “West Side Story.” But the former junior hockey player caromed off and stayed upright, as any Shark or Jet surely would, and ended solidly enough to finish seventh overall.
“I like to use the entire ice sheet. I have it! Why not use it all!” Aaron, 21, joked afterward, conceding that his figure-skating style was “maybe a little rough around the edges and aggressive.”
U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, 22, had a disastrous long program and ended up 14th.
Combined with Aaron’s seventh, the American men’s placement totaled 21—well over the 13 points needed to earn a third spot for U.S. men at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Taking bronze was Javier Fernandez of Spain (249.06), the only podium finisher credited with two quadruple jumps — an opening quad toe and a quad salchow midway through the program.
Chan, who appeared to have squandered any hope of a third world title after the missteps in his program, showered the audience with thanks even as bouquets rained down on him.
“I think the audience saved me, really,” said Chan, who then addressed the crowd during his post-competition interview. “Thank you so much! I’m sorry I didn’t get to do a good program.”
Skating to Puccini’s La Boheme, Chan, who had won gold or silver in the last four World Championships, opened with a beautiful quad toe-triple toe combination, followed by another quad toe. But he fell on his next jump, a less challenging triple lutz, fell once again and stepped out of another. His gold-medal winning score was 267.78.
While the U.S. men will vie for just two spots at the upcoming Sochi Olympics, the U.S. women are well positioned to reclaim a third spot in Saturday’s free skate. Like the men, U.S. Champion Ashley Wagner, a West Potomac graduate, and U.S. silver medalist Gracie Gold, must finish with a combined placement of 13 or less.
They’re tantalizingly close, scored fifth and ninth, respectively, for their short programs on Thursday.
Among those rooting them on is 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski.
“We have so many great skaters from the U.S., we should have that third spot!” Lipinksi said in a telephone interview, “but I think it’s very important for the up-and-comers, too — the skaters we don’t know about yet.”
Lipinski cited her own experience, finishing third at U.S. Championship at age 13 to quality for the World Championships, which she won the following year.
“Everyone tries to predict what’s going to happen, but every skater’s career is so different,” notes Lipinski, 30. “Things can happen with luck and chance and timing. Having that third spot might give someone we don’t even know her career.”
David Raith, executive director of U.S. Figure Skating, concedes that sending three athletes to the upcoming Sochi Games in each discipline would be ideal. But Raith insists that three Olympic spots isn’t the “end all,” suggesting that too much is being made of it as a measure of U.S. Figure Skating’s success.
“Only one can be on the top of the podium; you can’t have three on the top of the podium,” Raith notes.
But Audrey Weisiger, who coached two-time world bronze medalist Michael Weiss, finds the loss of that third spot discouraging.
“It offers more opportunity for skaters in this country,” said Weisiger, based at the Fairfax Ice Arena. “We have thousands and thousands of skaters, and they get weeded out.”
Regaining a third Olympic spot would also elevate the visibility of U.S. figure skating, Weisiger believes, and inspire more youngsters to try the sport, strengthening the pipeline for future Olympians in the process.
“It’s helpful when our skaters are regarded as bring the best in the world,” Weisiger said. “In any sport, if you can show some global dominance and power, then there is a pride.”
Skating note: Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won gold in pairs; Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took silver, and Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took bronze. Americans Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim finished ninth, and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir were 13th.