For the first time in history Taipei City, Taiwan played host to the Four Continents Championships. The eclectic city, which is a wonderful mix of ancient and modern, welcomed 93 athletes from 16 nations, many of whom were ready to battle it out for top honors.
Japanese skaters dominated the singles events, claiming the top two podium positions in both the men’s and ladies disciplines. The U.S. team went home with four medals; the Canadians captured three and China one.
Claiming the Four Continents crown was a long time coming for Miki Ando. The Japanese star was on a mission after coming up short at her five previous appearances at the event.
The 23-year-old kicked off her competition by winning the short with a season-high score (65.58), a 10-point leap over her previous best.
Ando’s free skating performance, which included six triples and three level-four spins, ranked as one of the best of her career. She broke the 200-point barrier for the first time with a combined score of 201.34.
“This is good for Worlds and gives me confidence,” Ando said at the post-event press conference. “I feel really comfortable here and I want to come back, not necessarily for skating but to have some fun! I hope they’ll have some competitions or shows here again soon.”
Teammate Mao Asada captured the silver, improving on her season’s best score in the free skate by more than 30 points. The reigning World champion collected 196.30 and later said the result had given her momentum and a good feeling heading into the World Championships.
America’s Mirai Nagasu skated into third, winning the first medal of her career at an international championship. The 17-year-old improved on her previous best score by 20 points (189.46).
“After nationals, I didn’t want to train anymore. I was ready to go back to the drawing board and start a new season,” Nagasu admitted. “I’m glad I was able to put out a good performance at my last competition of the season.”
Rachael Flatt, third after the short, fell to fourth with 180.31 points, and Alissa Czisny landed in fifth (168.81).
After failing to make the podium at the Grand Prix Final and placing third at the national championships in December, Japanese superstar Daiskuke Takahashi was no doubt relieved to claim the Four Continents title in Taipei City, the second of his career. The 25-year-old dynamo acknowledged the victory was a positive step forward in what had been an up and down season.
Takahashi won the short with a season’s best score (83.49), and held a lead of almost seven points heading into the long program.
His free skating performance to Astor Piazzolla’s “Invierño Porteno” did not get off to a good start, with a miss on the opening quadruple toe loop. He went on to land six clean jumping passes and earned a combined total of 244.00 to capture the gold.
“I made several small mistakes including the mistake on the quad,” he said. “I felt tired at the end of the program but I’m pretty happy about the score and the placement.”
Teammate Yuzuru Hanyu, 16, was the surprise silver medalist with 228.01 points. “It seems like I’m in a dream. I can’t believe this happened,” the former World Junior champion said.
Jeremy Abbott, second after the short, fell to third overall with a score of 225.71. “I’m done with this season,” he said. “I can leave here with my head held high.”
Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka was fourth (223.52) and Adam Rippon from the U.S. placed fifth (210.01).
China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the two-time and reigning World champions, claimed their fifth and likely final Four Continents title in a runaway victory.
“We are always happy to win a competition, and to have won this event for the fifth time is truly special to us,” Tong said. “Our next goal is to win the World title again.” The duo scored 199.45 points.
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, third after the short, landed in second overall with 181.79 points. “One year ago we did our first tryout, so we haven’t even been skating together for one year. This is more than we could have asked for,” Duhamel said. “The performance we weren’t too surprised with...it’s the score and the result that is amazing. We’re shocked by it.”
Teammates Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers slipped from second after the short to third with 171.73 points. “We’re both very excited to be going home with the bronze medal,” Lawrence said.
U.S. champions Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin finished fourth (166.97 points). Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch from Canada ranked third in the free skate but placed fifth (166.22).
As expected, American favorites Meryl Davis and Charlie White danced to their second Four Continents title.
The duo put down a strong performance in the free dance, earning level fours for all elements except the two step sequences, which were graded a level three. The reigning World and Olympic silver medalists scored 172.03 points.
“It’s been a great year for us. Obviously, we’ve been lucky to have the success we’ve had,” White said. “We try to let our skating do the talking and so far we have been successful.”
Rising stars Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani claimed the silver medal with a solid free skating performance to “Smile” and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” The U.S. brother-sister team earned 155.38 points.
“We came into this competition looking to attack and chase. We felt we had nothing to defend in our first year in seniors so we were aggressive all week in practice,” Maia Shibutani explained.
Canada’s Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier moved up from fifth to capture the bronze with 151.83 points. “We
are very excited and happy with our first Four Continents medal,” Poirier said.
Teammates Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje slipped from third to fourth after missing a spin (151.14). America’s Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein were fifth (142.44).
Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir withdrew from the competition 30 seconds into their free dance. A Skate Canada representative explained that Virtue, who was still recovering from surgery, experienced stiffness in her quad muscles and was unable to complete the program.
Originally published in June 2011