After announcing his retirement in 2018, China’s Han Yan made a stunning return to competitive ice at 2019 Cup of China on Friday, capturing the lead in the men’s short program over his countryman Boyang Jin.
On a day when four of the top five men took a tumble, Yan remained upright in his short program to “A Thousand Years,” a theme that resonated with many fans who felt like it had been that long since Han Yan last competed. The 23-year-old opened the program with a solid triple Axel and never looked back, earning 86.46 points for his efforts. However, one area Yan will have to invest time in is the second mark. (His component scores ranged from 7.75 to 9.00 — second best of the day behind Canada’s Keegan Messing).
“I am just very happy to be here. I said I want to come back and I want to fulfil my promise,” Han Yan said. “The short program was not perfect — there were some small mistakes — but it was exciting for me to perform in competition again, and I enjoyed the welcome of the spectators and the judges.”
Jin, who has not had a great start to his season (sixth at Skate America), once again failed to nail the opening quad Lutz in his program. He doubled the jump in Las Vegas (for which he received no points) and fell on it at this competition. However, he went on to execute the remaining jumps he had planned in his routine set to ‘First Light,’ and finished second with 85.43 points. Jin later explained he had “too much power going into the first jump, lost control and fell. Overall I felt very positive, but I did not quite show my training level today.”
Italy’s Matteo Rizzo landed the opening quad toe loop and triple Axel but then fell on a triple Lutz, the first jump in an intended combination. That mistake cost him dearly. Rizzo closed out the day in third with a season high score of 81.72. “It is great to be back in China. It is already the second time for me this season,” he said. “As for my performance, obviously I am not happy with what I’ve done. I made a huge mistake. But I’m happy with the beginning of the program, it was quite strong.”
Camden Pulkinen of the U.S. continues to impress in his senior debut season, finishing fourth with 78.92 points. Messing sits in fifth (76.80 points) ahead of 2019 Skate Canada bronze medalist Keiji Tanaka of Japan (74.64).
Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova is one step away from claiming a berth at her first senior Grand Prix Final, following her victory in the short program at Cup of China. Though she once again incurred a deduction on the triple Lutz-triple toe combination midway through her program to “The Perfume” soundtrack, Shcherbakova showed improvement in both the technical and artistic aspects in Chongqing. “The performance was good, I did all my jumps and elements, but I want more quality for all my elements,” said the 2019 World Junior silver medalist who earned a personal best score of 73.51.
“It was better (than at Skate America), because I did all elements clean. After Skate America we worked a lot on the short program, on the jumps and the step sequence. But my main goal is the free skate tomorrow.”
Japan’s Satoko Miyahara laid down an entertaining performance of her “Egyptian Disco” short program, but was hit with a deduction for under-rotating the second jump in a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and again on the triple loop. But, with 68.91 points, the 21-year-old sits in second. “It was not my best, but I enjoyed skating. I wanted to challenge a new style and it (the short) is still a tough program for me,” Miyahara said. “I need to work on the step sequence and the last part of the program. But the dancing part is really fun for me.”
Amber Glenn of the U.S. found out less than a week ago that she had earned a second Grand Prix assignment after finishing seventh at Skate America. Glenn, who turned 20 on Oct. 28, finished third in the short with a personal best score of 67.69. “I felt I had a pretty good skate considering I found out five days before I was leaving that I was coming here,” she said. “I had a great time, I felt really good out there. It’s a great opportunity.”
Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva landed in fourth following a fall on a triple Axel attempt (65.57 points). Her training mate Sofia Samodurova landed in fifth (63.99) and Marin Honda of Japan finished sixth (61.73).
The reigning World silver ice dance medalists, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, claimed top spot in the rhythm dance, outscoring their American rivals by a comfortable margin.
Sinitsina and Katsalapov earned Level 4s for the twizzles and rotational lift in their solid Quickstep and Foxtrot set to “Singin’ in the Rain,” but the Finnstep pattern, the step sequence and the midline step sequence were graded Level 3. Nonetheless, the Russian duo earned a season high score of 85.39 and danced into the lead with five points to spare.
Katsalapov said they were happy with their performance, “but as always there is lot of space to improve the dance. Indeed, we were missing competitions a lot. We had quite a big break — almost a month. We worked very hard and trained every day and we couldn’t wait to come here and show what we worked on.”
Madison Chock and Evan Bates earned a Level 4 for the straight-line lift and Level 3 for the step sequence in their performance to “Too Darn Hot” with the tricky Finnstep pattern graded Level 1. The American team sits in second with 80.34 points. “We performed our program very well, the best so far I’d say, in our competitions. There are some technical things that we need to go back and check on when we get home,” said Chock.
Canada’s Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen were the only team of the day to earn a Level 4 (and four YYYY) for the Finnstep pattern. They also earned a Level 4 for the rotational lift, with the other elements in their “Bonnie and Clyde” program graded a Level 3. The duo finished third with 78.41 points. “It is our first time at Cup of China and it was very nice to break the ice with the short dance we love to do,” said Fournier Beaudry. “It was our first Grand Prix medal at Skate America and we were extremely excited. I think it really opened some doors, some new possibilities for us and brought us more together. We want to skate as well as we can in this competition and I think we did our job today.”
Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China finished fourth with 74.77 points, ahead of their Montréal-based training mates Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker of the U.S. (74.70 points).
China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han were the class of the pairs field and had no trouble twirling to the top of the leaderboard in Chongqing. The duo delivered a solid performance to “Blues DeLuxe” (choreographed by Lori Nichol) and earned 80.90 points to take a solid lead. “This is our first competition of the season and we were a bit tight. That affected the quality of some of the elements, but it was a good performance. We skated like we do in training,” Han explained.
Canada’s Liubov Ilyushechkina and Charlie Bilodeau took it up a notch over their debut at Skate Canada, skating into second place with 68.98, 0.36 of a point higher than they scored in Kelowna. “We really like the feeling we’ve developed for this short program and it was quite stable,” Ilyushechkina said. “There were some mistakes, but we got our lucky ‘68,’ and it was a season’s best.”
Chen Peng and Yang Jin of China, the victors at Skate America, sit in third with 68.50 points. “Except for the mistake on the jump we are quite pleased. I feel we have improved the performance aspect since our last Grand Prix. My partner got injured at Skate America and we have not practiced the jumps much,” Jin explained.
Italy’s Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise finished fourth with 64.24 points after both took a tumble on the side-by-side jumps. Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea of the U.S. rank fifth with 64.08.