The 2018 Skate Canada International produced some upsets and surprises, the first of which was Japan′s Shoma Uno placing second in the short program. To the delight of the home crowd, Canada’s Keegan Messing won the short program over Uno, the reigning World and Olympic silver medalist with Jun-Hwan Cha of Korea skating into third.
Messing delivered a strong performance to the jazzy “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” nailing a quad toe-triple toe loop combination, a triple Axel, triple loop and fast, well-centered spins. The relief on his face was obvious when the program ended and the crowd at Place Bell rose in a standing ovation. He earned 95.05 points, a season’s best.
“The program felt very comfortable out there. It started off with me watching Nam (Nguyen) put down a clean program and he got a standing ovation. It made me feel like I had more energy to go out and put out a solid performance myself,” Messing said. “Everything really felt like it came together and I’m excited to go into the long. This is my third or fourth Grand Prix event and I finally broke through to the top three. I’m feeling very confident with myself, especially after the Olympic and World season last year.”
Uno opened his program to a guitar version of “Stairway to Heaven” with a quad flip, but stumbled on the back end of the quad toe-triple toe combination and fell on the triple Axel. The 2018 Olympic silver medalist scored 88.87 points. “Disappointment and regret, those are the emotions about my performance. It is not about me taking a high risk, I just can’t do triples,” Uno said when asked about including two quad jumps in his short program.
Performing to “Cinderella” by Sergei Prokofiev, Cha hit a quad Salchow, a triple Lutz-triple loop combination and a triple Axel to pick up 88.86 points. “Today my program felt very comfortable and I really tried my best. I think it was a good performance today,” he said. “Before the short program, I thought I would try my best and do what I did in practice. I got a really good result today and I’m happy with that.”
The 2017 Skate Canada bronze medalist Alexander Samarin of Russia sat in fourth within striking distance (88.06 points). Israel’s Daniel Samohin was fifth with 84.90 points followed by Alexander Majorov of Sweden (84.64 points).
Uno fought back in the long program. His performance to “Moonlight Sonata” was highlighted by three clean quad jumps — a flip and two toe loops. A fourth quad, a Salchow, was deemed under-rotated. He also pulled off two triple Axels but fell on the triple flip and the triple toe loop.
The Japanese champion earned 188.38 points for the free and a total of 277.25, which moved him into first place overall. “I was able to put in all the frustration from yesterday and I was able to perform the program,” Uno said. “I thought I’ll go all out from the beginning, so I went at 100 percent from the start. That’s probably why I did get a bit tired at the end. I made mistakes on the last two jumps, so this is something I’ll take as a task for the next competition.”
Messing tripled a planned quad Lutz but went on to land a quad toe and five triples — including two Axels — as well as excellent spins in his Charlie Chaplin routine. He fell on the second (under-rotated) quad toe. The Canadian silver medalist earned 170.12 points and slipped to second with 265.17 points overall.
“I was very excited to win the short program yesterday and I came into the long program very excited to put on a performance for the home crowd once again,” said Messing. “I’m a little bummed I didn’t rotate my quad Lutz, but I took every element one at a time and the crowd was right behind me, helping me through the whole program. I wasn’t really nervous after having a bad warm-up because I know that I can go out at any time and nail jumps that I want to do.”
Skating to the “Romeo and Juliet” soundtrack by Craig Armstrong, Cha missed his opening quad toe but pulled himself together to produce a quad Salchow, a triple Lutz-triple loop, two triple Axels along with two more clean triples. The 16-year-old picked up 165.91 points for a total of 254.77 and captured the bronze medal.
“Today my performance was a little harder than yesterday, but I tried my best and I worked hard until the finish,” Cha said. “I had a mistake on the first jump, but kept going and I’m very satisfied. After I was in third after the short program, to prepare for today’s program I told myself to forget about yesterday and fully focus on today’s program.”
Russia′s Alexander Samarin landed in fourth with 248.78 points. Nam Nguyen of Canada moved up two spots to finish fifth (240.94 points). Jason Brown of the U.S. finished 11th in the short, but pulled up to sixth after the free with 234.97 points.
Messing and Cha earned their first medals on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Cha is the first male skater from Korea to ever capture a Grand Prix medal.