Figure Skating: 2019 Four Continents Championships

Four Continents, the last major senior event prior to the World Championships, has come and gone (keeping yours truly up until 3 AM for a few days in a row). In three disciplines, the heavy favourites were behind after the short program but pulled through. And then there was the fourth discipline.




In the men's event, we had what is probably the best final flight of the entire year (we'll be lucky if Worlds is this good). Shoma Uno, in fourth place after the short and skating with an injury, somehow delivered his best free program in two years to break the silver curse and claim his first major international title.



Jin Boyang of China won the silver medal, recovering from a really rough Grand Prix season, though the choice to rock out to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" remains a weird one.

In fourth place, and robbed of the bronze medal due to an inexplicably lenient technical panel in the short program that let Vincent Zhou get away with underrotating all his jumps, was Keegan Messing, who delivered the best free skate of his entire career. He got a small bronze medal for the free skate, at least.



In the ladies' event, what has been the story for most of the season happened again: frontrunner Rika Kihira popped her triple Axel in the short program, ending up in fifth place. Then she won the free skate, and the title overall, because as long as she gets one triple Axel she's all but unbeatable. Super Rika is now the heavy favourite going into the home World Championships in Saitama. Boy, will that be high pressure.



Excuse the somewhat jerky video on this next one; it's presently the only one available (it's rocky right now for FS videos on YouTube; many old and famous channels have been swept away).



Anyway, the unexpected silver medalist was Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan, who YOLO'd a quad Salchow attempt in the beginning, got the rotation and fell on her butt, but still got up and did the rest of the program fine. Hers is only the fifth Four Continents medal in the 21-year history of the event for a skater not from Canada, China, Japan or the United States.

The bronze medalist was Mai Mihara of Japan, who rose from eighth in the short, aided by all of the top three from the short program (Bradie Tennell, Kaori Sakamoto, and Mariah Bell) falling off the podium due to errors. Sakamoto's was an especial heartbreaker moment, as she ended up only about a point off the podium after losing a whole jump combination.

In the pairs event, basically everybody had called this in advance for Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the 2018 Olympic silver medalists and 2017 World Champions, who sat out the whole first half of the season because of injury recuperation for Sui (a chronic problem). And they did win the end, but they came second in the short program and were vulnerable in the free because, unfortunately, while Sui Wenjing is a marvelous overall skater and performer, she is not a very good jumper, falling on two of the team's three side-by-side jumps. But the rest is so good.



The team they almost lost to were, somewhat incredibly, Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro, who skated the two best programs of their career, and came only 0.07 points in the free short of victory, all of which are accounted for by a lift that didn't quite work as planned (Marinaro is not a very good lifter). I can't find their short program anywhere, which is too bad, because it was the better of the two programs, but the free is fun enough. And they claimed their first major international medal (Kirsten won the silver here six years ago with her previous partner).



In third were Peng Cheng and Jin Yang, while American champions Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc were fourth. The fifth through eighth teams all had very depressing skates.

And finally, the 21st annual US-Canada dance-off, where frontrunners Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue led the rhythm dance and looked set to win the free too, but after an agonizingly long wait that portended something amiss, they lost over seven points in their technical mark due to lost levels (principally on a stationary dance lift that wasn't remotely stationary) and ended up in fourth place.

The winners were their American compatriots and fellow Gadbois academy trainees (actually, seven of the twelve teams here train at Gadbois in Montreal, ironically not including two of the three Canadian teams) Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Chock/Bates just moved to Montreal after a very disappointing Olympics, and really do feel like a fresh new team. Bates, especially, has never looked better.



In second place overall were Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, who had previously won both gold and bronze twice here, this being their first silver.



And in third, my favourite result of the entire event, were Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier, who were second in the free dance with what is for me an all-time great program, their "Vincent" tribute to Van Gogh. This is their first major medal in their now seven seasons competing on the international stage, other than a silver at this event in the 2014 season when all the big teams didn't go because they had tickets to the Olympics instead.



Sometimes quality wins out, even if it takes Zach Donohue fucking up to make it happen.



Score reaction
Uno FS
Messing FS
Kihira FS
Tursynbaeva FS
Sui/Han FS
Moore-Towers/Marinaro FS
Chock/Bates FD
Weaver/Poje FD
Gilles/Poirier FD