A season's best: Exciting comebacks highlight the skating season

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www.isu.org|13-May-2019 19:11

Success and failure are close to each other in any sport and these ups and downs make sports so exciting. Figure skating is no exception. Skaters rallied back after a failure in the Short Program or come back strong following injury or taking a break in this past season.

Olympic silver medalists Wenjing Sui/Cong Han (CHN) didn’t compete for about a year following their success in PyeongChang as Sui suffered from a stress fracture. Her recovery took a long time and their first competition were the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships 2019 in February. Nevertheless, Sui/Han skated off with the title. At the ISU World Figure Skating Championships the next month, the Chinese duo looked even more ready and took their second World title after 2017 with two confident performances. “We had a tough time (this season), we could not prepare so well and did not have much time to practice. However, our coaches and our team gave us a lot of support and we knew we can make it and get the title,” Sui said in Saitama.

Ice Dancers Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) had to take a long time off following the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2018, as Madison recovered from ankle surgery. She was able to resume full hours of practice only in December 2018 and their first competition was the Mentor Torun Cup in Poland in early January, to get some competition practice before the U.S. National Championships. There, Chock/Bates came second and went to the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim. The dancers turned in two excellent performances and to their own surprise won the title. “It’s been a whirlwind of five weeks or so since we came back to the competitive scene and the amount of work that went into Madi’s recovery and the amount of work we put in to come back and make a strong impact with our skating and to make a noticeable change was tough,” Evan observed. “In August of 2017 we had an accident in training right before the Olympic season started. I chipped off some bone fragments in my talus bone [ankle bone]. Those were just floating inside the ankle joint. So it wasn’t very comfortable. When I’d move around it was pretty painful but I was able to make it through the season, by some miracle, and with the help of many doctors and physicians. I had surgery in April of 2018 to remove the bone fragments and they put in some bio cartilage to replace the ‘hole’ you could say,” Madison explained.

Fellow dancers Kaitlyn Weaver/Andrew Poje (CAN) had sat out the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series as well. However, the three-time World medalists were not injured, but had taken some time away from competing and took part in a show tour throughout Canada. When they came back to competition, the Canadians proved that they’re still at the top of their game, winning the National title, the silver medal at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships and coming fifth in a highly competitive field at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships. “It’s an unusual season. It was one that we decided to take into our own hands and we’re very happy that we could rely on ourselves and on our judgement to bring us to where we are now,” Kaitlyn noted.

For Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS), the whole 2018/19 season was a kind of comeback and redemption. After the ice dancers withdrew from the Russian National Championships due to injury, the Olympic season ended in December 2017 for them. They came back stronger than ever, starting with two silver medals in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series and silver at the Final. The only setback came, when Katsalapov fell on a twizzle in the Rhythm Dance at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships and the Muscovites placed fourth in the end. The duo shone again at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships to win their first World medal. “This World Championship was like a new starting point for us. We’re very proud to have overcome all difficulties, no matter what happened,” Nikita said.

Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) had to overcome a setback this season when he re-injured his ankle at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating in Moscow and subsequently had to withdraw from the Final and Japanese Nationals. The two-time Olympic Champion returned to competition only for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at home in Japan, where he took the silver medal. “I was disappointed gaining only silver, but I am thankful that I have got a chance to compete with such distinguished athletes and got a motivation to get stronger from them,” Yuzuru shared. “I injured my leg before the Olympics, and it had had some old injuries before that, and now I got injured in Russia. I felt that this time the injury is becoming harsher as well. I feel that now I should be more careful with it. As a result of the injury, I realized that I should jump stronger and bigger. That is a good lesson I have learned from it,” he added.

The competition is only over when it’s over. Matteo Rizzo (ITA) found out at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships that this is very true. Sitting in 10th place following the Short Program, he jumped on to the podium to take the bronze medal. “Going from tenth to third place was kind of incredible, and I’m really proud of myself and the work me and all my team have done,” Matteo shared. “It was very unexpected because I was first in the third group so 11 skaters had to skate after me and there was a lot of time before the result so we just watched and waited. We couldn’t have expected it but it’s amazing.”

Rika Kihira (JPN) rallied from fifth place after the Short Program at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships to win the title. “I learned no matter what happens never give up keep on looking forward, keep going,” she pointed out. Some other skaters were in a similar situation and fought back: Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) came from fourth in the ISU Grand Prix Final to become the first French Pair Skating team to take that title. Elizabet Tursynbaeva (KAZ) pulled up from sixth to claim the silver medal at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships while Mai Mihara (JPN) rose from eight to third at the same event. Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS) moved from 11th to fourth place at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships and Roman Savosin (RUS) came from sixth to take the silver at the ISU Junior World Figure Skating Championships.