LONDON, Ontario — He was saved by the quad and by what he’d done on Wednesday. If Canada’s Patrick Chan hadn’t won the short program by more than half a dozen points and hadn’t landed two quadruple jumps in Friday’s free skate at Budweiser Gardens, he would have been unhorsed by Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten in what would have been the greatest upset in the 117-year history of the World Figure Skating Championships.
“Sorry I didn’t do a good program,” said Chan, who eked out his third straight victory, by 1.3 points, over the 19-year-old Ten, who not only won his country’s first global skating medal but also earned three Olympic spots for Kazakhstan for the Sochi Olympics. “I wanted to do it so badly.”
All of Chan’s trouble came after he opened with a quad toe-triple toe combination and a solo quad toe. When he fell on his triple lutz and triple axel and staggered out of his triple salchow, he left the door open for Ten, who landed a solo quad toe to start off a clean and stylish effort to the soundtrack from “The Artist” and won the long program by more than five points, bumping European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain down to bronze. “My dream came true,” said Ten, who is coached by Frank Carroll, who mentored Evan Lysacek to the Olympic gold medal in Vancouver. “I still cannot believe that it all happened.”
Having escaped one challenge, Chan, the first man to win three consecutive titles since Russia’s Alexei Yagudin in 2000, will face a historically greater hurdle in Sochi. Three of his countrymen — Brian Orser (1988), Kurt Browning (1992 and 1994), and Elvis Stojko (1998) went to Olympus as world champions. None won the gold medal.
The Americans, who haven’t had a man on the world podium since Lysacek won in 2009, missed their secondary goal of earning three Olympic entries, which would have required a combined placement of 13. Though national champion Max Aaron placed seventh, Ross Miner of the Skating Club of Boston had a rocky evening, going down on his quad salchow, triple axel and triple flip, and ending up 14th. “I’m going to go home and try to find my mojo again,” he said, “which is what got me here in the first place.”
Meanwhile, the Russians finally reclaimed the pairs title that they’d owned for decades as Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov decisively dethroned German four-time champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy by a whopping 225.71-205.56 margin.
“This means we can fight for gold in Sochi, get the gold medal back for Russia,” said Trankov after he and his Ukrainian-born partner became the first Russian champions since Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinins in 2005.
Ever since the Protopopovs won in Innsbruck in 1964, the pairs gold had been engraved in Cyrillic. Then the world turned upside down in Vancouver, when the Russians not only didn’t win but also failed to make the podium. Worse yet, their Chinese neighbors finished 1-2.
But Volosozhar, who’d competed for her original homeland in 2010, and Trankov turned things right side up here with a dominant free skate over the Germans, who made two costly errors as Savchenko doubled both ends of her triple toe-triple toe combination and Szolkowy fell on his triple salchow.
As it was, the Germans were fortunate to hold off Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford by a mere point. It was Canada’s first time on the pairs podium in five years and it helped make up for the sting that the Ontario natives suffered in the same building three years ago when they failed to make the Olympic team with different partners. “This is the most surreal, unbelievable moment in our lives,” proclaimed Duhamel.
Their American colleagues, who’d never been on the global stage before, weren’t figuring to collect any precious metal here. “This is our first Worlds and we weren’t expecting to be on the podium or anything but I think we skated great,” said Marissa Castelli, who with Skating Club partner Simon Shnapir finished 13th, four places behind teammates Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim.
The US, which hasn’t had a pair on the award stand since 2002, had modest hopes here unlike their Russian counterparts, who set the gold standard half a century ago. With its women not ready for prime time, its men at rock bottom and its dancers a shadow of what they once were, the Motherland has been reduced to a one-act show.
John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.