NICE, France (AP) — Patrick Chan of Canada won the figure skating world title for the second straight year Saturday despite a flawed free skate that included a late tumble. He is the first man to win consecutive titles since the now retired Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland in 2006.
“It’s more special than the first to be honest. I had my doubts,” Chan said. “I think I kind of made it over the hump now.”
Olympic bronze medalist Daisuke Takahashi and rising star Yuzuru Hanyu took the silver and bronze medals, the first time Japan has had two men on the podium.
Some of the crowd jeered when Chan won, perhaps because of his mistakes and Takahashi’s superb performance. Chan finished with 266.11 points, almost 6.5 points ahead of Takahashi.
“I knew when I got off the ice” I had won, Chan said. “I felt like I had won anyway, that opening (was great).”
Hanyu, the 2010 world junior champion, was second in the free skate, but finished behind Takahashi because he was so far back after the short program.
“I heard the big crowd’s cheers so I knew Yuzuru had a perfect performance. I felt like, ‘OK, I have to do well, I can’t let him defeat me,”‘ Takahashi, the 2010 world champion, said of his 17-year-old teammate.
U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and Adam Rippon failed to win back a third spot for the Americans at next year’s world championships, the qualifier for the Sochi Olympics. Abbott and Rippon needed to finish with a combined placement of 13 or better, and Abbott was eighth and Rippon 13th.
Later Saturday, Alena Leonova of Russia was looking to win the women’s title for the first time.
Skating to the haunting sounds of Joaquin Rodriguez’s “Concierto de Aranjuez”, Chan piled up the points in the first part of his program, opening with a quadruple toe loop and also doing a quad toe-triple toe combination and a triple axel. His elegance quieted the awed crowd, only the whispers of his gliding edges breaking the silence. But he wobbled coming out of a triple lutz, blowing the rest of his combination.
“It was a jump I’ve been having trouble with this season,” Chan said. “On the highlight reel it’s not going to look great. But mistakes here and there, it shows that I’m human, right?”
He regained his composure and his momentum, only to come undone on his last jump. He pulled out of what was going to be a double axel and fell over.
“I guess it isn’t really normal that I don’t make a mistake, it’s kind of my thing to have a weird fall,” Chan joked. “I was late in the music so that may have been a factor. I rushed the take off. I’ve been pretty lucky not falling on it earlier the season.”
He twice lost his balance in Friday’s short program, both times just managing to stay upright. But on Saturday he knew he needed to score more than 170.26 points to win – his season’s best was 185.99 – and he did enough in the early part of his routine to avoid any embarrassment.
“I skated smart this week,” Chan said. “I made sure the little details added up and I still ended up on top.”
The world title caps an unbeaten season for Chan, who also won at Skate Canada, Trophee Bompard, the Grand Prix final and Four Continents. The five-time Canadian champion also won the 2011 Lou Marsh Award, given to Canada’s top athlete.
Takahashi nailed his jumps in a superbly clean routine, with barely a flurry of ice when he landed on his triple lutz-double toe-double loop combination. His performance was worthy of a gold, and certainly put the pressure on the Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina, second after the short program, and Chan, the final two skaters to go.
Brezina clearly felt it, falling on his quad toe loop and then putting both hands on the ice after landing awkwardly on a quad salchow. He wound up sixth.
While Takahashi had the best performance, Hanyu’s was by far the most emotional, reducing him to tears.
“I was very nervous, I felt the pressure,” said Hanyu, the world junior champion two years ago. “I didn’t expect to get on the podium at my first world championships.”
Hanyu started brilliantly, nailing his quad toe loop and a triple axel, but inexplicably fell forward moments later. He recovered to complete the rest of his routine with sublime elegance, and the tears rolled down his face as the crowd gave him a huge ovation.
Even the world champ was impressed.
“I wasn’t even close to winning a bronze at 17,” Chan said.
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