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Figure skaters secures Australia first Olympic quota spot

2 April 2017

FIGURE SKATING: Brendan Kerry has secured Australia an Olympic berth for men at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games after finishing 15th at the Figure Skating World Championships in Helsinki last night with a smart finals free program.

In one of the toughest men’s figure skating events ever seen, the technical level pushed through more boundaries, personal bests were frequent and performance delivery was on high. Kerry stepped up to the pressure where 36 men were vying for 24 nation Olympic quota places.

Competition was tight with the 24 quota spots by nation filled by 20th place overall at the conclusion of the men’s event. (Ladies was filled by 22nd place, Pairs by 13th).

Critically, making it through the short program was the first hurdle for Kerry – which he did in style delivering a career best skate placing 13th with the flawless delivery of a quad toe, triple axel and triple lutz/triple toe jump combo.

But it wasn’t all technical delivery. A different and calculatingly determined Kerry came out to play, shedding his previous insecurities by believing in his training, coaches and his own ability, scoring 83.11 points for his short program – a massive five points higher than his previous best.

“I knew I could probably get away with one mistake in the short program and still get through to the free skating in an OK spot,” Kerry said.

“However, I feel as though this is the first program I've had fun skating and that it's helped me grow as a skater - especially in regards to my (performance) components.

“It was super important to me to give the short a proper send off. The fact that it was Worlds and an OQC was just a bonus.”

For the final 4.30minute free program, Kerry played it smart by only going after one quad but upping the triple jump combos to accumulate a high technical element score that garnered him another PB of 153.13 points, placing 15th overall with a total score of 236.24 points – his third PB for the event.

Knowing he had secured the all-important Olympic quota spot for Australia initially elicited a one word response on his feelings, which all elite athletes can identify with.

“Relief.”

After changing-up his training in the two months prior to the World Championships, Kerry is already looking ahead with new-found confidence.

“I know now that I can handle upping the technical content and improve the second mark, and appearing to be a completely different skater heading into the 2018 Olympic season.”

It may have taken almost four years, but the young 18-year-old who approached his first Olympic Games in Sochi has been replaced by a more mature young man who has another year to prepare for PyeongChang in 2018.

Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu fought back from fifth place in the short to deliver an incredible free program that was all class from start to finish with four quads and two triple axels in combination and sequence, scoring a world record 223.20 for the free program alone and 321.59 in total.

Hanyu wrested the world title away from two-time defending champion and training mate Javier Fernandez from Spain who was leading after the short but was unable to deliver the free program he hoped for, leaving him in fourth overall.

Shoma Uno from Japan took silver and Boyang Jun from China the bronze, making it the first ever Asian podium sweep for men at a World Championship.

For Australian Ladies Champion Kailani Craine the delight in delivering her best-ever short program, placing 19th (from 37 competitors) with a PB and making the final 24 skaters gave way to disappointment in the free program.

The fiery competitor opened tentatively with a triple flip and unfortunately fell on her second jump – the triple lutz. Despite pulling back ground with another triple flip and triple loop,

Craine was unable to accumulate a high enough technical score and had to settle for 95.97 points, amost 15 points lower than her PB placing 24th in the free and 24th overall with 152.94.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed in myself. Just because it hasn’t been the program I haven’t been putting out the last couple of weeks, Craine said.

“I’ve been doing the run throughs in the practises here and they haven’t been anywhere near as bad as that.

“Although I’m disappointed I still had a good short program and I’m still proud of myself.

“I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s OK. I can take even more lessons from this skate. There’s always something to learn.”

For Australia to qualify a quota spot in ladies, the attention will now be on the Olympic Qualification Competition in September in Germany where the final six spots will be determined.

Australia’s Junior World Pair Champions Harley Windsor and Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya will also be vying for one of the remaining four Olympic quota spots in September.

For only the second time at an Olympic Winter Games, the popular Team Event will be contested before the individual disciplines (Men, Ladies, Dance and Pair) in PyeongChang.

The Team Event comprises ten national teams of one lady, one man, one pair and one dance team each competing their short programs, with the top five teams going through to the finals.

Australia is on the cusp of making the top ten teams and will need to keep performing well in the up-coming new season to make this prestigious Olympic event.

Belinda Noonan
OWIA

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