By Pritha Sarkar
HELSINKI (Reuters) – Spain’s Javier Fernandez did not need to wait for the scores to flash up to know he had delivered a jaw-dropping short program at the world figure skating championships on Thursday – all he had to do was to look at his coach Brian Orser.
The 55-year-old Canadian leapt so high with both arms raised, he could have easily hurdled over the side barriers and into the rink to hug his world champion skater.
Orser opted to put those celebrations on hold for a couple more minutes, though, as Fernandez thumped his chest and soaked up the standing ovation from the Hartwell Arena crowd.
That roaring endorsement was all the reward Fernandez needed for a simply spellbinding two minute, 40 second routine.
“The reaction I got from the crowd proved that I had touched them with my performance. It meant the world to me,” the 25-year-old Fernandez told Reuters.
The Spaniard left spectators gasping in awe as he soared through a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination. A high-flying quad Salchow and triple Axel were equally impressive.
But blended in with all the jumps was his intricate footwork, sublime spins and inventive choreography – skills that sets him apart from the new breed of skaters who like packing their programs with high-scoring jumps.
The performance to Spanish guitar music Malaguena earned him 109.05, shattering his personal best by almost five points.
Fernandez felt vindicated for sticking with a formula that has already earned him two world and five European titles.
“This is the way to show people that you can get extra points by showing off your skating skills with your footwork or by interpreting (the music). It’s not only about the jumps,” said Fernandez after setting the benchmark in a contest where Shoma Uno and Patrick Chan also smashed the 100-point barrier.
“You can’t ignore the jumps because we have to do them but figure skating is evolving in more ways then just performing more jumps or more quads.”
During Saturday’s free skate, a record number of quads will be seen in one day, with 17-year-old dynamo Nathan Chen, who is sixth in the standings, expected to lead the way.
The American is the first skater in history to land four different types of quads (Lutz, flip, toeloop, Salchow) and five in total in his free skate at this year’s U.S. Championships.
Chen, the Four Continents champion, may even increase that count in Helsinki as he has been seen practising six quads in the build-up to Saturday’s finale.
But Fernandez is in no hurry to attempt more than the three quads he currently showcases in the longer program.
“If I put in more quads, I may lose the connection I create with the crowd. I am not prepared to do that,” he said.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)