In what was supposed to be a redemption ceremony for one and a hard fought battle for another saw very different results this past weekend as the World Figure Skating Championships took place in Boston.
Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva was seen as the favorite to win the gold medal at the World Championships, but her victory was not set in stone. While the 16 year old was entering with wins in the Grand Prix Finals and the European Championships at her back, she was skating in her first Worlds. Not only did she have the pressure of skating in front of a much larger audience to deal with, but she also had the world's best skaters entering the event with a lot of confidence.
The pressure, however, seemed only fuel her. After a short program that left her in third place, she skated a flawless free skate, scoring a world record 150.10 to become the first woman to win the junior and senior World Championship titles in back to back years.
"Wow." She said when she was informed she broke the world record.
“This is probably the biggest audience that I’ve faced, ever,” Medvedeva said later, through a translator. “And I heard a lot of shouts out in Russian supporting me, which was an incredible experience. I realized that some of these people came especially to watch me and traveled so far.”
The story in the United States was the strength of the American skaters. Ashley Wagner ended a 10 year American medal drought by taking home the silver medal. Gracie Gold was first after the short program, but dropped off the podium after a disappointing free skate. Still, a fourth place finish, coupled with Mirai Nagasu's 10th place finish gives the Americans three skaters in the top 10 and shows the improving strength of the United States figure skating program.
It may not be enough, however, to take down Medvedeva as she continues to improve. She already took down Yuna Kim's free skate record, and now she targets Kim's overall points record. Medvedeva has to improve her World Championship score by six points if she wants to dethrone Kim. Given that Medvedeva has won five golds and a silver in the six competitions she's skated since she became a senior skater last year, this is a very attainable goal for her.
Hanyu Leaves With Silver Again
Yuzuru Hanyu is going to have to wait another year to get redemption.
Hanyu, who entered after breaking several records last season and looking practically unbeatable throughout 2015, skated a perfect short program to give himself a 12 point lead entering the free skate, making it look as if the free skate would be another victory lap for the Olympic Gold Medalist.
But two things happened. Javier Fernandez skating the best free skate of his life, and Hanyu's struggled through his risky program. That combination left Hanyu walking out of Boston, once again taking home a silver to Fernandez's gold.
"It’s regrettable. I was nervous,” Hanyu said of his performance. “I wanted to jump all my jumps, but in the end it turned out to be a mistake. There are a lot of things I need to reconsider.”
Hanyu proved what some commentators have been saying for a few years - when he is at his best, there is no one in the world that can stop him; however, because of the level of difficulty in his skates, he is capable of struggling and racking up errors in his program.
What comes next for Hanyu is anyone's guess. He does not need to add more difficulty into his routine; however, he also wants to maintain his dominance at the top, as young superstars chase him. Taking out any parts of his routine may open the door for someone else to take his throne.
One thing that seems certain, however, is that the rivalry between Fernandez and Hanyu seems to have several more chapters in it.