October has begun, and with that, the figure skating season is really in full swing. Japan Open has always been a bit of the unofficial start to the season, and it's unusual because it brings together many of the best skaters in the world very early in the season. This year's Japan Open, for example, featured the top five women from Worlds! The competition had some fantastic skating, especially considering the Grand Prix doesn't even begin for another three weeks.
So what did the Japan Open mean for the season? Here's a look.
RESULTS: 2016 Japan Open
Medvedeva still the frontrunner
As with all teenage skaters, you often wonder if one year's performance is not necessarily indicative of the next because of potential growth spurt issues. At 16, World champ Evgenia Medvedeva is in that exact age range right now. But her free skate this weekend showed that she is picking up exactly where she left off at Worlds six months ago. As always, she put on a jumping clinic and came out on top.
Choreographically, Medvedeva's free skate doesn't really pull her out of the range that she was in last season (and we're seeing a similar approach to her short program as well). It's not necessarily a bad thing, since she delivers this kind of character well. But it does make you wonder where her team is going to bring her in future seasons to come. Medvedeva does have the musical interpretation chops to do other genres of program - and selfishly, I wish they would explore that a bit more.
But then again, I think we need to get the word out on the #WhosCallingEvgenia hashtag.
Wagner makes her own statement
Fresh off a World silver medal, Ashley Wagner delivered her first non-Moulin Rouge free skate in over two years and continues to demonstrate her prowess in interpreting different kinds of music. Her Exogenesis free skate, a departure from her usual character portrayal programs, was more conceptual than any other program she has skated. And it's a journey that she takes you on, building from a soft opening to a dynamic second half and back to a poignant ending.
But it was more than just the choreography - it was the fact that she put down a program with strong technical content early in the season that spells good things for her.
Uno upsets Fernandez
The quads are out in full force. Both Shoma Uno and Javier Fernandez pulled out three quads in their free skates (Uno with a flip and two toes, Fernandez with a toe and two sals). While both made mistakes, it was Uno's higher start value that gave him the edge. Fernandez started off strongly but his second axel, which was basically the six-point difference between him and Uno. That said, this is high-quality stuff from two of the top skaters, and to have delivered it this early in the season speaks a lot for their preparation ... and the potential for an incredible season.
Two skaters who are not even competing this season turned in personal best free skates. And frankly, both Jeremy Abbott and Nobunari Oda have had troubles in the past in letting the competition pressure get the best of them. Oda hit a quad toe-triple toe on his way to finishing third in the event, which Abbott landed two triple axels to best his American teammate, Adam Rippon, by just a fraction of a point. Just goes to show how well these two can be when they don't feel the weight of constant competition on their shoulders.
In other news, Abbott has announced that he will skip this season while still maintaining the flexibility of competing next season with the Olympics on the horizon.
Meanwhile in Canada ...
Not to be forgotten, thousands of miles away at the Autumn Classic, Yuzuru Hanyu landed the first clean quad loop in competition (Alexei Krasnozhon did the first fully-rotated quad loop (step out and hand down) just a week before). And so that completes the five non-axel quads, 18 years after Kurt Browning was credited with the first quad toe. We know that both Uno and Fernandez have trained the quad loop as well - exciting times in figure skating!