The World Championships was a thrilling event. And it ended with a final group of men’s free skate that was phenomenal. I would be lying if I said I haven’t rewatched the free skates of Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu over ten times, because they were both so good. After all that, though, neither of them were perfectly pristine in their skates - so it left me wondering how close it would’ve been had they both been perfect. And then it got me wondering how close it would’ve been had Rika Kihira been perfect. And then I wanted to gush about the rest of the competition. So here we go.
Would’ve been close
After the free skate, Hanyu said to the media that he felt that he wouldn’t have beaten Chen even if he had been perfect. I have very much been of the notion that a perfect Chen, right now, still can’t beat a perfect Hanyu. So which is it?
Prior to the US Championships this year, when Chen was on, the execution quality of his jumps was nowhere near that of Hanyu when he’s on. But Chen has somehow developed some kind of supernatural cushion in his right knee that has allowed him to float down on his quads - the ride-out has become phenomenally smooth and the ease of execution of those jumps has closed the GOE gap between him and Hanyu.
That said, Hanyu still holds GOE advantage on the jumps and spins, which allows him to close the gap on Chen’s technical mark even with Chen’s advantage in base value.
So with that base, let’s rewind the competition and do some hypotheticals. Chen won by 20+ points over Hanyu. But what if they had both been perfect?
For Hanyu, his 4S in both the short and the free cost him a ton of points. A perfect 4S in the short would have netted him ~14 points, a perfect 4S in the free would’ve have netted him ~8 points. He also got a level 3 step sequence instead of level 4, which would have netted him ~0.5 points. With perfect programs, Hanyu’s components would have likely gotten a few extra points, so we are looking at a total of about 327-329.
For Chen, his 4Lz in the short was held onto, and if you gave him the equivalent lutz that he did in the free skate, where it was probably as good as he could execute it, he nets out ~2 points. In the free, his 4F and his last combo were both squeaked out, flawless versions of those would have netted him ~2-3 points. Adding all of that up, we are looking at a total of about 327-329.
It’s not inconceivable to see perfection from both Chen and Hanyu end in a result that would basically be a tie. It’s that close between the two of them, and it’s a reason why they are both going to push each other to be better and stronger in the seasons to come.
Also would’ve been close
So then what about the ladies’ event? If you look at the difference between Rika Kihira’s fourth place and Alina Zagitova’s first place - we are looking at a 14-point gap. Zagitova had an almost flawless competition, whereas Kihira singled her triple axel in the short and fell on her second axel in the free.
The math here is a lot simpler - given perfect triple axels replacing the problematic two for Kihira in the short and in the free, she nets out at 16-18 points in the positive. It would’ve been a win of 2-4 points over Zagitova, even without any sort of extra component marking for perfect programs.
Still, it’s easy to think about the negatives of a fourth-place finish when you came in as one of the favorites. It’s also not difficult to remember that this was Kihira’s first World Championships, ending in a fourth-place finish. There’s a lot of good to take from it.
I’m going to save that for my next post. Stay tuned.