NICE, France (Reuters) - Deafening boos, jeers and whistles could not wipe the smile off Patrick Chan’s face on Saturday as he became the first male skater in six years to win back-to-back titles at the world championships despite crashing to the ice on a double Axel.
Twenty four hours after Chan smoothed over the cracks in his short programme with what he called “his priceless expressions” and Oscar-winning acting skills, the 21-year-old had no place to hide when he landed on his bottom while attempting the relatively simple jump.
While the crowd thought that howler had handed the title to 2010 champion Daisuke Takahashi for his hypnotising ‘Blues for Klook’ free skate, the judges did not agree.
They rewarded him for being the only skater out of the 24 finalists to land two quads cleanly and Chan topped the long programme standings with 176.70 despite incurring a two-point deduction. He won with a total of 266.11.
Takahashi, the only skater among the top three not to tumble, settled for his second successive silver after trailing by 6.45 points.
Japan celebrated having two men on the podium for the first time as teary-eyed teenager Yuzuru Hanyu made an instant impact at his first worlds by grabbing bronze.
After melting the hearts of French fans with his spellbinding routine to the soundtrack of Romeo and Juliet, Hanyu dissolved into tears long before his career best score of 173.99 for the long programme flashed up.
The 17-year-old had not been considered as a medal contender having finished seventh in the short programme but he won a standing ovation on Saturday with his fearless yet charming performance as the ill-fated lover which featured 12 soaring jumps, including a quad toeloop.
Hanyu tripped up while approaching a lift-off for a jump but as the mistake did not occur during one of his elements, he still compiled a total of 251.06.
The display even left his coach Nanami Abe an emotional wreck as she was seen gently dabbing away her tears with a tissue.
“Being here the first time and to win a medal is amazing,” said Hanyu.
In a competition where more than 10 skaters pulled off a quad, Chan stood out for his ability to pull off the jump twice in his ‘Adagio from Concierto de Aranjuez’ routine.
He even added in an unscheduled triple toeloop at the end of the second quad, a decision which almost backfired as he glided dangerously close to the boards on his landing.
Accident averted, it seemed as if Chan would at last produce the longed for “clean” skate he has struggled for throughout the season.
After landing 10 jumps, he slipped up on his final attempt.
He let out a rueful smile as he ended his programme on his knees, with the crowd applauding sympathetically.
But when the scores were revealed, the crowd quickly turned on the Canadian.
“The double Axel (fall), it isn’t me if I don’t make at least one freaky mistake,” quipped Chan. “It was a little touch of Patrick at the end.
“I didn’t skate the lights out like Yuzuru but I skated smart and it all added up and I still ended up on top.”
Chan tried to win over the fans by thanking them for their support in French but when it came to the medal ceremony, it was clear who had won the popular vote.
After politely acknowledging Chan’s achievement, the hollering fans erupted when the two Japanese skaters re-emerged to take their places on the podium.
Home favourite Brian Joubert missed out on a medal despite rediscovering his form to finish fourth. Michal Brezina’s hopes of becoming the first Czech man to win a medal since the country broke away from Slovakia were dashed after he slumped from second to sixth.
As Chan celebrated winning his ninth title in a row, a run that began in 2010, he also gave Canada their second of these championships following Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s success in the ice dance earlier in the week.
Editing by Alison Wildey