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Four Continents Reporter’s Notebook: Can a single HD camera provide accurate replays?

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Vincent Zhou will work as hard as it takes to ensure all of his jumps are consistent and fully rotated – “Every session, every day, every minute” – if necessary, he said on Thursday.

And he made headway here at the 2019 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim, Calif.: the U.S. silver medalist led after a clean short program, including a quadruple Lutz combination and quad Salchow.

But under-rotations crept back into Zhou’s free skate on Saturday. Three jumps, including the quad Salchow and toe loop, were saddled with a “<” on the scorecard, meaning that the technical panel saw them as at least a quarter-turn short of the required four rotations in the air and sliced some 30 percent of their base value. Another six jumps, including quad Lutz – the most difficult – and two triple Axels, were deemed fully rotated.

Zhou’s program to the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” soundtrack was well-delivered, and he gained good scores on his spins and steps. His season’s best 172.04 points ranked him fifth in the free and he won the bronze medal with 272.22 points.

“The more I show consistency, I guess, the less scrutiny I’ll get,” the 18-year-old said. “But that’ll take a lot of hard work on my side and not blaming others for giving me bad calls.”

Japan’s Shoma Uno won his first Four Continents title with 289.12 points after a spectacular free skate that earned 197.36 points, the highest ISU free skate score ever recorded under the +5/-5 GOE system. Defending champion Jin Boyang of China was second with 273.51 points. U.S. bronze medalist Jason Brown was fourth in the free skate and fifth overall with 258.89 points.

Zhou wasn’t the only competitor to be saddled with under rotation calls on Saturday. South Korea’s Junhwan Cha, second in the short program, had five under rotation calls to place eighth in the free skate and drop to sixth place overall.

Christy Krall, one of Zhou’s coaches in Colorado Springs, Colo., agrees Zhou must continue to work hard for consistency. Still, she thinks many skaters –  not just Zhou – have fallen victim to bad calls from technical panels.

“If you can’t really see the truth, how can you call the truth?” Krall said. “If you are going to measure it, measure it with the best piece of equipment you can.”

Krall, a 1964 Olympian and former coach of three-time world champion Patrick Chan, believes the ISU must invest in better equipment to ensure technical panels have the high-quality replay footage they need to review skaters’ jumps.

“They are not using the proper equipment to measure these drastic calls that can make or break your career,” Krall said. “They need to find the tool that is accurate and not some mystery, because skaters’ lives depends on this.”

The ISU employs Swiss Timing personnel to operate a single HD video camera on the right side of the judging panels’ front-row seats. When technical panel members need replays, they are provided video taken by this camera. Since this replay footage is not available to broadcasters, fans watching via live stream or television are seeing footage filmed by different cameras, from multiple angles.

George Rossano, an aerospace scientist by trade who is also a U.S. judge and technical panel data replay operator, agrees with Krall: the current equipment is too outdated to help technical panels accurately call jumps.

“If a panel isn’t sure, they say, ‘Well, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt,’” Rossano, who operates the figure skating website iceskatingintnl.com, said. “But if you give that skater points they don’t deserve, you punish everybody else, especially if they are going to call quads.”

Why doesn’t the ISU invest in higher resolution cameras? Could be the cost. Purchasing cutting-edge equipment with higher time and spatial resolution for use at ISU Championships, Grand Prix events and ISU Challenger events could run hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There are counter arguments. Every skater’s jumps, including those who are rarely called under rotated, are filmed by the same HD cameras. And coaches should be careful what they wish for: higher-speed equipment could, in certain cases, expose additional weaknesses in jumps, including rarely called pre-rotations.

Krall, though, says accuracy is paramount.

“If they’re going to measure the sport, they better get the equipment that they can measure it with,” she reasoned. “From the time you can see the toe touch (the ice) to the time it turns around, if you don’t have the right equipment, you’re not going to make the right call. Higher-speed cameras, period, end of conversation. They’ve got the cameras out there to measure things properly.”

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Shoma Uno breaks through to win Four Continents Championships; Sui, Han take pairs’ title

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Shoma Uno from Japan took the men’s title at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday.

This is the first major championship title for Uno: he is the Olympic silver medalist, two-time Worlds silver medalist, and he has been on the podium at the Grand Prix Final four times — though never in the top spot.

“I think I was able to do everything I can,” Uno said of his post-skate fall to the ice, according to the Associated Press. “There weren’t a lot of happy emotions when I collapsed, it was like ‘I really did it.’ I thought about how I was injured after Nationals and how I can bring my skating to the next level.”

Uno rallied from fourth after the short program with a 197.36-point free skate. His total score of 289.12 points was 15.61 points ahead of silver medalist Jin Boyang of China.

Vincent Zhou from Team USA held on for the bronze medal, though he fell from first place after the short program. Zhou scored 172.04 in the free skate for a total score of 272.22 points.

“I’m very proud of myself for continuing the upward trend I’ve put myself on,” Zhou said through U.S. Figure Skating. “The audience was absolutely incredible and they helped me feel good about how I skated.”

Full Saturday results: Men’s free skate | Pairs’ free skate

Jason Brown finished fifth overall with 258.89 points. He attempted a quadruple Salchow, but it was called under-rotated by the judges and he put a hand down on the landing. He has never landed a clean quad in competition; at the U.S. Championships last month, Brown doubled his planned quad attempt in the free skate.

“I’m so proud of my fight out there and scoring my season’s best today,” Brown said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I’ll keep building onto that momentum into Worlds.”

The third American man in the field, Timoki Hiwatashi, finished eighth with 236.79 points.

Earlier Saturday, China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong notched a come-from-behind victory in the pairs’ event. The Olympic silver medalists were second in the short program after Sui missed her side-by-side triple toe and fell. However, their 136.92 points in the free skate (despite another fall from Sui on their side-by-side triple Salchows) and 211.11 overall score was enough to surpass Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro for gold by 0.06 points.

“To be honest, there are still some technical elements that we haven’t put into the program,” Han said, according to the Associated Press. “This competition is a good motivation for us to reflect and improve before the World Championships.”

China had two teams on the podium, with Cheng Peng and Jin Yang taking the bronze with 205.42 points.

The three American teams in the field finished fourth (Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc), fifth (Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier), and sixth (Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea).

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

The Four Continents Championships wrap up Sunday with the free dance at 4 p.m. Eastern on NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” and coverage on NBCSN beginning at midnight.

MORE: How to watch Four Continents

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Americans Bradie Tennell, Vincent Zhou lead fields at Four Continents Championships

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Americans Bradie Tennell and Vincent Zhou are in first place in the ladies’ and men’s short programs at the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Anaheim, Calif. after skating Thursday.

Full results: Ladies | Men

Tennell skated clean to score 73.91 points. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto, who won the event last year, sits in second place with 73.36 points.

“I feel like I performed very well,” Tennell said through U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m extremely happy with how I did. It’s exactly how I train at home and it’s what I wanted to do here, to go out there and trust myself and trust my training.”

Mariah Bell from Team USA is in third place heading into Friday’s free skate with 70.02 points. The third American in the field, Ting Cui, sits in seventh with 66.73 points. Cui received an edge call on her triple flip.

“I think it’s the first time I’ve put out a really solid short program and I have so much more room to grow,” Bell said.

The last U.S. woman to win Four Continents was Polina Edmunds in 2015.

Reporter’s NotebookCan U.S. Figure Skating’s junior world team help improve results?

Later Thursday, Zhou was the only man in the field to crack the 100-point mark, scoring 100.18 points. South Korea’s Junhwan Cha is in second place with 97.33 points and China’s Boyang Jin, who won the event last year, is third with 92.17 points.

“This is my first time breaking 100 in the short in international competition,” Zhou said. “I am very happy with this result. It is a reward and a testimony to the hard work I’ve been putting in.”

Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno is fourth with 91.76 points. The other two Americans in the field, Jason Brown and Tomoki Hiwatashi, sit sixth and ninth, respectively. The men’s free skate is Saturday.

Nathan Chen is the most recent U.S. man to win Four Continents, doing so in 2017. He is not competing at Four Continents but is expected to defend his world title next month in Japan.

MORE: How to watch Four Continents

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!