Han Yan

Yuzuru Hanyu, Han Yan

Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski discuss collisions in figure skating

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Two-time Olympian Johnny Weir used to collide “all the time” with other figure skaters in practice for junior competitions. The 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski remembered a competitor’s skate scraping her thigh during a warm-up session.

What happened at the Cup of China on Saturday shocked both NBC Sports figure skating analysts not so much because two skaters ran into each other, but because of the severity of the collision.

Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu warmed up for his free skate at the Grand Prix series event, a six-minute session where all skaters in the group (usually five or six) set to perform prepare on the ice at the same time.

Hanyu skated with his back to the majority of the ice when he turned and saw Chinese skater Han Yan in his path. Hanyu had little time to react, barely pulling his arms up to brace for impact (video here).

Hanyu and Han fell to the ice and grabbed their faces. Han managed to stand up and get off the ice. Hanyu lay on the ice for a minute, blood streaming down his chin and neck, before two people in medical outfits reached him.

“It’s very traumatic,” Weir said in a phone interview Tuesday. “My initial response was just of shock that this happened. And worrying about the boys.”

They both appeared to receive medical attention once they got off the ice. Han while laying on the floor next to the boards; Hanyu while sitting down farther away.

Neither withdrew from the competition, which caused scrutiny given heads collided. Hanyu was reportedly cleared by a doctor to compete, with his coach, two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, saying the skater showed no physical signs of a concussion.

Orser said Hanyu was determined to compete, though the coach cautioned the 19-year-old, “This is not the time to be a hero. You have to take care of yourself,” according to The Associated Press.

“If there was any head trauma or anything that he was at risk for in that area, he definitely shouldn’t have skated,” Lipinski said. “But if they gave him the go-ahead, I give him so much credit. I would consider myself back in the day a tough competitor, but I don’t think I could have done that. I would have been so frazzled and dealing with the physical symptoms.”

Han performed his free skate 45 minutes after the collision, falling on a quadruple jump attempt and erring on several other jumps. Hanyu performed shortly after that and fell five times, while wearing a head wrap. Hanyu needed to be held up by Orser when he got off the ice following his program.

“You’ve got to keep breathing, OK?” Orser told him. “Hang onto the boards.”

“I know that tomorrow he’s going to feel like he was hit by a car,” Orser said later, according to The Associated Press.

source: Getty Images
Yuzuru Hanyu returned from Cup of China in a wheelchair one day after his collision.

Hanyu, who needed jaw stitches and head staples, was wheeled through a Japanese airport the following day. On Monday, Japan’s figure skating federation said he would be out two to three weeks.

Han told Weir after the competition that he was feeling much better.

Collisions in figure skating are common in practice and warm-ups, with skaters twisting and jumping at high speeds in proximity.

Perhaps the most famous came in practice at the Lillehammer Olympics, when Ukraine’s Oksana Baiul and Germany’s Tanja Szewczenko hit each other while preparing for jumps (video here) before the women’s free skate. Baiul suffered a cut on her right shin that required three stitches. Szewczenko suffered a bruised right hip and abdomen, according to The New York Times.

There was immediate concern Baiul might not be able to compete. Both skaters managed to, with Baiul surpassing Nancy Kerrigan for gold. Szewczenko finished sixth.

Weir said collisions were frequent at his home rink as he grew into an international-caliber skater and shared ice time with less experienced athletes.

There is a right-of-way system when skaters are on the ice at the same time for practice, dictated by which skater’s music is playing or which skater is preparing for a bigger competition.

But neither of those deciders can be used in six-minute group warm-ups for international events such as Cup of China. The skaters are the fastest and strongest in the world, too.

“Everyone is so driven and so focused and in their own little zone,” Lipinski said. “[When you collide] you’re shaken up emotionally and taken out of your normal schedule and normal zone.

“For all that to go out the window so suddenly, to get that back on track is nearly impossible.”

Weir said group warm-ups are like “six bulls on the ice all fighting and jostling for space” and likened navigating the rink to driving through traffic.

“You misread somebody, or they misread you or you cut a turn too tight,” he said. “Skaters are skin and bones. You hit another person with skin and bones, and it’s all bones going into you.”

Weir said he would like to see the International Skating Union increase warm-up time from six minutes to 10 minutes, but not necessarily to split the six skaters into groups of three for five minutes each. Rather, he emphasized that six minutes is a short period for a skater to warm-up an arsenal of program elements.

A brief history of figure skating collisions:

In 1994, U.S. ice dancer Renee Roca broke a wrist after skating backward into another couple at U.S. Championships practice, one month before the Lillehammer Olympics. Roca and her partner, the defending U.S. champions, withdrew from the competition. They weren’t eligible for the Olympics because Roca’s partner hadn’t secured citizenship fast enough after defecting from the Soviet Union.

In 2011, U.S. ice dancers Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Gjulietti-Schmitt and Japan’s Cathy and Chris Reed crashed in warm-up at the NHK Trophy Grand Prix series event in Japan (video here). They did not withdraw. Earlier that morning, two other ice dance couples collided in a practice, with one couple withdrawing due to the female skater suffering a cut to her thigh.

In 2012, Russian pairs Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksander Smirnov and Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov collided in training at the World Championships but reportedly did not require medical attention.

In singles figure skating, collisions are less common but still prevalent. There was Baiul in 1994, but also these accidents:

Jill Trenary sliced her calf  and severed an artery in a warm-up collision as a junior skater in 1985. She recovered from that to win the World Championship five years later.

In 1991, Japan’s Midori Ito was reportedly in tears after colliding with a French skater in a short program warm-up (video here). She missed minutes of warm-up time and, in her short program, actually fell out of the rink entirely (video here). Ito ultimately finished fourth. Kristi Yamaguchi won gold. A year later, Ito won Olympic silver behind Yamaguchi.

In 2010, American Adam Rippon and Canada’s Patrick Chan collided in a Skate Canada practice (video here). Rippon had “a red welt the size of a quarter on his cheek,” according to The Associated Press. Chan went on to win the competition. Rippon was third.

Carolina Kostner, Denis Ten struggle early at Cup of China

Adelina Sotnikova
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Mild surprises marked the short programs at the Cup of China on Friday.

Russian Adelina Sotnikova led the women’s standings over 2012 World champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, while China’s Yan Han posted a score two points higher than Olympic favorite Patrick Chan had at Skate Canada last week.

In pairs, Chinese veterans Pang Qing and Tong Jian scored 70.38 points to lead reigning World silver medalists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, who tallied 69.07.

Ice dance went more according to plan. Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev edged France’s Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat in a battle of two teams thought to be in the Olympic medal hunt.

The Cup of China, the third of six Grand Prix events before the Grand Prix Final (Dec. 5-6), concludes Saturday with the free skates for all four disciplines.

Key information for Cup of China

A Russian woman took command for the second straight Grand Prix. Sotnikova, 17, scored 66.03 points to lead the favored Kostner going into the free skate.

Kostner fell on her opening combination jump but is still within striking distance, 3.28 points behind Sotnikova. The Russian also topped Kostner in the short program at the European Championships in January, but the standings reversed after the free skate.

The American entry, Agnes Zawadzki, fell on her opening combination and landed in seventh place at 53.73.

Zawadzki is in the running for one of three U.S. Olympic Team spots but will need to be much better. Ashley WagnerGracie Gold and Christina Gao all scored at least nine points better in their short programs at Skate America or Skate Canada.

China’s Han, 17 and the 2012 World junior champion, topped a men’s field that included reigning World silver medalist Denis Ten.

Yan, wearing an earring, landed a quadruple toe loop, triple Axel and a triple-triple combination to take a strong 8.2-point lead over Russian Maksim Kovtun.

Kovtun landed two quads and a triple Axel but fell on a footwork sequence. He is considered the top threat to three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko for Russia’s single men’s Olympic spot.

Ten made an underwhelming Grand Prix debut after he pulled out of Skate America due to a back injury two weeks ago. The Kazakh is in fourth with 77.05 points.

He put his hand down on a quad toe and didn’t perform a jump combination, popping a triple Lutz.

Ten, who trains in California, had been battling a jaw infection that also left black spots on his ankles.

“Well that’s not as bad as maybe it could have been,” Ten’s coach, Frank Carroll, told his skater in the kiss-and-cry area.

2011 U.S. silver medalist Richard Dornbush put his hand down on a triple Axel, tripled a planned quad and placed sixth with 72.58 points.

In pairs, 2013 U.S. silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim scored 57.99 points, good for fourth place. U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were last with 50.33. The top U.S. pairs at Skate America — Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and Marissa Castelli and Simon Schnapir — were 62-plus.

The ice dance standings saw the last two World Championships bronze medalists leading two U.S. couples after the short program.

U.S. silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates scored 56.77 to land in third behind the Russians and French. Their short dance score was four points behind what Alex and Maia Shibutani and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue scored at previous Grand Prix events.

Behind Chock and Bates were U.S. junior champions Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton in fourth with 52.92.

Three U.S. ice dance couples will make the Olympics, likely led by World champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0LPi5J2jow

Men
1. Yan Han (CHN) 90.14
2. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) 81.84
3. Takahiko Kozuka (JPN) 81.62
4. Denis Ten (KAZ) 77.05
5. Florent Amodio (FRA) 76.75
6. Richard Dornbush (USA) 72.58
7. Peter Liebers (GER) 69.34
8. Nan Song (CHN) 68.68
9. Yi Wang (CHN) 63.27

Women
1. Adelina Sotnikova (RUS) 66.03
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) 62.75
3. Anna Pogorilaya (RUS) 60.24
4. Kanako Murakami (JPN) 57.33
5. Haruka Imai (JPN) 54.79
6. Nikol Gosviani (RUS) 53.76
7. Agnes Zawadzki (USA) 53.73
8. Zijun Li (CHN) 53.58
9. Zhang Kexin (CHN) 53.32
10. Guo Xiaowen (CHN) 45.32

Pairs
1. Pang/Tong (CHN) 70.38
2. Savchenko/Szolkowy (GER) 69.07
3. Peng/Zhang (CHN) 64.24
4. Scimeca/Knierim (USA) 57.99
5. Wang/Wang (CHN) 57.16
6. Martiusheva/Rogonov (RUS) 53.02
7. Popova/Massot (FRA) 51.82
8. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 50.33

Ice Dance
1. Bobrova/Soloviyev (RUS) 65.70
2. Pechalat/Bourzat (FRA) 62.60
3. Chock/Bates (USA) 56.77
4. Aldridge/Eaton (USA) 52.92
5. Carron/Jones (FRA) 50.20
6. Zhang/Wu (CHN) 41.79
7. Yu/Wang (CHN) 41.24

Video: Davis/White on ‘SportsDash’