A serious dose of Kazakh pride took over Budweiser Gardens on Friday night.
And why not. Their man, Denis Ten, lit up the World Figure Skating Championships for the second time in three nights — this time with a marvellous free skate that put a serious scare into Patrick Chan, the Canadian who seemed poised to waltz to an easy triumph.
Not so fast, said Ten, who exceeded his previous personal best by 21 points in winning the free skate with a whopping 174.92 points. It was almost enough to end the reign of Chan — an effort that left the 19-year-old from Kazakhstan almost at a loss for words (at least at first). Ten is a very gregarious, engaging and, yes, funny young fellow, as it turns out.
“My dream came true. I still cannot believe that it happened,” said Ten (who’s no relation to B.C. skater Jeremy Ten. Denis jokingly referred “my Canadian brother” as a possible source of the huge fan support he’s received in London).
Two nights earlier, Ten spoke with pride about the small medal he received for finishing second in the short program. It was a first for Kazakhstan, and now he has a “real” one to add to the collection — and his country’s sporting lore.
“That is my first real World medal and what’s even more important is it’s the first medal for my country, and I’m feeling very proud of it,” he said. “I’m realizing that the whole country right now is feeling very proud of my little win, my little victory. So it’s feels great.”
Every time his reaches some new height, Javier Fernández checks off another first for his country. But such is life as a figure skater representing Spain, which has plenty of history in sports such as soccer — but not so much in his specialty.
So here was Fernández on Saturday night, basking in the glow of a bronze medal. It’s a first for Spain, right on the heels of his European victory a few months back. Yes, you know the drill by now ... the first Spaniard to do that, too.
“We have a lot of good sport people in Spain, but not in figure skating,” said the engaging Spaniard, who trains in Toronto with Brian Orser. (Fernández joked earlier in the day that he feels “half Canadian”). “We are doing are best to keep making goals, to keep improving and to tell the other countries around the world that Spain is in figure skating.”
Friday’s medal wasn’t easy in coming. Fernández had to wait out nine skaters after completing his Charlie Chaplin themed free program. But in the end, only Chan and Ten surpassed him in the final standings.
“Maybe there will be two parades next week,” Orser said with a thought toward a history making night of skating for a pair of countries.