Figure Skating

As it happened - ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021 - Monday practice

Hanyu Yuzuru sat out first practice before training in the evening, but a Covid scare grabbed the headlines on the first day of training in Stockholm. Catch up on all the news and reaction here.

By Rory Jiwani ·

This was our first day of live blogging the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021 in Stockholm. We're covering the event all week, Tuesday's practice is being covered via this link, but read on below for what happened on Monday (22nd March) as the top skaters took to the ice for their opening practice sessions.

All times are local to host country Sweden (Central European Time/CET). Latest updates first.

9:45pm - Signing out from Stockholm

That's it for our first live blog of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships and there has been plenty of drama, especially off the ice.

The positive Covid test has cast something of a shadow over proceedings with very little known about the contact the person, who are reporting as Belarusian skater Viktoriia Safonova, has had with fellow athletes or people in the Competition Bubble.

The ISU said in its statement (see 5:50pm post) that close contacts "were identified and isolated for further checks and appropriate measures were taken". We may soon discover the identity of those close contacts and what consequences there are for the event.

On the ice, Nathan Chen appeared in excellent shape with Hanyu Yuzuru looking very relaxed in the day's second practice session having skipped the first.

In the ladies' singles, Alexandra Trusova's triple Axel - a jump she has never previously landed in international competition - was the highlight with the two-time world junior champion hoping that jump in the short program allied to her quad-jumping power in the free skate will secure her a first senior global crown.

Anna Shcherbakova fell on a quad flip in opening practice, while Elizaveta Tuktamysheva's spins were masterful in the late session. And Kihira Rika landed her trademark triple Axel although we're looking forward to seeing the quad Salchow she unveiled when she retained her Japanese national title in December.

We'll be back tomorrow with the second day of practice ahead of the start of competition on Wednesday.

Practice times are as follows:

Men's Singles: 10:30am-2:20pm (practice rink), 7:05pm-10:55pm (main rink)

Ladies' Singles: 10:55am-2:45pm (main rink), 5:25pm-9.15pm (practice rink)

8:10pm - First Pooh bear sighting in Stockholm

Hanyu has practised and he was all smiles after his first session in the Globe Arena.

Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson - but no Ghislain Briand, probably due to Covid protocols - were on the boards of the practice rink with one of Hanyu's favourite Winnie the Pooh bears.

The 26-year-old two-time Olympic champion has been in Japan since the start of the pandemic, and this is believed to be the first time he and his Toronto-based coaches have seen each other in person for over a year.

Hanyu has four quads planned for his free skate, but not the quad Axel he has spoken of as his prime ambition for the future.

All eyes are on he and two-time reigning world champion Nathan Chen with the men's short program getting underway Thursday morning, and the free skate taking place on Saturday morning.

Afterwards, Hanyu told Japanese TV (thanks to Twitter user @Iron_Klaus for the translation), "I’ve been able to have a good conversation with the ice here and since I’m going to skate, I’d like it to make it something meaningful."

7:15pm - Safonova out of ladies' singles, Hanyu is on the ice!

The latest name to pull out of the World Championships today is Viktoriia Safonova of Belarus.

Unlike Chinese pairs duo Yuchen Wang and Yihang Huang, Safonova had already submitted her Planned Program Entries.

While the 17-year-old has not been confirmed as the athlete who gave the positive Covid test, skating aficionados on social media are convinced it is her given the suddenness of her withdrawal.

Born in Moscow, Safonova used to train under Eteri Tutberidze at Sambo-70 and switched allegiance from Russia to Belarus in August 2019.

She still trains in Moscow, working with Oksana Matveeva, but early rumours that she flew in to Stockholm with Russian skaters have been dispelled by multiple sources on social media.

She was due to be in Group 5 alongside American pair Bradie Tennell and Karen Chen, Bulgaria's Alexandra Feigin, Emmy Ma of Chinese Taipei, French Olympian Mae Berenice Meite, and Poland's Ekaterina Kurakova.

Meanwhile, the second men's singles practice is underway and Hanyu Yuzuru is on the ice.

The two-time Olympic and world champion skipped this morning's session on the main rink, but is training right now on the practice rink in the Globe Arena.

6:25pm - Fans react to news of positive Covid test

Unsurprisingly, there has been consternation on social media in response to the ISU's statement that a positive case of Covid had been identified.

Plenty of figure skating fans have been vocal in their opposition to the World Championships taking place at this time, and this news has prompted many to urge that it be cancelled.

Right now we do not know who gave the positive test result, or how much contact they have been in with competitors and coaches.

There have been photos on social media showing skaters not following Covid protocols in Stockholm, or wearing masks as requested.

Canada's three-time Olympic medallist Meagan Duhamel is among those shocked by some of the photos she has seen in Stockholm.

Duhamel also has some strong views on the ladies' singles, particularly skaters representing the Russian Figure Skating Federation.

She told The Skating Lesson about how she first encountered Elizaveta Tuktamysheva when the Russian was just 14, and praised the 2015 world champion's longevity and love of the sport.

She said, "She's a real person whereas sometimes I don't think the others are in that sense. She's healthy, she looks healthy, she enjoys skating, she likes to push herself, she likes to train, she likes to compete, she thrives on this.

"Whereas you see some of those other girls looking so miserable and unhealthy. I love that she jumps like a man, I love her strong triple Axel."

The PyeongChang team gold medallist also says she loves Alexandra Trusova. "I like her energy and when she doesn't skate great, she still seems happy. That's a sign of someone who has a good character. And from what I've read and seen, she pushes herself and it comes from within."

However, Duhamel has a very different view of Anna Shcherbakova who is the favourite to win on her senior World Championship debut.

"She looks so frail. I can't enjoy watching her."

On her specialist subject, the pairs, Duhamel thinks Sui Wenjing and Han Cong will do well to hold off the young pairing of Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii.

"We saw the way the international judges were scoring Boikova and Kozlovskii last season, they were very close to Sui and Han at their best. Sui and Han have that side-by-side triple Salchow that we have seen them do so rarely. They're going to need that and they're going to need a great free skate."

Another Olympic champion looking forward to the action is Meryl Davis. She spoke to Olympic Channel's Incoming Call last night, and hopes Hanyu-Chen lives up to the billing.

Davis said, "I've had the honour and privilege to watch Nathan and Yuzu compete against each other for a few years now. As a skater, as a skating fan, it just sends shivers down my spine.

"Yuzu is the G.O.A.T. To continue to just bring such excellence year after year, time after time, I can't imagine what that's like, and the dedication is so tremendous. Nathan has had the privilege of competing more frequently this season.

"For both of these athletes, it could very much come down to the day. They are so well matched. They are so incredible. In terms of the performance, you just can't ask for anything more."

5:50pm - ISU reports positive Covid test

Breaking news - the ISU has just released a statement reporting that one person in the Competition Bubble has tested positive for Covid.

The event protocols dictate that everyone in the CB must undergo "mutiple PCR tests".

The ISU says, "During one of the rounds of testing, one positive case was identified. The ISU and Organizing Committee will respect the privacy of the respective person and inform the remaining Event Participants internally of the situation.

"The protocol as set out in the ISU Health Regulations for Event participants is being followed namely:

  • the respective person will not be allowed to participate at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021
  • the respective person has been quarantined and all the required measures have been followed
  • Close contact persons were identified and isolated for further checks and appropriate measures were taken

"OC Medical Team/ISU Medical Advisor assessed the situation and followed the ISU Health Regulations for Event Participants in harmony with the Swedish public health guidelines."

More news as and when we get it.

5:40pm - Kolyada in great form, Uno gets a feel for the ice...

No live streams today, but fans are reacting to some of the footage shot by Ivan Shmuratko earlier.

Mikhail Kolyada has made a spectacular return to elite skating after missing all of last season with a sinus problem. And he showed why he is a genuine medal contender in Stockholm with an immaculate quad toeloop-triple toe loop combination in his short program runthrough to 'Let's Get Loud' by The Baseballs.

While Hanyu Yuzuru missed the opening practice session, his team-mate and Olympic silver medallist Uno Shoma was out there along with Kagiyama Yuma.

They say you're supposed to get a feel for the ice, but maybe not like this...

4:50pm - More absentees from Stockholm

The second ladies' singles practice session is underway on the practice rink. News and reaction when we have it.

Obviously, there has been plenty of talk about Covid ahead of these championships, and the restrictions in force in Stockholm to ensure the competition goes ahead safely.

One protocol in place is that each skater is allowed just one coach.

The first photo below has caused something of a stir on social media. It seems to show Georgia's Morisi Kvitelashvili in conversation with his coach, Eteri Tutberidze, and her assistants Daniil Gleikhengauz and Sergei Dudakov in practice earlier today.

The trio are better known for their exploits with female skaters with Anna Shcherbakova favourite to claim the ladies' singles title.

The ISU issued a lengthy 'Health Regulations' document ahead of the Worlds which designated who and who cannot be part of the Competition Bubble (CB).

It therein states:

The ISU quota for the WC2021 will be limited for the following roles compared to previous ISU Championships:

Coaches: 1 coach per skater/Pair team/Ice Dance couple

Team Officials: 1 Team Official per member (incl. Member Presidents)

Chaperones: No chaperones accepted

Guests: No guests accepted (incl. accompanying to Judges/Officials/Member President’s guest)

Observers: No observers accepted

One skater who did not make it to Stockholm is Slavik Hayrapetyan.

The six-time Armenian champion tested positive for Covid the day before his scheduled flight and, thinking it was a false result, he had two more tests which confirmed he was indeed positive.

Only on Friday, he was training and looking forward to joining his team-mates in the Swedish capital.

Now he is self-isolating and receiving treatment.

3:40pm - Pairs contenders Boikova and Kozlovskii change short program

The World Championships may not seem like the best time to spring a new program on the world, but that's what Russian pairs champions Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii have chosen to do in Stockholm.

They will debut their short program to 'Merry Go Round of Life' from the Howl's Moving Castle soundtrack on Wednesday evening.

Boikova and Kozlovskii are perhaps the main rivals to Sui Wenjing and Han Cong who are seeking to complete a hat-trick of world title triumphs this week.

Their coach Tamara Moskvina told the Russian Figure Skating Federation that their previous short program music, from the soundtrack of 'The Captivating Star of Happiness', had "tragic connotations" and that the new track was much more upbeat and reflective of the happiness that these World Championships are able to take place.

Sui and Han's Chinese team-mates Yuchen Wang and Yihang Huang have pulled out of the pairs competition which will also be missing Ukraine's Sofiia Holichenko and Artem Darenskyi who tested positive for Covid before their scheduled flight to Stockholm.

3:15pm - More from men's practice, second ladies' session underway

The second ladies' singles practice session is underway on the practice rink. Stay tuned for news and reaction from that.

Ivan Shmuratko is making a bid to be the most popular skater at these World Championships by posting over an hour of the first men's singles practice on the main rink.

He posted all of Group 4 which was:

Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE), free skate - 'Hallelujah' by Jeff Buckley

Michal Brezina (CZE), free skate - Bryan Adams medley

Donovan Carrillo (MEX), free skate - 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps' by Michael Buble

Jason Brown (USA), short program - 'Sinnerman' by Nina Simone

Nathan Chen (USA), short program - Desperado soundtrack

Vincent Zhou (USA), short program - 'Vincent' by Josh Groban

If you saw his video of Nathan Chen (1:55pm post), you would have heard his exclamation of praise for Chen's quad Lutz followed by surprise at the American star singling what should have been a triple Axel. But that's what practice is for.

The skaters certainly didn't over-exert themselves with Jason Brown (in the red T-shirt) only hitting a single and a double jump in his run through. They will have another practice in the practice rink this evening but this was their first experience of the ice they will be competing on in the coming days.

Brown is an Olympic team bronze medallist from Sochi 2014 and has reconstructed his career since missing the PyeongChang 2018 Games.

He trains alongside Hanyu Yuzuru, and talked to Olympic Channel recently about "rebuilding my house" working under Tracy Wilson and Brian Orser in Toronto.

Jason Brown in fine-tuning mode after changing course

After missing out on the USA team for PyeongChang 2018, skater Jason Brown ...

1:55pm - American men on the ice

I mentioned earlier that we have the planned program entries for each skater this week, and the men's singles lists provided a surprising answer to the question, "Who will try the most quads in Stockholm?"

It's not Chen or Hanyu or Uno, all of whom have two quads in the short program and four quads in the free skate.

The accolade goes to Vincent Zhou who has no fewer than five quads planned for his free.

The American plans to open with a quad Lutz-triple toeloop combination followed by a quad flip and a quad Salchow. And then in the second half of the routine, he has a quad Lutz-double toeloop combo and a quad toeloop.

While most of the men have their quad jumps near the start of their free skates, Hanyu, Chen and Zhou have quads after halfway which means they attract a 10% bonus on technical elements scoring. The exertion required to land quads late on makes a huge demand on stamina, so expect those three to be gasping for air at the finish.

Ukrainian skater Ivan Shmuratko has been live streaming his fellow competitors in action on his Instagram Live.

On his feed was Nathan Chen's runthrough which included a sublime quad Lutz.

1:10pm - No Hanyu in first practice

The first men's practice session is underway but Hanyu Yuzuru is not taking part.

The double Olympic champion has opted to skip the session with Japanese team-mates Uno Shoma and Kagiyama Yuma snapped before taking the ice.

The men are due another session today on the practice rink from 6pm, so it is possible Hanyu could have an outing then.

The 26-year-old meets Nathan Chen for the first time since the 2019 Grand Prix Final with both men seeking a third world title.

Chen is unbeaten since missing out on the medals at PyeongChang 2018 where Hanyu became just the second skater to retain the men's singles Olympic crown.

It promises to be a mouthwatering clash between two greats of the sport with Chen winning Skate America back in October followed by a fifth consecutive U.S. title in January.

Having skipped the Grand Prix, Hanyu showed he is in great shape by regaining his Japanese national title in December from Uno.

READ: Hanyu and Chen to meet for the first time since 2019

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Team USA Winter Olympic figure skating bronze medallist Nathan Chen shares ...

12:40pm - Trusova lands a triple Axel in ladies' singles practice

Welcome to the first instalment of our daily live blog from the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm.

The action proper gets underway on Wednesday, but the stars are on the ice today inside the Globe Arena and there's already some news to bring you.

The skaters have submitted their 'Planned Program Entries' for the coming days which shows the elements each athlete is scheduled to perform.

Alexandra Trusova has double Axels in both her short program and free skate but, practising on the main rink this morning, she landed a triple Axel.

With quad jumps still not recognised in the short program, a triple Axel would significantly boost her chances of a strong position ahead of the free skate where she has pencilled in no fewer than three quads.

Trusova has not landed a triple Axel in international competition, but did so in the short program at the Cup of Russia event in October in her first competition since leaving Eteri Tutberidze to work under Evgeni Plushenko.

Just two other women have quad jumps scheduled for Stockholm - Kihira Rika plans to open with a quad Salchow followed by her signature triple Axel, while Anna Shcherbakova is set to perform a quad flip.

According to Russian observers, Shcherbakova fell attempting that quad flip in practice.

The women practise again later, on the practice rink, at 14:45 while the men are currently on the main rink.

We'll bring you all the latest news and reaction from social media.

Meanwhile, here's our preview to the competition which sees the best figure skaters in the world gather for the first time since the Grand Prix Final in Turin back in December 2019.

READ: World Figure Skating Championships 2021 - Preview, TV and streaming details, who's competing and more