What we learnt from the 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships

Alina Zagitova and Nathan Chen stole the limelight in Saitama but there's more to take away from the worlds 

The 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships wrapped up at Saitama's Super Arena with the stars dazzling the crowd one last time at the exhibition gala.

But what are the key takeaways?

Double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu vowing to come back stronger after finishing second behind Nathan Chen?

“I aspire to have a program that cannot be beaten if I can skate it cleanly.” - Yuzuru Hanyu

Kazakhastan's silver medallist Elizabet Tursynbaeva starting a quad revolution in the women's field?

The Olympic Channel has put together a list of some of the lessons learnt at this amazing competition.

Alina Zagitova: A rebel with a cause.

The 16-year-old Russian is the real deal and can deal with setbacks.

The Olympic Champion was utterly disappointed after finishing fifth at last year’s worlds and lost a lot of confidence at the Russian nationals.

“This season was really hard for me. But when it is hard and you overcome it, it is twice as pleasant. It was tough ahead of these World Championships. It was very important for me to perform well here and end the season with dignity,” she said.

Dignity is an understatement: At 16 years and 308 days she is now an Olympic, European and World Champion.

Alina Zagitova performs in the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships
Alina Zagitova performs in the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating ChampionshipsAlina Zagitova performs in the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships

“I proved to myself that I can overcome issues, and also I can handle stress, most of all.” - Alina Zagitova

What else has changed this season?

“I also like showing my character now, I want to do things my way: if they tell me yes, I answer no, if they tell me no, I reply yes. But this will pass with age, I think, every person goes through this. I am trying to fight this.”

Elizabet Tursynbaeva: The future is here to stay

Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva landed the first quad in the history of world championships beginning her Tango routine with a quadruple salchow.

“I can’t believe I landed it,” she said. “I couldn’t do it at the last two competitions so I was really glad to be able to do it here.” And she did it in impressive fashion at the biggest event outside the Olympic Games. The world will be watching her now after that she's thrown down the gauntlet.

The big question is: Who will be the next female skater to pull off a quad at senior competition?

You can watch the historic feat here:

Evgenia Medvedeva: The two-time world champion is reborn

Changing coaches and countries was a HUGE challenge for the 19-year-old Russian. She failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final, finished only 7th at the Russian nationals and at times seemed to be consumed by self-doubt.

But she showed what champs are made of even overcoming a hip muscle pull in Saitama to come away with bronze thanks to her season’s best total of 223.80.

“I am very proud of myself. There were a lot of things I had to come through. I pulled my hip in the warm-up for the short program and it became worse, but the pain gave me strength. I got angry, drew on my reserves and did everything that I could.” - Evgenia Medvedeva

Rika Kihira: She will be back – stronger!

Her hot streak cooled on home ice. Unbeaten going into her first world championships, Japan's big hope ended up in fourth. Once again it was the triple Axel that cost her dearly.

The 16-year-old opened her short program with a mistake on her signature triple Axel. She had been struggling to nail her opening triple Axel all season long as she had to come from behind in four of her six victories.

“There have been many times during my training when my triple Axel didn’t click,” said Kihira, who was too young to qualify for PyeongChang 2018. “I didn’t know whether I should keep practising my triple Axel or not and felt like I didn’t have enough time.”

Kihira, who became the first Japanese skater to win the Grand Prix final in her debut season since her idol Mao Asada did it in 2005, has already formulated bigger plans:

“I have bigger goals than the world championships. I want to have three consistent seasons and compete at the next Olympics.”

Nathan Chen: The big easy

The American superstar revealed to us:

"This whole season I have felt the most at ease in my entire career." - Nathan Chen

And it showed. Not even skating right after Yuzuru Hanyu seemed to faze him. It took several minutes to clear the ice before the competition could continue but once again Chen showed his stuff, delivering a stellar performance under pressure. The ‘quad king’ landed four quads cleanly and spoke about his new approach to his sport.

The Yale freshman has displayed a new lightness in his skating. “I definitely don’t have that much time on the ice generally in training.” But he spends that time wisely. “Every second I am on the ice I am very aware of what’s happening.” He has clearly matured and is eager to improve:

“I still have a lot of room to grow.” - Nathan Chen

The friendly rivalry with Hanyu gets the best out of both of them: “Hanyu has been pushing the sport making the sport so enjoyable, so competitive, and that definitely made me so much better of a skater."

Yuzuru Hanyu: The eternal fighter

The two-time Olympic and world champion was as spellbinding as ever, delighting the home crowd in his first competition after a four-month injury-layoff. The Japanese superstar landed four quads for a season’s best free skate of 206.10 to finish with 300.97 total but it was not enough this time around.

The day after the men’s competition Hanyu vowed to come back stronger: “I’m back where I started,” he said.

“Watching a strong opponent, I get psyched up. I want to savour that emotion more and more and from there triumph.” - Yuzuru Hanyu

And here is his plan:

“I aspire to have a program that cannot be beaten if I can skate it cleanly.” - Yuzuru Hanyu

The figure skating world cannot wait to see his rivalry with Chen pushing them both to new heights.

Yuzuru Hanyu performs during the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships
Yuzuru Hanyu performs during the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating ChampionshipsYuzuru Hanyu performs during the Exhibition Gala at the 2019 World Figure Skating Championships

Vincent Zhou: This is just the beginning

Neither setbacks nor big names can intimidate the 18-year-old Californian who was struggling in the Grand Prix season.

Zhou was the first to skate in the final group. Performing to the Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon soundtrack, he under-rotated twice but still managed a season's best total.

"That felt incredible, everything just came together today. The jumps, the performance, and to have the opportunity to do all that on such a big stage and in front of such a huge supportive audience is just incredible," Zhou told the Olympic Channel adding:

“I have so much more potential. This is just the indicator of what I am capable of." We can’t wait to see it. - Vincent Zhou

Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron: In a class of their own

The record-setting French duo is unstoppable collecting their fourth world title alongside five European crowns. Their timing was impeccable, their spins and gravity-defying lifts electrifying.

They have taken ice dancing to a new level scoring a jaw-dropping 134.23 in the free dance and 222.65 altogether to distance their closest rivals by nearly 10 points.

And they smashed their own world record set at this year’s European championships.

Plus, they were pretty awesome taking over our Instagram account during the exhibition gala.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han: What a comeback!!!

The Chinese pair missed the whole Grand Prix season because of a stress fracture in Sui’s foot.

The world championships were their first competition of the year and the Olympic silver medallists looked like they had never been away, taking pairs gold with 234.84 points after a breathtaking free skate. It was their second world championship title after 2017.

“This has been a difficult year for us, we’ve had injuries and other issues,” said Sui. “But our coaches and team gave us support that we were able to turn into strength.”

The Quintuple Jump: Is It Possible?

This world championships pushed the frontiers of figure skating in the ladies competition with Tursynbaeva landing the first quad in the event's history.

With the men having already mastered almost all the quadruple jumps, is the first quintuple jump imminent?

We posed the question to PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Shoma Uno who pointed out that it was not too long ago that the quadruple jumps were considered unrealistic, which has him believing that someday, someone will land a quintuple jump.

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