Jin Boyang jumps into big lead at Cup of China

In pairs, Peng Cheng and Jin Yang skated to first place in a field consisting only of Chinese athletes at the second ISU Grand Prix of the season. 

By Nick McCarvel

Skating to his music for what he said was just the second time, two-time world medallist Jin Boyang looked as though he had done so many more times before.

The top Chinese figure skater, who was fourth at PyeongChang 2018, delivered two quadruple jumps in his short program to lead the men’s event at Cup of China, being held without fans in the Chinese city of Chongqing.

“I was quite satisfied,” Jin told reporters after his skate which earned him a score of 103.94.

Fellow former Chinese champ Yan Han was second on 92.56, while reigning junior champion Chen Yudong is third with 75.74.

Grand Prix Series events are being held mostly as national or regional competitions to limit athlete travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skate America was held with only U.S. skaters and those that train there, while Cup of China features solely Chinese skaters after last week's scheduled Skate Canada was cancelled due to safety concerns.

In pairs, two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from the event last week as Han continues to recover from hip surgery in April.

That left the way clear for Peng Cheng and Jin Yang to take the short program, the two-time Chinese champs scoring 75.62.

In ice dance, Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu skated to 84.23 in the rhythm dance for a comfortable lead, while Chen Hongyi took the women's singles short program with 64.63.

The skaters, each national champions, expressed nerves having not skated competitively because of the pandemic.

"It was quite good considering this is our first competition after eight months,” said Liu, according to the ISU. “We were a little nervous. Technically we have not changed that much in our program, but we felt we are more in control of the program and we know where to express more and where to adjust."

Jin: ‘The second time I skated to this music’

Skaters normally spend months getting their programs ready and fine-tuning them as the season goes, but Jin said he spent only minutes a day on the ice from March to September because of COVID restrictions.

Cup of China marked only the second time that he had skated to his short program music, a slow, soft piano medley by Kirill Richter.

“I almost did no technical elements from March to September, and got new skates (a few weeks ago),” said Jin, the defending champion here. “I worked on the choreography [with Shae-Lynn Bourne] not until the end of September. The short program to me is a new challenge: It’s a modern piece with piano, sharp and slower.”

With no fans inside the big, empty arena in Chongqing, Jin instead said he imagined them filling the place to the rafters.

“I have the audience imagined in my heart... as though they are cheering for me,” he said. “It provides motivation.”

Jin’s jumps looked in mid-season form, completing a massive quad Lutz to open, then a quad toe loop-double toe loop combo and a triple Axel to end the short.

There were no quads in the clean short of Yan, who continues his comeback to the sport having considered retirement after PyeongChang 2018.

Performing his short program for the third time. he had no troubles with a triple Axel, a triple flip-triple toe combo and a triple Lutz.

While he’s working on both the quad toe and quad Salchow in practice, Yan stated they were not competition ready.

He said, “The most important thing (for me) is to skate two programs for the audience to enjoy. I wasn’t doing things too hard technically... I look forward to doing (my quads) when they are ready. I don’t want to rush.”

Pairs: Peng and Jin a class apart

Without Sui and Han in attendance, Peng and Jin, who are two-time Four Continents medallists and the 2019 Skate America champions, skated to a 10-point lead in a field of just three pairs duos.

Peng fell on the duo’s opening side-by-side triple toe loops, the only glaring error in an otherwise smooth, balletic performance that included a throw triple loop and a sky-high triple twist.

China has traditionally been strongest in pairs skating, winning medals at four of the last five Winter Olympic Games.

The host country for Beijing 2022 will look to be represented well in the discipline in 16 months’ time, too.

Sui and Han were silver medallists in PyeongChang and are twice world champs, but were not physically ready for the rigours of competition as Han continues to recover from hip surgery in April.

The two said they wanted to compete at Cup of China, but that it was rushing their training process, having initially planned a February comeback.

Like most athletes, Peng and Jin said they were challenged by a shorter timeframe to be ready for the Grand Prix.

"For today's performance, it's the first time we've done that program in an international event. It's only been two months since we choreographed it until now. We keep changing things, but overall we are satisfied." - Pairs skater Jin Yang