Big-jumping Jin Boyang defends Cup of China title; Peng and Jin capture pairs crown

Fourth at PyeongChang 2018, China's Jin hit three quads in his free skate at the ISU Grand Prix event, winning ahead of Yan Han. Plus, a look ahead at skating season.

By Nick McCarvel

Jin Boyang is Cup of China champion for a second consecutive year.

The two-time figure skating world medallist completed three quadruple jumps in his free skate on Saturday at the second ISU Grand Prix Series event of the season, for a 290.89 total score and the triumph.

Jin’s Chinese compatriot, Yan Han, was second, scoring a 264.81.

Cup of China, held in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing, took place without fans on site and with strict COVID-19 protocols for the athletes in attendance, which included only Chinese skaters to limit travel.

In pairs, the competition was without two-time world champion pairs team Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were ruled out last week as Han continues to recover from hip surgery in April. Peng Cheng and Jin Yang, who were fourth at worlds in 2019, won the event by nearly 50 points, scoring a 223.90.

In ice dance, Olympians Wang Shiyue and Liu Xinyu swept the competition, scoring an impressive 206.84 for a 14-point win. The duo placed 22nd at PyeongChang 2018.

Chen Hongyi won the women’s event with a 186.53, a runaway win of 38 points over second-place finisher Li Angel.

The event was a preview of Chinese nationals, set for later this season.

Jin in fighting form

Jin Boyang placed fourth at the Winter Olympics in 2018, and has been outspoken about his aspirations for Beijing 2022 as China gets set to host the Games for the first time.

Sui/Han are medal favourites in pairs, while Jin will factor into the mix for the men’s event.

“I feel pretty satisfied with my performance today,” he told reporters on Saturday. “I had two weeks of hard training, so today was meaningful. It wasn’t easy because I had a short time to prepare. I think that I still have room to improve. I think I’m at 70 percent right now. I think I can get better this season.”

Jin opened his free skate with his patented quadruple Lutz, then completed a quad toe-double toe combination. He’d add another quad toe midway through the program.

While his jumps had plenty of air under them, he fell on the latter part of triple Lutz-triple toe combination.

“I’ve been doing more physical training to strengthen my jumps,” he noted, having had limited ice time due to pandemic restrictions. “My free skate is quite demanding physically. I had only done one run-through before today, but I feel like today went pretty well.”

While Jin looked solid technically, his program components (artistry) mostly scored in the 8s, around even with second-place finisher Yan, who scored a 90.18 in components to Jin's 89.34.

Beijing 2022 remains on his mind, even with another season to go ahead of the Olympics.

“In 2018, that was my first time at the Olympics,” he said. “I’ve gained a lot of experience since then. I want to bring the best of me to the Olympics. There are 400 days until Beijing, so I want to not waste any time.”

Pairs: Peng and Jin win first Cup of China

Without favourites Sui and Han, Peng Cheng and Jin Yang were clear winners in pairs, which featured just three Chinese teams.

The duo add to their 2019 Skate America title with gold here, their ninth Grand Prix medal overall.

Their skating was not without its trouble spots in their first major outing of the season, as Peng fell in the short program in their side-by-side jumps. In the free skate, she doubled a planned triple toeloop.

Their “Cloud Atlas” medley - carried over from last season - was performed with grace and a flowing musical connection. They received all 9s and above for their program components. The program also included a throw triple loop and triple twist, both done beautifully, which received positive GOEs (grades of execution) from the judging panel.

“Today we skated better and more relaxed than yesterday in the short program,” Peng said, according to the ISU. “Also, since we are skating this program for the second season, we feel more experienced with it. We have not changed it because of the pandemic but also because we felt we have not yet shown the full potential of this program.”

Jin added: “We are really happy to come here and to compete with our teammates. We are just focusing on executing and completing our elements. We will analyze this competition and learn from it.”

Figure skating: What comes next?

Wins for Jin and Peng/Jin, especially, will be noted on the international scene as the Grand Prix Series has now seen events completed at Skate America and Cup of China.

The skating calendar, like many sports, has been impacted heavily by COVID-19: Skate Canada and Internationaux de France have been cancelled, with the Grand Prix Final - set for Beijing in December - in limbo. Next up: Rostelecom Cup in Russia (20-21 Nov.) and NHK Trophy is Osaka, Japan (27-28 Nov.).

Some of the biggest stars in the sport are set to compete still, including rising Russian stars Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova, and Anna Shcherbakova in Moscow, as well as Daisuke Takahashi, the Vancouver 2010 bronze medallist in singles, who is making a comeback in ice dance, in Japan.

Late December and into January will bring usually-scheduled national championships, and - for some skaters - the first large-scale competition of an already different (and difficult) figure skating season.