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Kerry to learn from Olympic debut

14 February 2014

FIGURE SKATING: There is no stage bigger for a figure skater than the Olympic Games, and tonight that stage shone with thrills, spills and unheralded shocks as the men’s individual event got underway under the bright lights of the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Australia’s Brendan Kerry gave a spirited performance but was disappointed to make some costly errors early in his piece, ending his short program below his best on 47.12.

The 19-year-old was in the second group of skaters, alongside hometown hero and Olympic legend of the sport, Evgeni Plushenko. 

During warm-up, the Russian crowed roared for their local hero who was out to become the most decorated figure skater in history.

It wasn’t to be. 

With less than three minutes before the start of his program, the 31-year-old, who has already won gold at Sochi 2014 in the team event, unsuccessfully attempted a triple axel. After skating around holding his back and then unsuccessfully trying the jump again, Plushenko officially withdrew from the event for medical reasons.

As the announcer told the crowd, you could have heard a pin drop.

Speaking to the media, Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin said: "At the end of the free skating (in the team event) he was feeling unsure. I have worked with him for 20 years. We have had lots of success. This is one incident in 20 years when he was not successful. Please be positive to him and respect him."

Plushenko then faced the packed media room to offer explanation of his injury.

"Yesterday, I fell on the quad toe in training and I felt a problem in my back,” he said. “Today I went into training to see what I could do but I couldn't jump."

"In the warm-up I did the triple loop and triple lutz, but after the first triple axel I stepped out and felt terrible pain in my leg and the second one was just a terrible landing. I couldn't feel my legs after it. It hurt and that was it, I had to withdraw."

Plushenko’s withdrawal meant that Kerry was the second skater to take to the ice, but the events did not disrupt the Sydneysider, who said he didn’t really know what had happened until after, and was just thrilled to have had the chance to share the rink with one of his heroes during warm-up.

“That was amazing,” Kerry said of his experience. 

“Practice [for me] has been terrible since getting here. I have been distracted by the cameras and all the people and I wasn’t focusing on what I was doing. But it was strange - as soon as I was on practice with him [Plushenko] I was just focusing on trying to do well, because not many people get to do that in a lifetime so I want to make sure I do it properly.

“I was paranoid, I didn’t want to get in his way! It was amazing, all my friends were jealous.”

Skating to a classical rendition of Nothing Else Matters by Metallica, Kerry got off to shaky start, saying that he let his mind get the better of him before his performance even started.

“I felt really stressed until I got out onto the ice and then I actually felt really comfy,” Kerry said. “But just when I was skating around I kept thinking in my head ‘I’m going to miss this first jump’ and it just kept going that way.”

Despite being disappointed with his performance, Kerry is only young and will take a lot from the experience with him into future competitions and future Olympics. At just 19, Kerry’s talent as a skater is unquestionable, but he has identified that his focus and mental strength is something he will need to work on. 

“In practice, I let it get to me, which I shouldn’t have. I have had the big stadiums and bright lights and crowds before. I actually really enjoyed it when I went out. Everyone was cheering for Plushenko and I felt like I kind of got high off that because it was just unreal seeing so many people support the sport. So I don’t think it was that. I think it was just me playing mind games with myself.

“I’ve got Junior Worlds and then Senior Worlds coming up. I am planning on skating better.

“I’ve learned that every competition is the same. I only felt that when I finished. I have skated well pretty much all year. I have been training fine. I need to remember that every competition is the same. I need to make sure I remember that next time.

With 30 men in total and only 24 progressing to the following day’s free program, the pressure was on.

Yuzuru Hanyu, the 19-year-old Japanese sensation, proved he is the biggest threat for the gold medal, finishing the short program as the overall leader with a huge 101.45 points. 

Hanyu set a record score of 101.45 points, improving his own top score in the short programme and becoming the first man to crack a 100 points.

Hot favourite Patrick Chan of Canada also produced a strong performance, finishing second with 97.52. Spanish skater Javier Fernandez was third with 86.98.

Brendan Kerry

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