Kevin Reynolds, he of the red, windblown locks that have spawned their own Facebook page, was a hit on Friday during the men’s short program at Skate Canada International.
Finally, after years of his frustration – bad boots, injuries, surgery, everything – people took notice. They had to. He’s in third place, in medal position, ahead of Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.
It started on the ice and continued to the after-event press conference. Asked to answer a question in Japanese in a media room full of Japanese media, Reynolds in full modesty mode, apologized for not having practiced the language much for the past six months, but that he’d give it a shot and please overlook his mistakes.
Then he started speaking. In that other tongue, so different from English. At the other end of the table was Takahito Mura, in second place, nodding his head, yes, yes, yes, obviously impressed. Patrick Chan, his eyes wide open, listened. He’s in first place, king for the moment. But Reynolds was the king of the comeback, of a crazy virtuosity in many areas.
No wonder Reynolds has legions of fans in Japan. He has a soft spot for Japan.
“I became interested in the language in the first place because I visited Japan at the NHK Trophy,” he said. That would be in the fall of 2012, the first and only time he has been there. He was assigned NHK a few years later, but had to withdraw from all of his Grand Prix event because of aforementioned troubles.
A light bulb went on in his head, eventually. His fan base in Japan grew exponentially in a short time, and he thought if he learned the language, he could communicate with his fans much better. But Reynolds didn’t choose to get the mass-language learning kits. He became serious. He wanted to know how to speak the nuances of the language too.
This season, he’s started to study at the University of British Columbia and has a minor in Japanese language. He’s not speaking it much this year, because it’s just not a credit course at this stage. But speak he certainly can.
And he can skate a bit, too. Reynolds, known as Canada’s quad king, was doing multiple quads long before this current crazy rush. He landed his favourite quad, the Salchow at age 15. That would be 11 years ago.
Reynolds was the first man to land two quads in a short program, yes, years ago. The first Canadian to do a quad-triple-triple combination, and still only the second of three men to do it in competition (Evgeny Plushenko of Russia and Kevin van der Perren of Belgium the others.). He did this at the 2008 Canadian championships, almost nine years ago.
Reynolds realized he had to tackle the other side, the performance, artistic side and he turned to the best teacher, Shae-Lynn Bourne who has brought out his inner twinkle. It was working. With all this on board, he was just climbing the international ranks –third in the short program and fifth overall at the 2013 world championships in London – when he stumbled full-bore into boot and injury problems.
He had to withdraw after the short program at the 2015 Canadian championships, unsure of where his skating future might lie. “Everything was up in the air,” he said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be able to continue. I didn’t know if the surgery [on his hip] was going to help. I had it planned right afterward. I knew we had to do it no matter what. There’s just no way I could continue without it. [There was no guarantee that he could continue skating with it, either.]
“But fortunately, I had a wonderful surgeon and a wonderful team around me that helped me rehabilitate the area that was injured.”
Reynolds found he could return sooner than expected. And that he was able to do more than he had ever hoped by getting to the Canadian championships at the last minute and winning bronze last season. He missed a world championship spot by a hair.
This year, his goal is to make that world team in Finland. He found is own music for the short program, Finnish folk music, pieces called “Puutarhautuminen and Kesaillan Tvist.” (I’d wager that he could pronounce those titles. Just a feeling.)
Because the ISU has ordered a new rule to have an open draw for both the short and the long programs, unattached to world or short program rankings, Reynolds drew the 12th and final spot to skate in the short program. He can’t remember a time when he’s skated last. Because he missed so many Grand Prix events over recent years, Reynolds’ world ranking has slipped so much, it would have been tough to have climbed that skating order mountain. (Patrick Chan found the same when he returned, after a year away.) Reynolds was admittedly nervous. He had his six-minute warmup and waited an hour to skate. Nerves can set in, you know.
But out he went and landed a quad Salchow-triple toe combination. The only other skater who was supposed to try that was Hanyu, himself, but Hanyu skidded on the landing of the quad Salchow and couldn’t hitch that triple toe loop to the end, meaning he had no combination at all.
Mind you, interesting note on the judges’ details, the judges deemed that Hanyu’s opening quad loop was part of the comb. He badly underrotated it, didn’t fall but skidded around on his knee. Therefore both jumps were flawed. In this case, callers will stick the combo on the jump that will cause the skater the least grief. But in the end, he didn’t earn many points from either scenario.) Hanyu, with his hair slicked back for the Prince routine, landed all else and got level fours.
But for the short program, Reynolds earned more technical points than Hanyu, after doing his quad Salchow (underrotated) combination, quad toe loop and a level-four footwork sequence. Chan got a level three on his steps.
Mura, who was second, didn’t have much good to say about his dramatic flamenco routine. He flipped out of a quad toe loop that was supposed to be a combo, but bravely stuck a triple toe loop on the end of a triple Lutz at the end.
“I would say that was one of the worst short programs for me,” Mura said. “The spins, the steps, all the levels were very low. The speed was very slow. I’m quite mad at myself.”
Not Reynolds. He said since his surgery, he feels stronger than ever. “I feel more free on the ice. I’ve put in harder training than ever. I’ve done off-ice training for strength, with a need to increase the height of my quad jumps.”
The underrotation on the quad Salchow came from nerves, but Reynolds said now that he has a good short program out, he’s more confident for the long.
Reynolds had the second highest technical mark in the short program: 42.64 to Chan’s 46.08. Chan also had the highest component mark, 45.50 to Hanyu’s 44.17. Renolds component mark was lower than both of them, as well as behind Mura, Han Yan (who is exquisite and finished sixth of 12), and Michal Brezina. Interestingly enough, Reynolds’ component mark of 37.93 tied the mark of Liam Firus, known for his artistry on ice. Firus is in 10th place after falling twice.
Reynolds says he feels less nervous at these events because now he is going to university and he has back-up goals now. Skating is not all. “It’s not like a do-or-die situation every time I compete,” he said.
He may be finally ready to pick up where he left off at the 2013 worlds, but Reynolds said his mindset is different now. He’s getting his confidence and his mojo back.
What a performance.
But first of all, he had to do something spectacular on the ice to get to that presser.