April Fool's Day at the TD Garden. The first group of men had skated their free skates. While anxious, there hadn't been any total disasters, just some tight skates that hadn't been completely perfect. The second group had warmed up...and it was time.
Alone on the ice, in sparkled green and black, was Brendan Kerry. The 21 year old from Sydney qualified for the free skate with a fun, delightful short program that earned him a new personal best score, but then came the big question: could he capitalise on that great start and lay down a good free skate?
The music was Beethoven's Five Secrets by OneRepublic. Like many, Brendan had chosen to use lyrics now that they have been permitted, and his free skate is one of the better examples of how to cut instrumental and lyrical music together: he starts with the violin, then moves into the piano, before the lyrics come in. The program builds from start to finish and the flourishes in the music are acknowledged by the choreography.
When Brendan took centre ice in Boston, he was coming off a pair of underwhelming performances - first at Four Continents in Taipei, and then at Nordics the week after. But both occasions had revealed glimpses into choreographic and technical upgrades that were being prepared for this moment. It was just a matter of putting it all together.
Brendan opened his free skate with the difficult quadruple toe, a jump that had been on and off for him all season. In Boston, it was superbly rotated; he fought for the landing, and a quick turn not only helped him to stay upright, but avoided the boards narrowly as well. His smile said it all - he was off to a good start, and it was going to continue.
He followed it with a superb triple Axel-triple toe loop combination - one of the finest he has ever done - and we were treated to another smile on the landing. The crowd reaction was loud in its delight - it was one of the best combinations of the night. His camel-change-camel spin - with the change being a flying one - showed his long stretch line to its best advantage. A triple flip followed as the violin swelled, and then we had a moment to catch our breaths.
The program shifted gears then, to a delicate piano version, and so did Brendan, as he moved across the ice in a circular-shaped step sequence. For someone who can jump so big, he has a wonderful way of restraining that power when the music drops, and the pretty step sequence highlighted both the music and the way he uses his arms.
It was almost a surprise when he began to gather speed - for a moment, you would forget that there were still five jumping passes and two spins to go. But even as the piano slowed to its emphatic conclusion, Brendan did just the opposite, gathering speed into a triple Lutz-half loop-double Salchow combination - one of his few errors, where the double Salchow was supposed to be a triple. And yet the landing of the double right on the chord of the music seemed deliberate, even if you knew it wasn't.
The lyrics came in, then, and Brendan came back around to show off his triple Axel again in front of the judges - unfortunately, as the lyrics crashed into their chorus, he did too, popping the jump to a double with a very messy landing. And yet, apart from a moment's grimace, Brendan did not seem fazed - he simply continued to build speed and improvised the second triple Axel in the end of the rink, to the joy of the crowd and the delight of his coaches (spotted jumping up and down at that moment).
Brendan's smile as he came out of that jump was infectious. There was now no doubt: he was bringing it home. There would be no more errors. We were treated to a lovely triple loop at the other end of the rink, followed by his flying sit spin, in which he rotates the first position with so much speed you can barely count the revolutions. A final double Axel-double toe combination completed the jumping passes.
The relief on Brendan's face as he soared down the rink in the choreographed sequence was palpable, and it only made the program more enjoyable as he threw everything into that last movement. The final spin was good, and when the music stopped and Brendan stopped too, his smile lit up the TD Garden.
The score was a new season's best for Brendan, and so was the total score, raising him now well and truly above that 200 barrier that he'd broken through earlier in the season. And though that may not seem like much, considering that later that night we would see the 300 barrier breached, for me, seeing Brendan skate one his best performances ever, in person, in a packed TD Garden - for me, it was one of the most special moments of the event.
Congratulations, Brendan, and I can hardly wait for next year.
You can watch Brendan's magic free skate here.
Welcome to the month of May, where I will be sharing many of my favourite moments from my first-ever trip to an ISU Championship event, the World Championships in Boston. These memories will be special to me all my life, and I hope you enjoy them.