RIFU, MIYAGI PREF. – Yuzuru Hanyu electrified the crowd in his native prefecture with a scintillating show of skill and grace to earn a world-record score of 95.32 in the men’s short program on Friday at the NHK Trophy.
Hanyu, the 2010 world junior champion, skated to “Parisian Walkways” and opened with a quad toe loop, then landed a triple axel and a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination and received a raucous round of applause for his efforts.
Hanyu broke his own world mark of 95.07, set at the season-opening Skate America in Kent, Washington, last month. He has a nearly eight-point lead heading into Saturday’s free skate.
It was a poignant performance for the 17-year-old from Sendai, who famously ran out of his training rink in the city with his skates on when the March 11 disaster hit the region some 20 months ago.
“It feels great to set another world record,” said Hanyu. “It’s very pleasing to show these type of results for two competitions in a row.”
Hanyu, the bronze medalist at last season’s world championships, is now based in Toronto, where he trains with Brian Orser.
“Right now I can’t find anything that I must work on,” Hanyu said. “But I want to find a way to raise my performance level.”
The young star can book a place in next month’s Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, with a podium finish here.
“I felt a lot of pressure skating here at home, but once I finished my combo jump I was able to relax and enjoy myself,” Hanyu noted.
Daisuke Takahashi touched down on his opening quad toe loop and is in second place with 87.47.
Skating to “Rock ‘n Roll Medley,” the 2010 Olympic bronze medalist sported a bright red jacket with black pants on the way to a season-best score.
“I made some mistakes today in the technical aspects in my jumps and spin, but overall I felt my performance was better than in China. So it was a confidence booster.” said Takahashi.
Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who won last month at Skate Canada, executed a clean program to “The Mask of Zorro” and is in third on 86.23.
“It was a great start and a great ending,” noted Fernandez, who is also coached by Orser. “I was really happy with the result. The work we have been doing in Toronto is paying off.”
Daisuke Murakami fell on his first two jumps (a quad salchow and triple axel), re-injured his right shoulder, and was forced to withdraw before completing his program. He was diagnosed with a separated shoulder after an examination at a local hospital. It was announced that he had suffered the injury during a fall in practice on Thursday.
Two-time world champion Mao Asada grabbed the lead in the women’s field with a tally of 67.95 in a near flawless short program
Wearing a fluorescent orange outfit, Mao cleanly landed a double axel, triple flip/double loop combo and a triple loop to “I Got Rhythm.”
A place on the podium will give Mao a spot in the GP Final.
“I’m very happy with my short program,” said Mao. “It’s similar to my performance in China and will pave the way for a good showing tomorrow.”
However, Mao said she did not want to get overconfident.
“I have to forget about this result and mentally prepare for Saturday,” she said.
Mirai Nagasu performed to “Downhill Special” and stumbled on the back end of her opening jump (a triple toe loop/triple toe loop combo), but recovered to finish strong. She is second with 61.18.
“I’m very proud for landing the triple toe/triple toe,” said Nagasu, who finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics. “It’s the first time I did that since I was 14. So that is a pretty big gap.”
Fifteen-year-old Zijun Li of China is a surprise third with 59.62.
World bronze medalist Akiko Suzuki (58.60) nailed a triple toe loop/triple toe loop combo to open her program, but then singled a planned triple lutz before hitting a double axel, and is in fifth.
Suzuki will have to pick up the pace in Saturday’s free skate if she wants to qualify for the GP Final.
Haruka Imai (48.10) is ninth after falling on her opening double axel.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White opened up a big advantage in the short dance. The 2011 world champions tallied 69.86 to lead compatriots Maia and Alex Shibutani (60.84) by more than nine points. Russia’s Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov were third with 59.96.
The NHK Trophy is the last of the season’s six Grand Prix events.