Hanyu dazzles in short program, takes commanding lead over Takahashi

by David Hueston and Dave Hueston

Kyodo

Yuzuru Hanyu propelled himself into the lead with an electrifying performance in the men’s short program, stunning defending champion Daisuke Takahashi at the Japan Figure Skating National Championships on Friday.

The 18-year-old boy wonder riveted the crowd at Makomanai Ice Arena with his performance to the jazzy “Parisienne Walkways” by Gary Moore en route to the highest score of 97.68, nearly 10 points ahead of Takahashi who was second with 88.04.

Hanyu eclipsed his own world record of 95.32, although the mark will not be officially recognized by the International Skating Union.

Takahiko Kozuka, aiming for his first title in two years, placed third with 84.58.

“I was shocked,” said Hanyu, the runnerup to Takahashi at the Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month. “This is unofficial but I’m happy I was able to break my own world record. This is a year I have to be in contention for the title.”

“I’m not that concerned with setting world records, but I am pleased I was able to perform in this way under pressure. The pressure energizes me.”

Takahashi, skating to Rock ‘n’ Roll Medley, received a downgrade for under-rotating his opening quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination when he almost fell to the ice.

“It wasn’t my best but it wasn’t that bad either. I was able to steady myself despite feeling nervous,” Takahashi said. “I somehow held the quad combo together on landing. It’s getting better and better for me. I had some small mistake but nothing major.”

Takahiko Mura, who won his first Grand Prix event at last month’s Trophee Eric Bompard, came fourth while Nobunari Oda, who took a spill on his opening quadruple toeloop, was fifth with an 80.75.

Tatsuki Machida, who upset Takahashi to lead Japan in a 1-2 finish at the Cup of China, was in back in eighth with a 64.48 after an error-strewn program.

There are three berths available each in the men’s and women’s for next year’s world championships in London, Canada, and the nationals double as the final qualifier.

Currently, Takahashi, Hanyu and Kozuka are the front-runners for the men while Mao Asada, Akiko Suzuki and Kanako Murakami have fulfilled the qualifying standards for the women.

Brother and sister duo Chris and Cathy Reed took the lead in the ice dance short program with a score of 53.41. Bryna Oi and Taiyo Mizutani trailed in second with 42.12, while Marien De La Asuncion and Emi Hirai were 0.12 behind in third place.

The women’s short program, featuring defending champion Mao and Suzuki, gets under way on Saturday.