FUKUOKA – Yuzuru Hanyu set a new world record in the men’s short program at the Grand Prix Final on Thursday night, earning 99.84 points in a fabulous performance to “Parisian Walkways.”
Hanyu started with a perfect quad toe loop, then hit a triple axel and a triple lutz/triple toe loop combination jump, in front of a raucous crowd at Marine Messe.
The ice was showered with flowers and gifts following Hanyu’s scintillating show, which was both eloquent and inspiring.
Three-time defending world champion Patrick Chan of Canada found himself in second place at 87.47 after an uneven effort.
Meanwhile, two-time world champion Mao Asada established a solid lead in the women’s short program as she attempts to win the fourth GP Final of her career.
Mao skated to Chopin’s “Nocturne” and was solid despite under-rotating her opening triple axel. She tallied a total of 72.36 putting her nearly four points ahead of Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova going into Saturday’s free skate.
Chan is not used to being upstaged, but that is exactly what happened on this night. He landed his opening quad toe loop/triple toe loop combo, but touched down on the landing of his triple axel. He then doubled his planned triple lutz as part of a rare sub-par outing for him.
“I’m totally surprised with the score,” stated Hanyu, who broke Chan’s record of 98.52, set at the Trophee Bompard in Paris last month. “I had good jumps, but thought I struggled a bit on my steps and spins and lost some concentration at the end.”
The judges did not agree with his assessment.
“I was able to do what I wanted to do and what I needed to do,” said Hanyu. “It is a major achievement in an ISU competition, but that is for today. I have to concentrate on what I have to do tomorrow now.”
Even though he struggled, Chan knows he still has a chance to overtake Hanyu in Friday’s free skate.
“I’m not super happy with the skate. It is hard to achieve perfection like I did in Paris,” commented Chan. “Tomorrow is a new day and I am excited for it. The long program is where it is won or lost.”
Nobunari Oda, who was a late substitute here for the injured Daisuke Takahashi, is a surprise in third place on 80.94.
Oda botched his quad toe loop/triple toe loop combo at the outset of his program, but recovered and held it together the rest of the way.
“I didn’t start out very well with the first jump,” he said. “I hope for a better performance tomorrow.”
Tatsuki Machida, who won both of his GP assignments this season, struggled and is last with 65.66.
After the triple axel, Mao followed with a triple flip and finally a triple loop/double loop combo. She ended with a delightful layback spin that brought the crowd to their feet.
American Ashley Wagner (68.14) is third behind Mao and Sotnikova.
“I felt satisfied with my short program,” said Mao. “There are things higher that I could aim for, but I am pleased. I achieved my goal.”
Mao claims she is unfazed by not landing the triple axel cleanly.
“I didn’t have any negative thoughts about the triple axel,” she stated. “I had an aggressive mindset going into the program.”
Mao, who at 23 is the oldest skater in the women’s field, was resolute about her signature move.
“I felt good about the jump and am not worried about it,” she said. “I want to believe in what I am doing and be confident.”
Keiji Tanaka grabbed the lead after the short program in the men’s Junior Grand Prix Final. The Okayama native skated to “Instinct Rhapsody” and received a score of 73.63.
Tanaka, who won both of his JGP assignments this season, opened with a triple axel, then followed it with a triple flip/triple toe loop combo, before landing a triple loop on the way to securing first place heading into Friday’s free skate.
Russia’s Adian Pitkeev (72.24) is second, while American Nathan Chen (71.52) stands in third.
Ryuju Hino (58.56) popped the front end of his triple lutz/triple toe loop combo and is sixth.
“I was quite nervous today,” said Tanaka. “Throughout the season I had a good flow with my short program, so I tried not to think about the pressure and that helped.”
The 19-year-old Tanaka said he was focused on tomorrow and valued the chance to skate at home.
“I still have the free skate and want to do my best,” he commented. “I’m happy the Grand Prix Final is here in Japan. I don’t know how many opportunities I will have to skate in majors here in Japan.”
Russians held down the top four places after the junior ladies short program. Maria Sotskova led the way with 61.29, followed by Serafima Sakhanovich (60.56), Evgenia Medvedeva (58.74) and Alexandra Proklova (51.27).
No Japanese women qualified for the JGP Final.