FUKUOKA – Despite falling on the opening jump of his free skate, Yuzuru Hanyu held off three-time world champion Patrick Chan to win the Grand Prix Final on Friday night in dramatic fashion at Marine Messe.
With the Sochi Olympics just two months away, Hanyu raised the bar in the battle for the gold medal in Russia.
Hanyu entered the evening with a 12-point lead over Chan following the world record he set in the short program on Thursday night. But after falling on his quadruple salchow, Hanyu recovered by landing a quad toe loop and then proceeded to hit seven triple jumps on the way to victory before a sellout crowd.
The Sendai native skated to “Romeo and Juliet” and showed great fortitude by holding it together after the fall and seeing Chan skate an excellent program immediately before him. Hanyu racked up a total score of 293.25 in the triumph.
The result will certainly give Hanyu, who turns 19 on Saturday, great confidence as the Olympic countdown continues.
“This was a big step toward Sochi,” said Hanyu. “We still have the Japan nationals soon, but this is part of the process.”
Chan was nothing short of spectacular in defeat, finishing with 280.08 points. He began his program with two titanic quad toe loops, the first as part of a combo jump with a double toe loop, and went on to land six triple jumps.
Hanyu began training with Brian Orser, who coached Kim Yu-na to the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, last May and said their collaboration is paying dividends.
“I have put in a lot of effort in the past year,” he said. “It was a big change with a new coach and a new location and dealing with the language barrier. But it has been good for me. My coach has helped me with both my skating skills and physical strength.”
Hanyu finished second to Daisuke Takahashi in last year’s Grand Prix Final in Sochi, where Chan took third.
The Canadian did not appear disappointed despite coming up short on this night.
“It was a good day. I’m happy with how I skated,” he commented. “I skated a bad short program here and a good long program. With me it is usually the other way around.”
Nobunari Oda (255.96) was almost an afterthought despite finishing third, with all the attention focused on Hanyu and Chan.
Oda hit the ice on his opening quad toe loop, but got up and made a respectable showing the rest of the way.
“I’m not satisfied with my performance today,” he stated. “I fell on my first jump. I think my short program was better.”
Tatsuki Machida (236.03) recovered from a disastrous short program to finish fourth.