Reigning champion Hanyu triumphs in short program at worlds

Kyodo, AFP-JIJI, Reuters

Yuzuru Hanyu launched his bid to become the first Japanese to win consecutive World Figure Skating Championship titles by taking the lead with a season-best score after the men’s short program on Friday.

Skating at the same venue where he sustained a variety of injuries after a sickening collision with China’s Yan Han during a warm-up for the free skate for the Cup of China in November, Hanyu scored 95.20 points.

Hanyu, whose preparations for the worlds have been far from ideal due to a number of health issues, stumbled out of a quadruple toe loop but he said he enjoyed his skate.

“I enjoyed all of it,” said the 20-year-old Olympic champion, who after winning his third straight title at the national championships in December, had to undergo abdominal surgery and then sprained his right ankle after resuming training at the end of January.

“I am a bit disappointed about the mistake on the quad toe loop but that is something good that I can work on looking ahead to tomorrow.”

“In the free program also I want to be able to feel the happiness of being able to perform.”

Spain’s Javier Fernandez was second with 92.74 and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan was third with 85.59.

To the piano music of Chopin’s “Ballade No 1,” Hanyu followed the mistake on the quadruple toeloop with a confident triple axel and triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination.

Hanyu will be heading into Saturday’s final free skate confident that he can reclaim the world title he won on home soil in Japan last year.

Japan’s other entries both struggled but still qualified for the free skate, with Takahiko Kozuka scoring 70.15 for 19th and Takahito Mura earning 64.93 for 23rd.

There was a major surprise in the ice dance when Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron surged from fourth to the top of the podium with an emotive free dance to Mozart’s ‘Concerto No. 23’.

A year after Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White beat Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Olympic gold, fans in Shanghai had expected to witness another North American battle on Friday.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States carried a 1.79-point lead over Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje into the free dance but they were both upstaged by a French couple who proved that anything is possible under the accumulative scoring system.

“It is like a dream, we haven’t realized yet what happened. We cried when the scores came up and we saw our placement,” said European champion Cizeron, who has enjoyed a rapid rise since finishing 13th at the worlds in 2014.

Their total of 184.28 eclipsed second-placed Chock and Bates by almost three points while Weaver and Poje’s unbeaten run this season ended with a bronze medal.

“Andrew and I felt great in our free dance… and we got off the ice thinking that we gave everything that we could,” Weaver said.

“Unfortunately the marks didn’t add up in our favor. But we are not going to mark of the season as a loss. We had an incredible year.”