BARCELONA, SPAIN – Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu soared to new heights, posting another world record in the short program at the Grand Prix Final on Thursday night.
Fresh from his record scores at the NHK Trophy, Hanyu achieved 110.95 points in the short program to better his 106.33 from Nagano two weeks ago, which had eclipsed his own previous high of 101.45 set at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Hanyu also set a new record in the free skate and total score in Nagano, where he became the first skater to break the mythical 300-point mark with 322.40 points.
“I’m satisfied with the program. I’m surprised too,” admitted Hanyu, after an exquisite performance to Chopin’s “Ballade No. 1,” which included two perfectly executed quadruple jumps and a triple axel.
“I don’t care about the score alone, but this huge score makes me happy at the same time,” added Hanyu. “I was so nervous but I was using that nervousness in a positive way. I am a little bit upset about my step sequence, though.”
He applauded his own performance as the music died away to give way to cheers from the large contingent of Japanese fans in Barcelona’s International Convention Centre.
The 21-year-old leads world champion and training partner Javier Fernandez of Spain (91.52) going into Saturday’s free skate, with China’s Jin Boyang a distant third (86.95).
A victory on Saturday would see Hanyu become the first man to win three consecutive men’s Grand Prix Final titles in the event which marks its 20th anniversary this season.
“Wow,” was all coach Brian Orser could say rinkside before joining his other skater Fernandez, who took to the ice after Hanyu’s heroics.
“Skating after Yuzuru is always hard because of the fans,” said Fernandez, who finished second behind Hanyu in Barcelona last year.
“Then I saw the world record and I said to myself, ‘It doesn’t matter what I do I’m not going to be better than that.’
“It’s already hard and the first thing I did on the ice was fall,” added the Spaniard of his tumble in the warmup.
Shoma Uno finished fourth at 86.47, with compatriot Daisuke Murakami fifth on 83.47.
Fernandez, 24, stumbled out of his opening quad jump in his Spanish-themed Malaguena routine performed by Paco de Lucia and Placido Domingo but otherwise gave a strong performance.
“It’s going to be really hard to get those points but I’ll try my best,” said Fernandez. “I know he’s really consistent.”
Former three-time world champion and reigning Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan is sitting last in the six-skater field.
The 24-year-old, returning to competition after taking last season off, did not nail a quad in his skate to Michael Buble’s “Mack the Knife.”
“Every competition is a free start, so I’ll show what I can do in the free program,” said the Canadian.
Three-time world champion Mao Asada opens her bid for a record fifth women’s crown in Friday’s short program.
Earlier Russia’s Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov gave a flawless acrobatic display to take top spot after the pairs short program.
The Olympic silver medallists hit all their required elements to Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You.”
They scored 74.84 to open up a 1.20-point lead on fellow Russians Yuko Kawaguchi and Alexander Smirnov (73.64) going into Friday’s free skate.
World champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada are third (72.74), after Duhamel tumbled on their final throw triple lutz.
The Canadians won the Grand Prix Final for the first time last year and are among the favorites after winning both their Grand Prix assignments this season at Skate Canada and the NHK Trophy.
“Clearly it wasn’t our best skate,” said Duhamel, 30, after their performance to Elton John’s “Your Song.”
“It (the fall) was a complete fluke. It has never happened to us before in the short program and it will never happen again.”
American Nathan Chen leads the men’s Junior Grand Prix Final after the short program with a score of 78.59.
Russia’s Dmitri Aliev (76.78) is second, with Sota Yamamoto (72.85) in third.
Russia’s Polina Tsurskaya is on top in the women’s short program with 66.69, ahead of teammate Alisa Fedichkina (64.17).
Marin Honda (63.69) is third, with compatriots Yuna Shiraiwa (60.68) fifth and Mai Mihara sixth (56.01).