Strong free skates from Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno kept Japan in the lead after the second day of the World Team Trophy at Yoyogi National Gymnasium on Friday night.
Hanyu, who had a calamitous short program on Thursday which saw him finish seventh, rallied to take the free skate with a tally of 200.49 points by landing four of five quads he attempted. The world champion’s performance to “Hope and Legacy” did not equal the perfection of his free skate at the world championships three weeks ago, but was good enough on this day.
Uno, who led after the short program, placed second in the free skate (198.49) by hitting three quads to “Buenos Aires Hora Cero.”
Japan leads the competition with 81 points, ahead of the United States (78) and Russia (74). Canada (67), China (59) and France (46) are farther behind.
Japan was tied with Russia on 44 points, but led on a tiebreaker, after the first day of competition. The United States was one point behind with 43.
In this team event, total scores in the short program and free skate are not calculated as in a normal ISU competition, but if they had been Uno would have won the men’s singles title with a total of 302.02, with American Nathan Chen second at 284.52, and Hanyu third at 284.00.
Canada’s Patrick Chan was third in the free skate (190.74 points), followed by Chen with 185.24.
Hanyu opened with a big quad loop, but then singled his planned quad salchow in front of another capacity crowd. He made up for that mistake by executing a quad toe loop/single loop/triple salchow combination in the second half of the program, instead of the triple axel/single loop/triple salchow he did in Helsinki at the worlds.
The change in strategy marked a new accomplishment for Hanyu.
“It’s the first time I have done that combination,” stated the Olympic champion. “I was able to come down solidly, but not perfectly. I am satisfied to a certain extent.”
Hanyu received level-fours for his spins and step sequence.
“This competition is not something where I compete with the other skaters in terms of total score,” Hanyu noted. “So that was something that was on my mind as I skated throughout the program. But at the same time, when I was at the world championships, after the short program I was about 10 points behind the top skater (Javier Fernandez). Yesterday it was about 20 points difference, which is a huge difference.”
Hanyu said the partisan crowd on hand helped him rise to the occasion.
“I was able to gear the energy from all the people in the audience to my somewhat satisfactory performance,” Hanyu commented.
Uno opened with a nice quad loop, then hit a quad flip, but had an edge call on his triple lutz. He botched the back end of his quad flip/double toe loop combo, but followed that with a quad toe loop.
Uno was asked if fatigue played a factor in his free skate at the end of a long season.
“I actually wasn’t too tired after the world championships,” Uno stated. “I don’t feel like I had to go through a major competition. It was just a part of the process. I don’t feel any more tired than I would usually.”
Uno believes he actually improved his endurance in Finland.
“During the world championships I think I was able to raise the base level of my stamina,” Uno said. “During practice I was rarely able to land the quad loop, but I started to be able to succeed. I was even able to put in the flip and make it work. I think I was able to raise my game.”
Uno claimed that he was not out to try and defeat his compatriot here.
“I already knew that Yuzuru would be No. 1, so it didn’t occur to me that I wanted to beat him,” Uno commented. “It’s not that I don’t think I could ever win over him, but this is a team event. So I think we consider each other rivals, but we are also competing for the same team here. I wanted us to be first and second in the standings.”
Canada’s Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won the free dance with 113.83, with Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates (109.96) taking second and Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (104.55) coming in third.
France’s Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres lead the pairs after Friday’s short program with 75.72. China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang (71.36) are second, with Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (69.56) in third.
The title will be decided on Saturday when the women’s singles and pairs free skate are contested.