Hanyu struggles in return to ice

Kyodo, AP

Cup of China

World and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu got his season off to a disappointing start on Friday, when he was second in the men’s short program at the Cup of China, the third stop on this year’s ISU Grand Prix series.

“In one word, it was the worst,” said Hanyu, who abandoned a planned quadruple jump and made conspicuous mistakes in his jumps but finished with 82.95 points. “It’s surprising that this kind of performance was good enough for second.”

“It’s extremely frustrating. I’ll have a hard look in the mirror, and then I want to put on the kind of performance tomorrow (in the free skate) that people expect from me.”

Maxim Kovtun, who was fourth at this year’s world championships in Japan, gave Russia a dream start to the event in Shanghai, winning the men’s short program with 85.96 points after two compatriots finished one-two in the women’s short skate earlier in the evening.

Kovtun took a risk with two quad jumps and landed them both with ease.

With a chance to win his first senior Grand Prix figure skating title, the 19-year-old Russian isn’t going to hold back in Saturday’s free skate, either.

“I have a very tough program technically,” he said. “I’m planning to show the maximum. I’ve worked really hard and I want to show it.”

In the women’s competition, Russians Julia Lipnitskaia and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva finished first and second with 69.56 and 67.99 points, respectively, well ahead of the field. Kanako Murakami was third at 60.55.

“I’m not very satisfied,” said the 20-year-old Murakami.

“It’s a little frustrating because I was able to do more in practice. I became able to believe I can improve my score, and that’s good. Now I want to do a flawless free skate.”

Kovtun, who had two second-place Grand Prix finishes in his first year of senior competition in 2013, had difficulty landing his quad salchow and toeloop in practice this week, but executed them perfectly in the short program. It was the opposite story, though, with his triple axel, which he doubled in his routine.

“The triple axel was working very well in practice and I was not nervous about it at all,” he said. “And then I didn’t do it in the program.”

It didn’t matter because Hanyu and Yan made even more errors.

Hanyu tripled his quad toeloop and didn’t perform the second jump in his triple-triple combination. The 19-year-old Japanese star hadn’t competed since the worlds in March — and it showed.

“I had some (difficult) elements, but I didn’t perform very well today,” he said. “I didn’t skate well but I was very satisfied with the score.”

Hanyu had initially planned to return to competition at the Finlandia Trophy in Espoo, Finland, last month, but decided to skip it as a precaution after injuring his back. Compatriot Keiji Tanaka was last in the 11-man field with 56.82 points.

The pig-tailed Lipnitskaia said she was nervous in her first event since winning gold in the team event at the Sochi Olympics in February and silver in the singles at the worlds, but she hit all of her landings in an elegant and flawless program.

“I didn’t compete for a long time after the Olympic season,” the 16-year-old Russian said. “In training, I also was very nervous. I felt like it was my first competition in my life.”

Tuktamysheva, on the other hand, is competing in her sixth event of the season. The 17-year-old has three wins and a second at Skate America two weeks ago.

“I don’t even know if I had a rest or not because after Skate America, I really had problems with the jet lag,” she said. “It’s only been the last two practices I felt like I was ready for this (competition).”

The American women all struggled with their short programs, with Polina Edmunds a distant seventh, Christina Gao eighth and Ashley Cain in last place.

In the ice dancing, American siblings Alex and Maia Shibutani topped world champions Luca Lanotte and Anna Cappellini of Italy by nearly three points.

The Shibutanis have only won one Grand Prix, the 2011 NHK Trophy, but they are coming off a second-place finish at Skate America.

“We only had a week since our last Grand Prix at Skate America but we feel like we made great improvements on our performance and the program,” Maia Shibutani said. “So this is just a great step for us for the season.”

China took the top three spots in the pairs short program, led by Peng Cheng and Zhang Hao, the bronze medalists at Skate America.