NAGANO – Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu grabbed the lead in the short program at the NHK Trophy on Friday night with a world-record score of 106.33 points.
Skating before a packed house at Big Hat, the dynamic Hanyu opened with a quadruple salchow, then landed a beautiful quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination and a triple axel on the way to the historic score. He broke the mark of 101.45 that he set last year at the Sochi Olympics by nearly five points.
Hanyu, who will turn 21 on Dec. 7, skated to Chopin’s “Ballad No. 1” and was in command from start to finish. His line and edge were beautiful and his presentation was sublime.
China’s Jin Boyang is in second place at 95.64, while Takahito Mura is third with 88.29.
National champion and world silver medalist Satoko Miyahara is in front after the women’s short program with 69.53.
Americans Courtney Hicks (65.60) and Ashley Wagner (63.71) are second and third, respectively.
Three-time world champion Mao Asada is a disappointing fourth on 62.50
Hanyu, who finished second at Skate Canada last month behind Patrick Chan, will be looking to lock up a berth in the Grand Prix Final next month in Barcelona, Spain, in Saturday’s free skate.
Hanyu’s compatriot Shoma Uno has already secured a spot in the prestigious event that Hanyu has won the past two seasons.
Jin set the bar high with his score, but Hanyu, skating last, was undaunted.
“I have been practicing very, very hard and am really happy with the score,” said Hanyu. “I have to thank all of my teachers and coaches, including Brian (Orser). They deserve the credit.”
The Sendai native thinks it is imperative that he have two quads in his short program going forward.
“I felt I had to include two quads in the short program,” Hanyu commented. “As the Olympic champion I felt it is necessary as I prepare for the 2018 Olympics.”
Hanyu said his success at the outset of the competition brought back memories.
“Like during the Olympic season I could do well in the short program,” he stated. “Now I would like to continue and do my best in the free skate.”
Big Hat was the site of the ice hockey competition during the 1998 Nagano Olympics and Hanyu was asked if he had any memory of those games.
“I was only 3 at that time, so I can’t say that I do.,” Hanyu commented. “I had not even started skating at that point. But after the Nagano Games the skaters came to my rink in Sendai and gave a performance and this is what launched my interest in skating.”
Jin said his performance met his expectations.
“I thought I could make a good performance. All my jumps had good quality,” Jin said. “I was able to do everything I have practiced.”
Jin, who began with a massive quad lutz/triple toe combo, said he focused on keeping his poise on the ice during his program.
“I emphasized calmness today,” he noted. “I also want to emphasize that tomorrow. That will be important.”
Mura was motivated by his poor showing in his first GP assignment this season.
“After Skate America (where he finished 10th) I was disappointed,” Mura recalled. “My practice was good after that. I made a few mistakes today, so I can still improve.”
Miyahara looked sharp in a dark red outfit and sailed through her program without any significant problems. Skating to “Firedance” she nailed a triple lutz/triple toe loop combo, then put her other two jumps (a triple flip and double axel) later in her program where she received bonus points.
“I’m satisfied to be in this place,” Miyahara said in crisp English. “I’m happy to do my program clean with my jumps, spins and steps.”
Hicks is a surprise in second. She competed to “The Feeling Begins” and was solid if not spectacular.
“I’m really happy with my short program,” Hicks said. “It’s one of the best I have done.”
Mao skated to “Bei mir bist du schoen” and fell on her opening triple axel. She fought back and landed a triple flip/triple loop combo, but then singled a planned triple lutz.
It was a big letdown for her after winning the Cup of China earlier this month in Beijing and means she will have to do better in Saturday’s free skate to make the GP Final.
“My triple axel is at a better level now than it was two years ago,” Mao stated. “I’m comfortable with it, but the landing was a bit under today.”
Mao said having landed her trademark jump with ease at both the Cup of China and Japan Open, she didn’t expect trouble.
“I could not get a strong landing today because I had done it well at the other two events,” she said. “Mentally and physically I took it for granted today.”
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford are in first place in pairs after the short program. With a score of 71.04 they lead Americans Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, who are second with 68.43.
China’s Yu Xiaoyu and Jin Yang stand in third with 67.00 going into Saturday’s free skate.
The ice dance competition will begin on Saturday with the short dance.