SAPPORO – Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu topped the 300-point mark in a dominating victory at the NHK Trophy on Saturday night at Makomanai Arena.
Hanyu put on an outstanding performance to “Hope and Legacy” in an ambitious free skate, displaying both his athletic prowess and excellent interpretative skills in the process.
His program called for four quadruple jumps, and Hanyu was able to cleanly land three of them. The Sendai native fell on a planned salchow/triple toe loop combination jump near the midway point. He quickly recovered, however, hitting a quad toe loop on the very next element.
His winning total score of 301.47 points was the highest on the Grand Prix circuit this season, besting training partner Javier Fernandez’s tally of 292.98 at the Cup of Russia earlier this month by 8.49 points.
Hanyu, who was second behind Patrick Chan at Skate Canada last month, secured a berth in this season’s Grand Prix Final next month in Marseille, France, with the triumph. He will join compatriot Shoma Uno at the prestigious six-skater event.
American Nathan Chen finished second with 268.91 and also advanced to the GP Final.. Keiji Tanaka was third at 248.44.
Russia’s Anna Pogorilaya won the women’s singles, with Satoko Miyahara taking second place. Pogorilaya’s compatriot Maria Sotskova came in third.
“I’m actually very relieved that I can advance to the Grand Prix Final,” Hanyu stated. “I was able to land the (quad) loop cleanly for the first time in a competition.”
Hanyu said he consulted with coach Brian Orser after Skate Canada in an attempt to improve.
“I did get advice from Brian,” Hanyu said. “He told me I should work on the total package. We had a difference in our view. I told him, ‘I can’t get the total package unless I can get the jumps.’ So after that we agreed to work together on the total package toward the NHK Trophy.”
Hanyu said that confidence and preparation were important for him coming into this event.
“I felt that I was mentally prepared,” commented Hanyu. “I had practiced really hard before coming here. Skating at home always helps as well.”
“It is an honor to be on the podium with Yuzuru and Keiji,” Chen stated. “It is also an honor to make the Grand Prix Final in my first season as a senior.”
Tanaka skated to a medley from Federico Fellini movies and earned his first senior GP medal with a respectable effort that included two quads.
“My goal was to do a very good performance,” Tanaka said. “My score was not as good as Yuzuru or Nathan, so I have to build up from this.”
Pogorilaya retained her lead from the short program and clinched a spot in the GP Final with a solid free skate. Her winning total was 210.86.
The victory was the second on the GP tour this season for Pogorilaya. She also won the Cup of Russia in early November.
Skating to “Modigliani Suite”she performed nearly flawlessly until almost falling on her final jump (a double axel), touching the ice with both hands to stay upright.
“I believe that overall I skated very well today,” stated Pogorilaya. “I made some small mistakes. I’m generally very happy.”
Pogorilaya did receive an edge call on her second jump (a triple flip), but still won in decisive fashion.
“The calls on edges have become much stricter since last year,” Pogorilaya noted. “I have talked to my coach about this and we are focusing on it.”
Miyahara (198.00) performed to “The Planets” and impressed the judges enough to move up from third after the short program into second. The result also qualified her for the GP Final.
Displaying her usual outstanding presentation skills in a white outfit, she glided almost effortlessly across the ice before an enraptured audience.
“I think today’s performance was much, much better than yesterday’s,” said Miyahara. “I was more nervous than yesterday. I’m glad to finish in second place.”
Miyahara did come up short on three jumps in the free skate. She analyzed her current situation at this stage of the season.
“Under-rotations are the part I have to work on the most,” she commented. “I think it is getting better. I felt that I under-rotated a few jumps today.
“If I practice I can do better on not under-rotating. I’m very happy to be able to go to the Grand Prix Final. It was a hard way to get there.”
Sotskova (195.88) was second after the short program but slipped to third with a poor free skate that saw her have four under-rotated jumps and another one downgraded. She still qualified for the GP Final despite the disappointing outing.
Wakaba Higuchi (185.39) skated a solid program to “Sheherazade” and improved on her showing in the short program. Higuchi climbed from fifth to take fourth place, but missed out on making the GP Final.
Mirai Nagasu (180.33) was fifth, while Yura Matsuda (178.26) came in seventh in the final standings.
Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford won the pairs with a total of 204.56. The duo overtook China’s Peng Cheng and Jin Yang, who led after the short program, with a strong free skate to win the title 196.87.
The victory clinched a spot in the GP Final for Duhamel and Radford. Peng and Jin also qualified via their second-place finish.
Wang Xuehan and Wang Lei took third on 185.32.
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have the lead in ice dance following the short dance with 79.47.
France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron (75.60) are second, with Italy’s Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte (72.00) in third.
The competition will conclude with the free dance and Exhibition Gala on Sunday.