Figure Skating

Yuzuru Hanyu cruises to Helsinki GP title with season’s best score

Kyodo

Two-time defending Olympic men’s champion Yuzuru Hanyu wasn’t at his best, but still blew away the field to win the Helsinki Grand Prix on Sunday.

“I’m really pleased with this because I don’t do well in my first Grand Prix event,” Hanyu said. “Of course this is the third week of the series and until now I’ve been starting in the first or second week.”

“This week I skated as hard as I could. But still in the end it felt like a battle.”

Hanyu, who entered the final day of competition at Helsinki Ice Hall with a commanding lead with a 106.69 points from Saturday’s short program, scored 190.43 in the free skate for a 297.12 total. Both scores were the highest logged in this season’s Grand Prix.

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic was second with 257.98, while 18-year-old Cha Jun-hwan of South Korea scored 243.19 to repeat his third-place last week from Skate Canada. Brezina was also runner-up in the series’ opening stop, Skate America.

Hanyu quickly overcame an awkward landing on his first jump, a quad loop. One misstep on a quad toeloop-triple axel landing also cost him, as did a pair of under rotations, but Hanyu was without peer.

“I under-rotated my loop, and I need to work on things in all my elements and I feet were out of synch at the end,” Hanyu said. “I can mess something up, but as soon as I nail an element, I think, ‘OK. Now my program is starting.’ ”

Keiji Tanaka, who joined Hanyu in February at the Pyeongchang Olympics, followed his disappointing short program with 126.22 from his free skate and finished ninth.

“My jumping was not suitable for this program, and I couldn’t recover,” he said.