MOSCOW – Yuzuru Hanyu built a 20-point lead in the short program at the Cup of Russia on Friday.
The two-time defending Olympic champion landed a clean quadruple salchow and quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination en route to earning 110.53 points. As usual, his fans hurled dozens of Winnie the Pooh toys onto the ice in celebration.
Hanyu, who has also won two world titles, wowed the crowd with a flawless rendition of his short routine to Raul Di Blasio’s “Otonal” at Megasport Arena.
Georgia’s Morisi Kvitelashvili, who was 24th in Pyeongchang, received a personal-best mark of 89.94 points for his short program to “Bloodstream” by Tokio Myers to finish second in the opening day.
Sweden’s Alexander Majorov is third with 82.33, while Kazuki Tomono (82.26) is fourth.
“I’m satisfied with my skate,” Hanyu said. “I can’t say perfect.”
Hanyu said he struggled with a two-week turnaround from winning his last competition in Helsinki and trained with less intensity to compensate.
“It was a little strange and it was a little hard to control, but I can say I’m good, whatever, for the short program today,” he said. “I don’t know about tomorrow but I will try to do my best for tomorrow, too.”
Olympic champion Alina Zagitova scored 80.58 points to lead the women’s event, while another young skater from Russia’s seemingly endless production line, Sofia Samodurova, sits second on 67.40.
U.S.-born Swiss skater Alexia Paganini is third with 63.43 in her Grand Prix debut.
Yuna Shiraiwa (60.35) is in fifth place, while compatriots Yura Matsuda (52.00) is eighth and Mako Yamashita (51.00) is ninth.
Zagitova has only once failed to win an individual skating event (last season’s world championships) since moving up to the senior ranks last year.
Zagitova said she was focused on her program and not her scores.
“Today before the short program I only thought about my program and after the program I was a little bit happy, but tomorrow is still another day,” the 16-year-old said. “The scores or my placement are not important for me, for me it is only important to skate clean and to put my heart into it,” she added.
Coach Brian Orser said Hanyu took time to get fired up.
“In the warmup he was a little bit lethargic, a little bit slow,” Orser said. “He turned things around. I could see, just around maybe 10 minutes before we went out, all of a sudden I could see him just turn things up, turn up the heat and it was beautiful.”
Hanyu is looking to win both of his GP events in a single season, not including the finals, for the first time.
The men’s and women’s free skate were set for Saturday.