TURIN, ITALY – Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu collapsed on the ice with exhaustion among a sea of Winnie the Pooh toy bears thrown by his adoring fans after a stunning free skate at the Grand Prix Final before admitting he had nothing but “jealousy and respect” for rival and ISU Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen.
The American skater produced an incredible performance on Saturday in Turin, hitting two new world-record scores to beat the Japanese superstar and lift a third gold in the elite six-man final.
Hanyu had been hoping to mark his 25th birthday with a record fifth Grand Prix Final title in the Palavela, to overtake Yvegeny Plushenko’s all-time mark.
His performance to Edvin Marton’s “Art on Ice” was a tribute to the Russian great, who won the 2006 Olympic gold in the same Turin rink.
Instead Hanyu lost out again to Chen after the world championships in Saitama last March, this time trailing by a thumping 43.87 points.
The 20-year-old Chen’s brilliance left the vanquished skater feeling “a little jealous,” but an emotional Hanyu explained that it was a rivalry he treasured.
“I really love competing with him (Chen) because if I’m skating alone, if I’m the only one getting over 300 for the total score, I feel really lonely, I can’t find motivation for skating,” said Hanyu.
“So here (Chen) is my motivation for skating.”
Two-time world champion Chen scored an overall total of 335.30 points after nailing all his elements including five quadruple jumps to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
Hanyu had been trailing Chen by nearly 13 points after the short program.
The former world champion matched his rival’s five quadruple jumps but lost points for under-rotating a triple flip and singling his final triple axel jump as he ran out of gas at the end of the program.
“I was just tired,” explained the skater from Sendai, who took silver with 291.43, below the personal best of 322.59 he aclieved on his way to gold in this season’s Skate Canada.
Hanyu won four Grand Prix Finals in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017 but did not compete the last two years.
“Of course I can say I have two Olympic gold medals but these are past things,” he continued.
“I want to live in the now. I want to compete more and more with Nathan and the other skaters. I wish with Javi (Javier Fernandez) too.
“Nathan has everything, so many clean jumps, spins, and his music sense is good. He has so much experience in gymnastics and ballet.”
Chen, who has been on a winning streak since finishing fifth at the 2018 Winter Olympics, also finds the rivalry stimulating, as he prepares for a third straight world title in Montreal next March.
“It’s an amazing honor to be able to compete against Yuzuru, I’ve idolized him for years,” said Chen.
“He pushed quads and created a quad revolution. I remember watching in Sochi (Olympics) and thinking ‘these guys are crazy, this is what I want to be when I’m older.’
“And even now he’s completely capable of doing everything I’m doing and ever better.
“Even now, he’s still truly like a skating god to me.”