TURIN, ITALY – American figure skating sensation Nathan Chen set new world record scores on his way to a third consecutive men’s gold at the ISU Grand Prix Final on Saturday, as teenager Alena Kostornaia also hit new marks to lead a Russian podium sweep of the women’s event.
Two-time world champion Chen blew away his great rival Yuzuru Hanyu in Turin, Italy, with a total overall score of 335.30 points after his free skate to Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
Double Olympic champion Hanyu was thwarted in his bid for a record fifth Grand Prix Final title, taking silver with 291.43. France’s Kevin Aymoz won bronze with 275.63.
“It felt amazing, I’m really thrilled with the score,” said Chen.
“Finally this season I was able to lay down two pretty solid, relatively clean programs.”
Taking to the ice last, Chen had a long wait for the rink to be cleared of the hundreds of stuffed Winnie The Pooh toys and gifts thrown onto the ice by Hanyu’s adoring fans on the Japanese skater’s 25th birthday.
The American nailed five quadruple jumps, earning extra points including two in the second half of his program, culminating with a triple lutz/triple toeloop combination.
The 20-year-old bettered his own record scores from last year’s world championships in the free skate by 8.9 points and the overall record by nearly 12 points.
“I’m a little jealous of him,” said Hanyu. “But I really respect him.
“Nathan is making it harder and harder in figure skating, and I’m much older than him. He is pushing the sport, he’s an icon for my practice.”
Chen, from Salt Lake City, had taken a 13-point lead on Hanyu into the free skating final at the Palavela.
But Hanyu hit back with five quadruple jumps in a brilliant performance to Edvin Marton’s ‘Art on Ice’ marred only by his under-rotation of a triple flip and singling his final triple axel jump.
Hundreds of stuffed toys rained down on the ice as Hanyu collapsed in exhaustion.
“I decided to do five quadruples after the short program yesterday,” said Hanyu.
“It wasn’t an ideal performance, but I did what I could. I was glad to jump from a quad lutz into a clean (quadruple) loop,” said Hanyu, adding he was “very frustrated” to finish without the title.
“You just have to do your best and finish with a smile,” he said. “Even though I knew I couldn’t win I wanted to achieve something at this competition.”
Hanyu was returning to the elite six-skater event after a two-year absence looking to topple Chen and lay the groundwork to reclaim the world title in Montreal next March.
In the women’s event, Kostornaia led all the way to claim her first Grand Prix Final title in record-breaking style.
Kostornaia scored 247.59 points to take gold in her first senior season, topping the previous world-best mark by 6.39 points.
The 16-year-old had already achieved a new record score in Friday’s short program and held her lead with a clean skate to the “New Moon” and “Twilight” soundtrack which included eight triple jumps.
“I was motivated to beat the record today,” said Kostornaia, who was competing against three of her training partners in Turin.
Anna Shcherbakova, 15, skating to “Firebird,” also reached her first Grand Prix Final podium, taking silver with 240.92 points.
Alexandra Trusova attempted five quadruple jumps and landed three cleanly to move onto the podium with 233.18.
Defending champion Rika Kihira moved up to fourth (216.47) despite a fall on her opening quadruple salchow, having crashed in the short program.
“I made up my mind to include a (quad salchow in my program) after making errors in my short program (on Friday),” said Kihira. “It was a good tournament because I was able to challenge myself to keep up with the times. I did my best.”
Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova (205.23) fell during her program to “Cleopatra” to finish last in the elite six-skater field.
Kostornaia, Shcherbakova and Trusova had won all six of the Grand Prix competitions between them in their first senior season.
In ice dancing, four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron reclaimed gold, having missed out last season because of injury.
The French pair sealed their second gold in the six-team final with an overall total of 219.85 points.
Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates took silver with 210.68, with defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue taking bronze with 207.93.
Two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong led a Chinese 1-2 to claim their first pairs gold on Friday night ahead of Peng Cheng and Jin Yang.