BARCELONA, Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu put his doubts behind him after suffering head injuries early in the season to lead after the short programme at the ISU Grand Prix figure skating final on Friday.
Hanyu, scraped into the final after finishing fourth at the NHK Trophy, having ignored pleas not to compete following a collision which left him with bad head injuries during the Cup of China in which he took silver but despite a fall in his programme to Chopin’s ‘Ballade No 1’ piano music on Friday the Japanese star scored 94.08 points to open up a 6.26-point lead on compatriot Tatsuki Machida (87.82) with Russia’s Maxim Kovtun third (87.02) going into Saturday’s free skating final.
“I felt relaxed, comfortable and happy with my skate,” said Hanyu, who because of his struggles in his two Grand Prix events was in the unusual position of skating first.He opened with a quad toeloop and included a triple Axel before falling on the second toeloop jump, his triple-triple combination, but pushed through to complete the programme cleanly “I wasn’t afraid to skate, even though it was crazy out there for Javier (Fernandez). I just wanted to go out and do it. It felt like when I was young. I loved to skate first.”
Home hope Javier Fernandez, who is Hanyu’s training partner in Toronto, is struggling in fifth in the six-man field after succumbing to nerves amid the huge expectations. The 23-year-old, a two-time European champion, fell on his opening quad salchow jump in his programme to Ram Jam’s ‘Black Be and after downgrading his second triple lutz combination jump to a double, lost his footwork resulting in an overall two-point deduction which left him on 79.18.Fernandez admitted that skating at home for the first time had been a daunting experience.
“It was a new experience for me. When you’re afraid to fail, it’s the worst thing,”I’m 23 … not a kid any more. It feels like I’ve hit a wall. The jumps didn’t happen, and then I missed my triple and tripped myself up trying to catch up. “The only good thing is that I’m skating second tomorrow which I like.”
World silver medallist Machida had a problem in the landing of his opening quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination but after nailed his triple Axel and picked up extra points for a triple Lutz late in the programme to ‘Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra’ by Hess.”I can’t say I’m in my best condition yet,” said Machida, 24.”I didn’t have much time in between my Grand Prix events. Mentally and physically it was very hard for me. “This morning in practice it was quite desperate.”
Earlier Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje got the fans in the 5,500-seater Barcelona International Conventions Centre into a party mood with their vibrant Spanish Paso Doble — the music for the short dance this season. “It’s a little nerve wracking, but it gives you that extra adrenaline because you know that they know the Paso Doble,” said Poje, dressed as a bull fighter.
The world silver medallists scored a personal best 71.34 to put them ahead of Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who are second on 65.06 despite a tumble at the end of their programme. US brother and sister Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are third (63.90) as France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, lacking the flair which saw them win gold in their Grand Prix assignments, are in fifth on 61.48, after she lost her footing on a synchronised twizzle