Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu moved out a big lead with a strong performance in the men’s short program at the world championships in Stockholm on Thursday afternoon.
The superstar is six points ahead of compatriot Yuma Kagiyama heading into Saturday’s free skate at Ericsson Globe, where Hanyu will attempt to win his third senior world title and first since 2017.
Hanyu tops the leaderboard with a score of 106.98 points, with Kagiyama in second place at 100.96 after achieving a new personal best.
Nathan Chen, the world champion the last two times the event has been held, is in third place on 98.85 after an uneven performance.
Hanyu skated to “Let Me Entertain You” in a sharp black outfit with gold sequins, and opened with a quadruple salchow, then landed a big quad toe loop/triple loop combination, before executing a smooth triple axel. The Sendai native earned level fours on all of his spins and a level three on his step sequence in just his second competition of the season.
Hanyu said he was content with his effort on this day.
“I’m satisfied with my performance today, but there is always room for improvement,” Hanyu stated. “I was less nervous here than I was at the nationals.”
Hanyu discussed the music for his short program.
“Jeffery Buttle (the choreographer) and I wanted everybody to enjoy this program. It will even be a better program with a live audience,” Hanyu stated.
“I know people are watching on TV and the Internet can feel that. I am accepting all that energy on the ice,” Hanyu added. “I like this rock music. It brings out my pulse and the feeling from my heart.”
Hanyu noted the unusual season brought about by the pandemic has allowed him to experiment in a way he has not been able to before.
“It has been tough to train on my own,” Hanyu remarked. “But I did have the freedom to play my music on its own and incorporate things from gymnastics and athletics and other sports.”
Kagiyama competed to “Vocussion” and was nothing short of sublime. He opened with a beautiful quad salchow/triple toe loop, then followed with a big quad toe loop, before going on to hit a clean triple axel.
The 17-year-old Kagiyama received level fours for his spins and step sequence. He continues to impress with his growth on the ice nearly every competition.
“Because it was my first competition, I had nothing to lose,” Kagiyama commented. “I just wanted to go on the ice and perform. I think I was able to portray the joy of skating in my short program.”
Chen skated to “Asturias and Cancion del Mariachi” and fell on his opening quad lutz. He then was off balance on his flying sit spin for which he received a level two.
The 21-year-old recovered to hit a triple axel and a nice quad toe loop/triple toe loop combination, but the damage was done. He will have work to do on Saturday if he is to win his third straight world crown.
Chen was asked about moving around the order of his elements in his program.
“I just like this layout better,” Chen said. “It is something that I do in training and I decided to stay with it for this competition.”
Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada (93.52) is in fourth place, with Canada’s Keegan Messing (93.51).
Shoma Uno struggled in the middle of his program and is sixth with 92.62.
Uno competed to “Great Spirit” and opened with a fine quad flip, then hit a quad toe loop/double toe loop combination, but fell on his triple axel. He did post level fours for two of his spins and step sequence and is still in medal contention.
Russia’s Alexsandra Boikova and Dimitrii Kozlovskii took the lead in the pairs short program on Wednesday night with a score of 80.16. China’s Wenjing Sui and Cong Han (77.62) were in second place, with Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov (75.79) in third.
Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara stood in eighth place on 64.37 heading into the free skate later Thursday.
The women’s free skate will be held Friday evening, with Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova holding a narrow two-point lead over Rika Kihira. Russia’s Elizaveta Tuktamysheva is in third place.
Author: Jack Gallagher