Hanyu Sets

As expected, Yuzuru Hanyu had no trouble skating to the top of the leaderboard in the men’s short program at the 2019 All Japan Championships on Friday. Competing in the event for the first time in four years, Hanyu laid down a clean performance, opening his program with a quad Salchow, immediately followed by a quad toe-triple toe and a triple Axel.

The 25-year-old set a new Japanese national record with a score of 110.72. Backstage Hanyu admitted he was relieved. “I wanted to earn high GOE (grades of execution) so I changed the order of elements,” he said with respect to putting the triple Axel at his third jumping pass. “I wanted to make sure that I maintained the quality of the jumps. After the Grand Prix Final I was so exhausted that I could not even condition myself properly for this. 

“I was training and resting — it was a slow process to recover. I skated without a coach in the short program at the Final and the result reflected my ability,” he added. “It made me realize how important it is to skate clean in the short. I was losing the feeling of skating a clean short, so I wanted to make sure I regained the feeling here.”

Shoma Uno, who is now training with Stéphane Lambiel in Switzerland, finished second with 105.71. For the first time this season, the 22-year-old laid down a clean performance, executing a quad flip, a quad toe-double toe and a triple Axel. “I realized I was expecting myself too much before,” Uno said post-event.

“I was preparing to go on strong even if I missed my flip, but luckily my flip went well today and I was able to show the result of my practice on the toe loops and the Axel. I did a quad toe-double toe instead of a quad toe-triple toe, but I maintained my smile and continued. I’m in the best condition at this point of the season for sure. I was able to skate like myself again. Stéphane helped me to bring back the joy to my everyday training. I wanted to skate well for him, and go to the battle with him on my team.”

Shun Sato, the reigning Junior Grand Prix Final champion, continues his upward march and currently sits in third place with 82.68 points. “I wanted to earn a score of more than 80 in the short. I usually score in the upper 70’s, but I felt I need to do a quad in order to hit the 80’s,” he explained. “I’ve never done this program with a quad even in practice, but my quad toe felt good during the six minute warm up, so I decided to go for it. 

“My coach suggested that I do my usual content, but I felt I needed to take a risk in order to grow. I told him I wanted to go for the quad toe and he supported my decision.”

Keiji Tanaka placed fourth with 80.90 points, ahead of Koshiro Shimada (80.59). Kazuki Tomono currently sits in 11th place with 73.06 points.

Daisuke Takahashi had a tough outing in his final competitive short program performance, receiving under-rotation calls for the jump on the back end of a triple flip-triple toe combination, the triple Axel and the triple Lutz on which he fell. He finished 14th with 65.95 points.

“I could not practice as much as I wanted,” the 33-year-old said, adding that this was due to injury and boots problems. “I was nervous and my body did not move well. I thought I could do my steps better, but my legs did not move the way I wanted.  My mind and body were not coordinated well today.  I wish I had one more week to prepare for this competition, but as a competitor that is a part of my responsibility. 

“I wish I was 10 years younger,” he added with a laugh.