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For many months, fans around the globe had been waiting for Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu to make his 2018 Grand Prix debut, and the two-time and reigning Olympic champion did not disappoint when the time finally arrived.
With every person in the almost sold-out arena focused on him — many of whom were fans from his Japanese homeland — he laid down one of the best short program performances of his career on Saturday afternoon.
Hanyu opened his “Otoñal” program (choreographed by Jeffrey Buttle) with a textbook quad Salchow, following it up with a solid triple Axel and a quad toe-triple toe combination. As the 23-year-old closed out his program the entire audience rose to its feet, and as an extremely loud and long standing ovation was taking place, Pooh bears, flowers and gifts rained down on the ice.
The Japanese star earned positive GOE scores across the board for his technical prowess and when his score of 106.69 was posted he and his coaches celebrated.
At the end of the competition, Hanyu had a runaway lead — a 13-point margin over Michal Březina of the Czech Republic and 20.72 points ahead of China’s Boyang Jin.
However, Hanyu – who is always striving to push his own limits — said he was not particularly satisfied with his efforts. “I need to train more and more. I can improve the jump landings — on the entries … I was not confident to do the jumps. Today’s performance in the short program was a bit challenging. I landed the jumps, but I can’t say that it was perfect.”
In a repeat of his performance at Skate America, Březina was once again solid as a rock as he executed each element in his short program set to Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever.” He opened the routine with a quad Salchow-triple toe loop combination, followed it up with a triple flip and a triple Axel, and earned Level 4s for the footwork sequence and one of his spins. As he watched his score of 93.31 flash overhead the emotion was obvious.
The 28-year-old had struggled for a number of seasons — unable to find his form and more often his feet. This season it has all come together for him and no one could be happier than Březina. “Some people are saying that I’m like wine — the older, the better. But I don’t like wine,” the 28-year-old said with a laugh.
In his first international competition since the 2018 World Championships, Jin was still finding his feet. The 21-year-old from Harbin has gone in a different direction with his short program this season. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by the Beatles (choreographed by Lori Nichol) is a departure from his usual style.
Jin opened his short program with a fall on the back end of his opening quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination, but picked himself up and went on to land a quad toe loop and a triple Axel. He scored 85.97 points to finish third in the segment. “I have some regrets about my short program,” he admitted. “I missed my first jump (combination) — but I am quite happy about my second jump.”
South Korea’s Jun-Hwan Cha sits in fourth with 82.82 points, slightly ahead of Russia’s Andrew Lazukin (who is also enjoying the best season of his career to date — 82.54 points). It was not Mikhail Kolyada’s finest hour. The reigning World bronze medalist received minus GOEs for his opening quad toe, singled the Lutz jump and was unable to complete the planned combination. He scored no points for that element. Kolyada sits in sixth with 81.76 points.