Mar 30, 2016 11:53 PM
Japan's Hanyu leads after flawless short program at worlds
The Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese skating star who often trains in Toronto, started to answer a question in English about the pressure he faces and then had to stop himself.
"I can't explain I'm speaking Japanese, sorry," he said with a sheepish laugh.
That was about the only thing the Olympic gold medalist couldn't do flawlessly Wednesday at the world championships, when he took a large lead after the short program. It was the latest stellar performance in a brilliant season for the 21-year-old Hanyu, who was a fraction of a point from the record score he set in December's Grand Prix Final.
"My standard has been rising I do feel the pressure," he went on to say through a translator. "But it doesn't really affect my performance. I want to really enjoy my skating, and I think I was able to show that today."
With dozens of Japanese flags waving in the stands, he scored 110.56 points to lead defending champ Javier Fernandez by more than 12. Hanyu effortlessly landed two quadruple jumps while his main rivals fell.
Spain's Fernandez, who also is coached by two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, knew that adding a second quad to his short program was a risk, and he fell on the salchow to finish with 98.52 points.
"More than the mistake, I think everything was pretty good," Fernandez said. "That's why I think I got the big score even having the fall with the second quad."
Three-time world champ Patrick Chan of Canada, back after taking last season off, fell on his triple axel and earned 94.84 points.
"I'm very happy with how much I've improved already this year being a comeback year," Chan said. "To be in the last group, to be even top three, for me is a huge achievement."
Hanyu said he felt unsettled before his program, a different kind of nervousness than usual. That's why he yelled out in delight after he finished his skate to Chopin to a standing ovation.
Hanyu, who won the 2014 world title, doesn't just have the big jumps but also speed, intricate footwork and textbook spins, his program flowing perfectly with the music. Even more demoralizing to his competitors, he still sees room to improve in his step sequence and his quadruple toe loop, on which he could have earned slightly more points.
As Fernandez talked about trying to skate the best long program he can Friday, he couldn't help but laugh at the daunting lead his training partner already holds.
Another Japanese skater, 18-year-old Shoma Uno, was fourth with 90.74 points.
U.S. champion Adam Rippon, who doesn't do a quad in his short program, was seventh with 85.72 points after skating cleanly.
Rippon acknowledged he had a brief moment of panic after his warmup and considered spontaneously adding a quad. But he stuck with his plan to "set myself up with the points so that I could definitely be in contention to mix things up with the free skate."
"That wasn't my goal it wasn't to be a hero in the short program," Rippon said. "It was to be solid and skate like a national champion. I wanted to show that I was strong and show that I was ready to skate in this competition. I feel like I did that, and I feel like I'm ready to put on a really good show for the free skate."
Earlier, defending champs Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France took the lead after the short dance. They were followed by two American teams in the first worlds in the U.S. since 2009: siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates.