Ice Network

Near-perfect Hanyu blows away men's field in Spain

Fernández rebounds with solid free to claim silver medal in home country
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Blowing away the men's field with a tremendous 288.16 points, Yuzuru Hanyu turned in an excellent free skate to clinch the gold medal. -Getty Images

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 Olympic and world gold medalist, won the free skate at the Grand Prix Final on Saturday in Barcelona, hands down, with a stellar performance to The Phantom of the Opera that garnered 194.08 points and led him to a 288.16-point total.

Spain's own Javier Fernández had the second-best score of the night, some 19.36 points behind Hanyu's, and an incredible 34.26 points overall. Fernández rallied from fifth place after the short program to win the silver medal, earning a huge applause from his home crowd. Russia's Sergei Voronov took the bronze medal with 160.05 points in the free and 244.53 overall.

"Yuzu is now back down to earth (after his 2014 winning campaign)," coach Brian Orser had told icenetwork before the short program.

Hanyu did land all of his elements, but he also kept his head, as well as the audience's, high in the stars.

Hanyu delivered each of one of his elements with incredible poise and authority. He planned his combinations for the second half of his skate. His opening sequence -- a quad Salchow, quad toe and triple flip -- amassed 32.44 points in less than a minute. After his spin and step sequence, rated Level 4 and 3, respectively, he went on with his triple Lutz-double toe combination, a triple Axel-triple toe combination, a triple Axel-loop-triple Salchow combination and a triple loop, which added 39.32 points to his balance sheet. His only mistake, just like a wink at the end of his program, was a heavy fall on his Lutz. He received 103.30 for his elements and 91.78 for his components.

"I felt really happy to skate here today. I'm not fully recovered yet, but I did it and it was almost perfect," Hanyu said. "I still need to add a quad toe in the second half of my program, but for tonight, I'm really happy. I also managed to make full use of my body, and I owe this to my team, with the energy from my fans. I want to thank them tonight."

No fewer than 11 girls and boys ran after the hundreds of flower bunches and plush toys that poured over the ice.

Ranked fifth after a poor showing in the short program, Fernández was the second skater to enter the ice. He again displayed both his elegant style and facetious temper through Giaocchino Rossini's musical The Barber of Seville.

When a Castillan portrays an Italian-style Andalousian, the result can only be brilliant, no matter what feat he achieves. Fernández nailed his opening quadruple toe and the audience exploded all at once, as if it had been a goal at Camp Nou, the Barcelona soccer stadium nearby. That may have taken away from Fernández' concentration somewhat, however, as he went for a triple toe-double toe rather than his planned quad-triple.

He was able to concentrate in landing his quad Salchow, then his triple flip-triple Salchow combination. He singled his planned triple Lutz, and his finale was exuberant enough for the crowd to give him a standing ovation, with an army of Spanish flags rising from everywhere in the stands. He racked up 87.50 points for his technical elements and 77 points for his components to top his season's best.

"Although it was my season's best, it was still not my best skate, and I made a lot of mistakes," Fernández said. "We really worked to rally the podium, but it was way harder here. Yuzuru was already 20 points higher. It was a really great competition; everybody loved the rink, the ice. It was my first time skating in my country, [and] I was not used to that. I was better prepared for it during the free. I knew that the crowd would be really loud, and I decided to turn that power into my program."

Voronov had a rough landing on his opening quad, which forced him to not execute the triple toe in his planned combination. He recomposed himself thereafter and landed all of his elements, including two triple Axels and four more triples. The 2014 European silver medalist scored 167.05 points, which added up to 244.53 points overall and led to the bronze medal.

"At NHK [Trophy] I skated right after Yuzuru, and here I skated right after Javier, so I was a little tense," Voronov said laughingly. "Too bad I made a mistake on my quad toe and tripled the second one."

In just a matter of two seasons, Voronov has changed who he is as a skater, which has translated right away in his world ranking.

"I've always been a very classical skater," Voronov said. "This year, my choreographer, Alexander Zhulin, and my coach, Eteri Tubterize, thought that I should be different. When I started working on this program, I thought I would never be able to make it. Now, I really enjoy skating to this program. I'm really enjoying it and I see that the audience does, too."

Russia's Maxim Kovtun did not fare too well in his free skate, which placed him in fifth in that part of the competition and fourth overall. He doubled his opening quad Salchow, landed his quad toe, triple Axel-triple toe combination, another triple Axel and three more triples. Kovtun lost many points on the levels of his spins and step sequences (only one spin reached Level 4), Grades of Execution (mostly less than 1.0 on each element) and component scores.

Kovtun seemed to always be rushing after something, the fingers of his hands wide open, and his skate lost some of its meaning and strength. He scored 76.35 for his technical elements, 78.9 for his components and 242.27 points ovearll, far from his best. Kovtun declined to comment after his performance.

Japan's Takahito Mura managed to rally from sixth place after the short to fourth place in the free. He placed fifth overall. Also skating to The Phantom of the Opera, he hit an excellent quad-toe combination that racked up 15.40 points. He was the only skater of the evening to land it cleanly. He hit another superb quad toe, two triple Axels and two more triples: a Lutz and a flip. He earned 80.76 points for his elements and 76.26 for his components, good for 157.02 for his free skate and 235.37 points overall.

"I felt good, but I think my mental condition was still hampered by the mistakes I made in the short program," Mura said. "Throughout this morning I remained frustrated and really wondered how well I would skate tonight. I know what I have to work on!"

Japan's Tatsuki Machida landed his opening quad toe, but fell right after. His program soon turned into a nightmare, as he endured two more falls, one on the loop and one on his second triple Axel. He had the lowest score of the field for his technical elements, 56.23 (and 75.03 for his components). He finished in sixth place.

"This program is very difficult to skate," Machida explained. "It was too big for me. It's like a wall I have to climb. My physical and mental condition is good, but I was just not able to skate well."

As was the case with Lipnitskaia earlier in the afternoon in the ladies category, the audience sent him its warm energy by applauding him heartfully on each of his steps after his last fall, emphasizing the tempo of Ludwig van Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9." Never could the German composer have imagined that his Ode to Joy would be clapped upon at every one of its beats.