Ice Network

Raucous crowd cheers Hanyu to lead during short

Fernández in second; Music mishap plagues Ten; Brown in contention
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
After a near-fall on his opening quad toe, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan pulled himself together and nailed the rest of his "Ballade No. 1 op. 23 in G minor" short, the highlight of which was an otherworldly triple Axel (2.43 Grade of Execution). The reigning Olympic gold medalist set himself up to repeat as champion at this event after collecting 95.20 points to assume the top spot in the standings. -Getty Images

Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan is in first place after winning the men's short program at the 2015 World Figure Skating Championships with 95.20 points.

Before and after Hanyu skated, several hundred of the 17,000 spectators held up Japanese flags. The response was so great, if you didn't know you were in Shanghai, you might have thought you were in Tokyo.

Hanyu's fans cheered even when the skater stepped out of the quad toe loop in his short to a Chopin ballade. His triple Axel out of steps was outstanding, and his triple Lutz-triple toe combination excellent. He performed superior spins, and the entire performance, including the step sequence, was done with great ease. As a result, his program component scores averaged 9.1, including one perfect 10 for interpretation.

"This is the first small gold medal that I won at worlds, so I'm happy," Hanyu said. "However, my quad toe loop was not clean. It is a very important jump for me to score high. I regret that. I'm not exactly so surprised that I did not land it."

(Note: "Small medals" are awarded to the top three finishers of each segment -- short program and free skate -- at International Skating Union championships.)

Hanyu had abdominal surgery in late December. According to the Japan Skating Federation, he was off the ice recuperating for about six weeks. When he returned to the ice in February, he trained in Japan, communicating long distance with his primary coach, Brian Orser, who was in Toronto.

"After the surgery, I was away from the rink for a month and a half," Hanyu said. "When I started practice, I was rushing myself and I sprained my ankle, and I missed another two weeks. I was anxious, because I really wanted to come to worlds."

European champion Javier Fernández of Spain sits second with 92.74 points. He performed an entertaining program to Ram Jam's "Black Betty," opening with a textbook-perfect quad Salchow and a good triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. His triple Axel was a bit shaky, but his three Level 4 spins were very good and his step sequence excellent. 

After the short, Fernández displayed his penchant for making jokes at press conferences.

"Definitely, I'm really pleased with my performance today," he said. "I've been training this program a lot and well, and I did here what I do in practice. It's great to see when your work is actually paying off. The audience enjoyed it. They were clapping a lot, and if they enjoy it and I enjoy it, that is the most important thing."

Kazakhstan's Olympic bronze medalist, Denis Ten, sits third with 85.89 points. His music did not start correctly, and he had to wait for a restart. The mishap may have contributed to his fall on his opening quad toe loop, but he recovered with a good triple Axel. His triple Lutz-triple toe was not clean, but his spins were excellent and his skating skills superb.

"It is a pity about the false start of the music -- it distracted me a bit, but it was an experience, and I learned from it," Ten said. "I did mistakes that I didn't do in practice. That was a surprise.

"Other than that, the level of the competition is very high," he continued. "You cannot guess who [will be] one, two or three, and it is nice to see how figure skating is progressing over the years. It seems we are moving into the right direction."

Russia's Sergei Voronov is fourth with 84.70 points after enduring a wobbly quad toe-triple toe combination. Otherwise, his elements were clean. Han Yan of China sits fifth with 84.45 points after a program that included an excellent triple Axel and a quad toe with a step out.

U.S. champion Jason Brown was the best of the three U.S. skaters and sits sixth with 84.32 points. He did not try a quad, and therefore looked more relaxed than he did at the 2015 Four Continents Championships. He performed a clean and very entertaining program to "Juke" by Little Walter.

Brown's triple Axel was good, as was his triple flip-triple toe combination, and his triple Lutz with one arm over his head was excellent. He shined during his characteristically excellent spins, steps and interpretation of the music.

"I feel really proud to have put out a season's best and to skate a clean program," Brown said. "We put the quad out at Four Continents to see if it was something we wanted to consider for worlds. After that event, we reevaluated it and decided to do what I want to do, which is two clean programs. The best way for me to do this is without a quad."

U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon is in 11th place with 75.14 points. Skating to "Nyah" from the Mission Impossible 2 soundtrack, he tried a quad Lutz and did not fall, but the jump was downgraded by the technical panel. His triple Axel was clean, but the triple Lutz (with both arms over his head) in his combination was under-rotated. His components averaged about 7.7 points.   

"I'm kind of mad right now. I'm going to take my feeling and channel it into my long program," Rippon said. "I want to use that energy to skate better tomorrow and do a cleaner quad Lutz.

"I would like to be the first man to land a clean quad Lutz at the world championships," he continued. "I've been working very hard on it because nobody else in the world does it. I'm really proud of how I skated today." 

Joshua Farris sits 13th with 73.52 points. He fell hard on his opening triple Axel but recovered and did a clean triple flip-triple toe combination. Later, he two-footed his triple Lutz. His spins and step sequence all gained Level 4 and were well-executed. His program components averaged around 7.3.  

Farris, the U.S. bronze medalist, won the silver behind Ten at Four Continents and had hoped to ride that momentum in Shanghai.

"My expectations definitely were not how I skated," Farris said. "I've been training well and I was expecting to do the same, if not better, than I did at Four Continents. I'm pretty disappointed in my short program. I have had a lot of success with it this year to this point."

He was encouraged that he didn't give up on his program, set to Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love."

"That fall did surprise me; my shoulder actually hurts a little bit right now," Farris said. "In the air, I didn't think I was going to fall. It shook me up a bit, but I really tried to re-focus. The fact that I muscled out the rest of the program was an improvement for me, because there are times in the past I would have fallen on all my jumps in that situation."

French champion Florent Amodio sits seventh after his best short program in several seasons, including a quad Salchow. Two-time Russian champion Maxim Kovtun doubled a planned quad toe and also popped an intended triple Axel into a single. He is 16th with 70.82 points.