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Hanyu showcases solid short program in Marseille

Canada's Chan secures second place; Spaniard Fernández lurking in third
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Three-time defending champion Yuzuru Hanyu was in top form once again, and set himself up for a run at another gold medal. The talented Japanese skater registered a total score of 106.53 points for his Prince short, securing the top position by nearly seven points. -Getty Images

Yuzuru Hanyu won the men's short program Thursday night at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, finishing ahead of Canada's Patrick Chan and Spain's Javier Fernández after achieving 106.53 points. With a near seven-point lead on Chan, the three-time defending champion will look to claim yet another gold medal when he takes the ice for his free skate.

Many wondered if Hanyu would set a new world record, since his practice sessions have been as clean as ever. The talented Japanese skater didn't eclipse any records during the short program, but he did deliver a near-perfect program, which included a quad loop, quad salchow-triple toe combination and solid triple axel.

"I'm satisfied, of course," Hanyu said during the press conference. "But I'm also a little disappointed because the performance as a whole was kind of sloppy. I'm happy that I got Level 4 for all my elements, but I can spin faster, I can skate better, and I can even polish up my jumps. This program has a lot of potential, and I really wanted to increase my personal best here, so that's why I'm a bit disappointed."

Hanyu's program to Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" seemed to mark a new era in his career, as he managed to engage the audience with each jump.

"I never used to connect with the audience since I started skating," he recognized after his program. "But this year is different. This program feels like life and singing. When I listen to this program, and when I skate to it, I usually feel it as a whole (package). The truth is that this program is not complete without the audience, and my hope is to be able to skate this program complete -- that is, with the audience."

Hanyu amassed 106.53 points for his performance, a score which left him just 4.42 points behind the world-record score of 110.95 he set last year.

Chan delivered a flawless performance as well, fully knowing his best would be needed to keep pace with Hanyu. The Canadian opened his program with his trademark quad toe-triple toe combination, which gathered 15.60 points. His triple axel was perfect, as was his triple lutz, and each one of his elements, sans one spin, was rated Level 4.

"I didn't feel any more special than at training, which was good," said Chan, who recorded a new personal best. "This is my first short program in a long time."

Skating to "Dear Prudence" and "Blackbird" by the Beatles, Chan also showcased his mastery of steps.

"I worked with many coaches who had lots of experience in dance," he said. "When I moved to Canton (to train with Marina Zoueva and her team), it was about controlling everything and getting everything back in. The aim was to become more technical, especially to clean up the landings. You know, most men are doing several quads now. My way of keeping up is, of course, to add quads but also not to forget spins and footwork. Today I received Level 4 footwork, which reflects the work we did."

Fernández skated first in the short, a draw the Spaniard wasn't thrilled with. He opened with a wide quad toe-triple toe, which garnered 17.03 points, and although most thought he would fall on his following quad salchow, Fernández managed to hold on to his blades.

Though he would fall on his triple axel moments later, he was able to secure a third-place finish.

He remained upset with his showing, however.

"This was not a good short program, with one fall and a so-so jump," he said. "After Rostelecom and Paris, we focused more on the free program rather than the short. Maybe that was a mistake. I try to fight until the end of each jump, and I do have to fight, whatever the outcome of a jump."

Japan's Shoma Uno is in fourth after accruing 86.82 points in his somewhat mixed performance. Uno nailed his opening quad flip but fell on his subsequent quad toe-triple toe combination. His triple axel was the best of the field, however, and earned him 11.92 additional points.

Team USA's Nathan Chen also had mixed feelings regarding his short program. Chen tumbled on his opening quad lutz-triple toe and fell on his quad flip attempt. Skating to Adolphe Adam's Le Corsaire, he produced mostly Level 3 elements, with the exception of one spin.

"It was a fine lutz, but I didn't trust my landing, hence my mistake," Chen admitted, after totaling 85.30 points.

Chen's teammate, Adam Rippon, played with the audience even before he started to skate, and received instantaneous applause from the moment his program to Ida Corr and Fedde Le Grand's "Let Me Think About It" began. The American landed his triple flip-triple toe combination -- though his triple toe was deemed under-rotated -- and his triple axel, leaving the crowd in a frenzy as he landed his "Rippon" triple lutz.

"This was my only goal today: Get the crowd going and put forth a great skate," he stated. "That has kind of been my strategy with a quad-less short: to be right in the mix and attack in the free."

Rippon amassed 83.93 points to leave himself less than three points out of fourth place.