Ice Network

Fernández returns to form with dominant display

Uno slides into second with solid short; Russia's Samarin stands third
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Friday belonged to Javier Fernández. On top of landing all of his jumps cleanly, the two-time world champion performed his Charlie Chaplin routine to the hilt, and he was rewarded with a score of 107.86, the fifth-highest mark ever recorded in the short program under the international judging system. The Spaniard will take a lead of almost 14 points into the free skate. -Getty Images

Javier Fernández was a bit nervous before taking the ice for the short program Friday at the 2017 Internationaux de France, wondering whether he was still up to the task after suffering a disappointing sixth-place finish at the Cup of China earlier this month.

After delivering a rousing performance, however, the Spaniard was able to put any negative thoughts circling around in his head to rest, as he vaulted to the top of the standings by taking a 13.94-point edge on Japan's Shoma Uno and a 16.5-point advantage on Russia's Alexander Samarin, who slotted third in the segment.

Fernández looked light on his skates as he entered the rink for his peformance. The perfect landing of his quad toe-triple toe combination started the path to a well-mastered program. The Spaniard went on to land a quad salchow and a triple axel, executing both elements with precision and confidence. His three major jumps received more than 2.0 Grades of Execution apiece, and his three spins and step sequence were rated Level 4. When it was all said and done, Fernández stood atop the standings with 107.86 points.

"It's getting great," Fernández said of his overall skating level. "Coming after my first Grand Prix, it's good for me to skate a good short program. This is good for my confidence. When you've been skating for so many years, you can't skate well all the time, although people expect you to have great skates each time. The competition is not over, and tomorrow will be more difficult, but it started in the right direction."

The choreography of the Spaniard's Charlie Chaplin program was delicate and subtle, far from Chaplin's usual caricatures. In just a few looks and finger moves of hesitation, Fernández managed to turn the most complex program of the night -- one full of intricate edges of his steps and a perfectly centered quad toe-triple toe combination -- into Chaplin's personal story.

While Fernández was telling his own unique story, Uno launched his program with his usual speed and intensity. He fell on the landing of his opening quadruple flip, but managed to pop back up in a fraction of a second to enter into his flying spin. He went on to land his quad-triple and his triple axel in the second part of his program, which brought him extra credit, and also earned Level 4 grading for his three spins and step sequence.

"I did what I could," Uno said shortly after leaving the ice. "It was a difficult short program. I was concentrating so much on the jumps, as I felt they were becoming difficult, instead of concentrating on the performance itself. I hope to show you Shoma's smile again after tomorrow's program."

The Japanese talent also seems to have developed a special connection to his program, set to "Winter" from Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

"When this program was created the first time, my first impression was that it was very short," he said. "I was drowned very deep into it right away. Still now, I have the feeling that I have finished as soon as I start."

Samarin, the 2017 world junior bronze medalist, skated to an arrangement of Ludwig von Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." He landed his opening quad lutz-triple toe combination (the lutz was considered under rotated by the technical panel), as well as a quad toe, and a triple axel in the second half of his program. He garnered 91.51 points, a new personal best.

"I'm satisfied," he said at the post-event press conference. "I understand there is a lot of work to do. We opted for classical music because it calms me down, and at the same time, gives me power through my performance."

Georgia's Moris Kvitelashvili, who opened his program with a solid triple axel and followed it with a quad salchow-triple toe combination, stands in fourth place with 86.98 points.

With 86.79 points, Israel's Alexei Bychenko -- who landed a triple axel, quad toe and triple lutz-triple toe combination -- rounds out the top five.

Max Aaron's program to Claude-Michel Schönberg's Les Misérables went much smoother than it did in the morning practice. He landed his opening quad toe but fell on the subsequent triple toe in the combination, before going on to perform his quad salchow and triple axel.

"It was OK," Aaron said. "I fought on the quad-triple, I lost a few levels, and there were a couple of balance points, too, but that was OK."

Aaron did perform the program as best he could.

"Oh, yes! Each time I skate it I can feel the character of it, and that's just a lot of fun!" he remarked with a smile.

His teammate, Vincent Zhou, had an off night as well. After falling on both his quad lutz and quad flip in the first mintue of his program, the American finds himself in 10th place with 66.12 points.