Olympic champion Hanyu wins world figure skating title

HELSINKI (AP) Yuzuru Hanyu pulled off a remarkable comeback to win the world figure skating title on Saturday, a boost to his bid to retain his Olympic title next year.

Hanyu was fifth after the short program but produced a world-record free skate score of 223.30 points, landing four quadruple jumps, for a winning total of 321.59.

Short program leader Javier Fernandez of Spain, skating last, dropped to fourth with a fall and other errors, giving Hanyu his second career world title after victory in 2014.

Hanyu, who was in tears of joy after learning his score, praised the passionate support from Japanese fans.

”After the short program, I was quite depressed. I was so deeply depressed,” he said. ”But the fans and the team believed in me.”

Still, Hanyu suggested his struggles on Thursday could foreshadow problems at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

”I still feel it’s very difficult to put out two clean programs,” he said. ”Toward the Olympic season, it’s important to skate clean both in the short and the free, these two programs together.”

The silver went to countryman Shoma Uno with a 319.31-point total on a strong day for figure skating in Japan, which has won six of the 12 world championships men’s medals awarded over the last four seasons.

China’s Jin Boyang was the bronze medalist for the second straight year, scoring 303.58.

”I just want to focus on my program and make it perfect, and I did it,” Jin said. ”Whether I got a medal or not, I was quite happy.”

Three-time world champion Patrick Chan was fifth behind fellow veteran Fernandez, while U.S. champion Nathan Chen finished sixth after attempting a record six quad jumps in his free skate, with mixed results.

The 17-year-old Chen previously complained of problems with his skate boots: ”Whatever happened, happened, and I just have to put it behind me.”

Sixth place for Chen and seventh for Jason Brown meant the U.S. joined Japan as the only two countries to earn the maximum three spots in the men’s event at the Olympics.

Saturday’s free skate illustrated the relentless march in men’s figure skating toward ever more quad jumps, which demand huge power and control from a skater.

The final six skaters to take the ice attempted 24 high-risk quad jumps between them, with three falls – two of them for Chen – and a few more awkward landings.

Also, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir survived a slip by Moir on their free dance to win the ice dance, completing a triumphant comeback season.

After spending two years away from competitive skating, the 2010 Olympic gold medalists went a full season unbeaten for the first time in their career. They finished by breaking their own record score with a 198.62-point total for a third career world title.

”We’ve never had a quote-unquote perfect season, never had that kind of run of golds, and at this point it’s fun to have on our resume,” Virtue said. ”But more than that, what we’ve been able to accomplish personally as athletes has been the most satisfying.”

There was a nail-biting finish after Moir slipped and dropped to one knee during a spin sequence. That caused Virtue and Moir to lose ground to second-placed French pair Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. The Canadians were subdued as they left the ice, but their five-point lead from the short dance was enough to keep them ahead of the French.

”It’s not the way we thought we would win. Maybe that was part of the reaction (after the skate), but we’re so excited and it means a lot to us,” Virtue said.

Papadakis and Cizeron took second with 196.04 after breaking their own record in the free dance with 119.15.

The United States won its only medal of the worlds as siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani took bronze with 185.18.