Olympic champ Hanyu in command at Japan’s NHK Trophy skating
SAPPORO, Japan (AP) — Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu dazzled a home crowd Friday to lead after the men’s short program of the NHK Trophy.
The final of the event of the Grand Prix Series provided a big surprise in the women’s short program when Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia finished fourth after failing to complete a legitimate jump combination. Elena Kostornaia, a 16-year-old Russian, took the lead.
Hanyu totaled 109.34 points in an expressive routine, but he insisted his skating was not his best and gave himself only “a passing grade.” He was followed by Kevin Aymoz of France (91.47) and Sergei Voronov of Russia (88.63).
“I was really trying to feel the music,” said Hanyu, who skated to “‘Otonal” by Raul di Blasio. “No matter how nervous I am, I can always tell myself that the music itself will never change.”
Kostornaia opened with a triple axel and landed all her remaining jumps cleanly to score a personal-best 85.04 points. She won the Internationaux de France this month in her Grand Prix debut. She can secure a spot in next month’s Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, with a second title in Sapporo.
Rika Kihira of Japan was in second place with 78.89 points. Karen Chen of the United States was third with 67.21, followed by Zagitova at 66.84. Zagitova is a supremely graceful skater but quads are not part of her routine.
Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizron of France were first after the rhythm dance, setting a mark for the highest score. Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin were second and Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri of Italy are third.
Olympic silver medalists Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China seemed on their way to gold in the pairs short program. They hold a 10-point lead over Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro. Russia’s Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov are third.