Yuzuru Hanyu claims Autumn Classic in style

Double Olympic champion sizzles in free skate to take victory from Kevin Aymoz and Keegan Messing in Oakville, Ontario.

Yuzuru Hanyu has made a victorious start to the 2019-20 season with victory in Autumn Classic International.

The double Olympic figure skating champion just about hung on to his opening quad loop before stepping out of a quad Salchow.

But he was close to flawless after that with the crowd roaring their approval to his skate to 'Origin', his tribute to Turin 2006 Olympic singles champion Evgeny Plushenko.

A couple of Pooh bears flew onto the ice after a free skate filled with superb combinations, steps and musical interpretation.

Accompanied by Ghislain Briand and Brian Orser in the 'kiss and cry', Hanyu was happy and relaxed as he waited for his score to be announced.

He looked decidedly unimpressed with the score of 180.67, but it was more than enough for first place and a winning total of 279.05.

Kevin Aymoz built on his career-best short program on Friday to reach new heights again in the free skate.

The Frenchman landed two quad toe loops but under-rotated a triple Axel-triple toe loop combination as he scored 167.71 - another personal best - for a total of 262.47.

Keegan Messing recovered from a fall on his opening quad Lutz to score 166.45 for his skate to Guns N' Rose's 'November Rain'.

His total of 256.02 saw him take the last place on the podium ahead of Junhwan Cha.

The Canadian then showed great sportsmanship during the victory ceremony as he held the Japanese flag aloft so Hanyu could face it while the national anthem was played.

Cha was unable to move up from fourth overnight despite a spectacular start to his routine.

The Korean landed his first quad flip in competition but the adrenalin appeared to get the better of him as he doubled what was supposed to be a quad Salchow.

He was also marked down for under-rotating on a couple of jumps, being awarded 146.21 for a total of 230.44.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the 17-year-old admitted he made "a lot of mistakes".

On his quad flip, he said, "I landed it but it was not as good as in training or practice. I'm not really satisfied but I tried my best.

"This season I really want to challenge myself. That's why I put the three quads in my long program."

When asked what his goals were for the season, he replied, "To take care of my injuries and work hard till the end."

Junhwan Cha after free skate practice at the Autumn Classic International
Junhwan Cha after free skate practice at the Autumn Classic InternationalJunhwan Cha after free skate practice at the Autumn Classic International

Hanyu delivers on return

In the warm-up ahead of the second group of skaters in the warm-up, there were screams and cheers as Hanyu removed his training top to reveal a dark sparkly outfit which closely resembled last year's number but featured a low-cut neck.

Hanyu landed his opening quad loop in the warm-up having put a hand down in his practice run-through, and he made hard work of it in his routine proper.

He then stepped out of a quad Salchow, the jump which saw him fall at the start of his short program yesterday.

But after that, the 24-year-old showed just why he has two Olympic titles to his name with a wonderful display of skating.

He nailed a quad toe loop and a quad toe loop-Euler-triple Salchow combination, and even a slight mistake on a triple Axel could not detract from a captivating performance.

Yuzuru Hanyu prepares to speak to reporters after winning the 2019 Autumn Classic
Yuzuru Hanyu prepares to speak to reporters after winning the 2019 Autumn ClassicYuzuru Hanyu prepares to speak to reporters after winning the 2019 Autumn Classic

Free skate practice recap

Hanyu put a hand down on his opening quad loop in his run-through of his free skate.

He then managed to land a quad Salchow and a quad toe loop although he chose not to attempt some of his elements in a relaxed rehearsal.

Kevin Aymoz did not attempt any jumps in his run-through, although he did land some during the session.

The Frenchman lies second after a career-best short program and we can expect to see his quad toe loop again today.

While Hanyu was in black training gear, his Toronto Cricket Club training partner Junhwan Cha looked resplendent in a white lace sparkly top.

The Korean will hope to move up from fourth into a podium spot this afternoon, and a reproduction of his quad flip and quad toe loop from his free skate run-through would give him every chance of doing so.

Cha has enjoyed plenty of support, receiving almost as many cheers as Hanyu in practice.

And the 17-year-old actually beat the Japanese in the free skate at last year's Autumn Classic, finishing second overall.

When we spoke to him after his bronze medal at last December's Grand Prix Final, he talked about landing the quad flip and training under Brian Orser alongside Hanyu.

Gilles and Poirier win ice dance

There was a home triumph in the ice dance courtesy of Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier.

Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles speak to reporters after their ice dance win at the Autumn Classic International
Paul Poirier and Piper Gilles speak to reporters after their ice dance win at the Autumn Classic InternationalPaul Poirier and Piper Gilles speak to reporters after their ice dance win at the Autumn Classic International

The duo scored 122.88 in their free dance for a total of 202.49, 18 points clear of the rest of the six-strong field.

Britain's Lilah Fear and Lewis Gibson were second ahead of Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac of France.

Gilles and Poirier had special support inside the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex from Gilles' dog Scout.

Piper Gilles celebrates her Autumn Classic ice dance win with Scout
Piper Gilles celebrates her Autumn Classic ice dance win with ScoutPiper Gilles celebrates her Autumn Classic ice dance win with Scout

They are now Canada's top pairing after world bronze medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje took an indefinite break from competition.

Gilles and Poirier were second to Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the 2018 Canadian Championships before taking eighth in PyeongChang behind their compatriots who won ice dance and team gold.

You can watch the best of Virtue and Moir at the Olympics here:

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