Yuzuru Hanyu dominates men's short program at Skate Canada
Double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu skated a masterful performance in the men's short program at Skate Canada to start his ISU figure skating Grand Prix season with a bang.
Masses of fans turned out to see their hero skate in Kelowna, British Colombia, and the Japanese skater did not disappoint, delivering a clean program on Friday evening for a season-high score of 109.60.
The 24-year-old opened with a solid quadruple Salchow followed by an equally impressive triple Axel. He had to hang on to his final jump, a quad toeloop, triple toeloop combination, but his closing step sequence sealed a dominant display.
The score was just a point shy of his world-leading 110.53, skated at Rostelecom Cup last year, and takes Hanyu a step closer to his first Skate Canada title - one of the few accolades he hasn't yet secured during his illustrious career.
As is the norm for Hanyu, he was adorned with a shower of Winnie the Pooh bears from the appreciative crowd.
Hanyu said he felt at "70 or 60" percent of his top form at his first Grand Prix of the season.
"I was feeling a little disappointed [at] some points," he told Olympic Channel, but added: "It's a really good step for the season."
The Japanese skater says that he wants to improve his focus.
"I feel calm today. But I'm not really sure if that's something that keeps me focused," said Hanyu.
"Right now, I feel somewhat lost about how to focus and have a sense of urgency to change things that I used to use to stay focused. The fact that I started jumping quad Axel or I'm more experienced may contribute to my sense of uncertainty.
"In terms of my mentality I feel a little unsteady and I cannot say that I certainly know how to focus with confidence."
Team USA's Camden Pulkinen, making his senior Grand Prix debut, impressed to take second place ahead of Saturday's free skate, while Canada's Nam Nguyen was third.
Nose bleed for Pulkinen
Pulkinen landed a quad toe loop, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz, triple toe loop in a solid skate that earned him a score of 89.05.
The American says he suffered a nosebleed during his performance but didn't let it get in the way of a personal best score.
"After my second spin I felt my nose bleeding," said Camden. "So I don't know if you noticed. If you watch in the end I had, like, a blood moustache!
"I knew that I had to do it regardless and whether it's a bloody nose or a mistake you kind of have to get past it and focus on the skate at the end of the day."
Pulkinen was delighted to be skating alongside his "idol" Hanyu and heaped praise on the Japanese skater after the competition.
"I've always looked up to him growing up," he said. "I remember six years ago watching him at some competition, with my old coach, and I told her, I was like 'one day I'm going to have to compete against him!'
It's just amazing to watch him live and be competing against him. - Camden Pulkinen on Yuzuru Hanyu
"Even last season I was watching him a lot to model myself after a certain skater. I wanted to take some aspects from him.
"He's very respectful and I'll say that it's kind of nice when he gets on the bus and he says hi to everyone and he bows to every single person. It makes me feel like he's not cocky or too confident, he's just a normal person.
"He's overall just a very genuine guy. It's just amazing to watch him live and be competing against him."
Nguyen, competing in front of a home crowd, was pleased to start strongly in Kelowna, landing a quad Salchow, triple toe combination, a triple Axel and a triple flip.
“Everything fell into place today," said the 21-year-old.
"The crowd was great, the energy was insane. The program overall felt great. It was a big step up from Nebelhorn Trophy, but there is a lot more work that needs to be done."
Russians shine in the pairs
In the pairs competition, Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii skated the highest short program score of the season so far, 76.45, to take the lead.
Skating to 'My Way', they wowed the crowd with a particularly impressive throw triple flip.
"We are happy that it went well today, we are satisfied with our skate," said Kozlovskii.
"Tomorrow is a big day and we will try to skate better for ourselves and for the public and be less nervous about it."
Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro were close behind, scoring 75.50 to delight the home crowd and strengthen their podium hopes for Saturday.
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, also from Russia and silver medallists at the World Championships in Saitama earlier this year, finished third with 73.57.