Double Olympic figure skating champion earns season-high scores to seal win
Yuzuru Hanyu delivered another commanding performance in the free skate to win his first Skate Canada title and make a statement of intent for the season.
In front of hoards of his adoring fans, the 24-year-old Japanese skater followed up his winning short program with a free skate that scored 212.99, for a total 322.59 - both season highs.
Hanyu turned out of his opening jump, the quadruple loop, but went on to land another three quads cleanly, one in combination, in a polished display of his 'Origin' routine.
Canada's Nam Nguyen took second place, prompting a huge response from the home fans in Kelowna, British Colombia, while Keiji Tanaka added to Japan's success in third.
The noise in the Prospera Place arena was deafening as the fans urged Hanyu through his closing step sequence before erupting on the finishing pose.
On his opening ISU figure skating Grand Prix of the season, it was also the highest score Hanyu has received for this free program.
But the Japanese skater says the program is only at "30 or 20 percent" of how he imagines its perfect final form, and reiterated that he wants to eventually incorporate the quad Axel, a jump never seen before in competition.
Since I have accomplished the quality of performance I am able to do now, I want to reach a higher level. - Yuzuru Hanyu
"About my current program, I think it's still 30 or 20 percent," said Hanyu. "Ultimately, I want to include the quad Axel, and possibly the [quad] Lutz as well. I'm still not sure yet.
"Since I have accomplished the quality of performance I am able to do now, I want to reach a higher level."
Hanyu said he was "disappointed" with his quad loop jump after also having trouble with it in practice ahead of the free skate, but overall he was pleased with his first Skate Canada crown.
“I actually feel pretty good," said the 24-year-old, whose next Grand Prix event is the NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan in November.
"I was nervous. In practice, I was disappointed in the quad loop. It made me confused, upset. I was thinking about how to go into the jumps (my shape/speed)...
"As for today’s competition, I achieved my goal. But I wanted to land the quad loop clean, so that is one thing I have in my mind.
"I can’t say I skated perfectly, but I’m so happy."
Nguyen had the daunting task of skating last, directly after Hanyu, but he was not deterred, landing two quad Salchows in a performance that had the home crowd captivated.
The success marks his first Grand Prix medal since Skate America back in 2014.
The 21-year-old Canadian said: “It was a great experience overall. To be able to put out that kind of performance after Yuzu’s god-like performance is a big step up in my career and I hope to continue the momentum."
Tanaka also landed two quad Salchows, hanging on to the second one, to earn a podium spot and end a difficult week on a high note.
The 24-year-old Japanese skater was involved in a minor car accident in Kelowna ahead of the competition, along with team-mate Marin Honda, but did not suffer serious injury.
“Compared to the short program, the free skating was good," said Tanaka, who was fifth in the short program.
"I was able to switch my mindset. However, my jumps were not perfect, I didn’t do the quad toe and there is room for improvement."
Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii scored a season-high 140.26 in the free program, and 216.71 overall to follow up their short program win with top spot on the podium.
Performing strong elements in a 'James Bond'-themed routine, the young pair skated to their first Grand Prix title.
"We are feeling colossal emotions right now," said Kozlovskii. "We won a gold medal at the tournament with some of the world's best athletes. It means a lot."
Boikova recalled speaking to fellow competitor Kirsten Moore-Towers and European champion Vanessa James after disappointment at the same event last year.
"I remember when we did a clean skate as well but we didn't win," she said. "I was crying and Kirsten and Vanessa approached us, saying: 'All of your big victories are still ahead of you.'
"It is so funny to remember this right now."
Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, also of Russia, finished third, behind home favourites Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro.