Two-Time Olympic Champion Hanyu Dominates to Take First Gold of the Season in Helsinki with 39 Points to Spare

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan performs his Short Program at 2018 GP Helsinki.
© Robin Ritoss

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan won the gold at 2018 GP Helsinki with nearly 40 points to spare as the event concluded on Sunday. Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic maintained second overall, while Junhwan Cha of South Korea rose to capture the bronze.

Yuzuru underrotated his opening quad loop as well as a quad toe in his routine to “Art on Ice” and “Magic Stradivarius” by Edvin Marton, but otherwise produced a rare quad toe-triple Axel sequence in his technically jam-packed routine.

The point of the quad toe-triple Axel sequence is so that he doesn’t have to do combinations with double jumps in the program.

“I was trying hard to do the quad toe-triple Axel without a hop in between,” said the skater, “and when I’m fresh, I feel the confidence I can do it.”

The two-time Olympic champion also earned high grades of execution on his level 4 spins, scoring 190.43, a season’s best, for a first-place finish in the free skate and overall (297.12) to win his 17th Grand Prix medal.

“Honestly, I was fighting my condition, as it was not so good before I came here and after I came  here,” said the 23-year-old, “but finally I beat myself. Although the quad loop and quad toe were not perfect, I am pleased I was able to stay on my feet.”

The Finnish Figure Skating Association counted nearly 1000 Winnie-the-Pooh bears that were thrown onto the ice after his performance, most of which will be donated.

Skating to “I’m a Man” and “Thunderstruck,” Brezina opened with a solid quadruple Salchow-double toeloop combination, but then fell on the triple Axel. He fought back to land five triple jumps and picked up level 4s on his footwork and two spins to earn a season’s best of 164.67 points for second-place finish in the Free Skate and overall (257.98 points). With this finish, the veteran most likely earned a ticket to the Grand Prix Final in Vancouver.

“I am just happy that I finished the program the way I did,” the 28-year-old said. “It felt really good to perform, even though there was a big mistake at the beginning. I have no clue how that happened, I usually don’t miss the triple Axel. I just tried to forget and finish the program the way I practice.”

“I like rock,” said Brezina, when asked about his choice of music. “Rock n’ Roll is music that gives you energy. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, every time I listen to it, it brings me up and I think it helps me a lot.”

Cha took a fall on a quad Salchow and underrotated several triple jumps, but otherwise landed a quad toe and displayed strong spins and footwork throughout to score 160.37 points. With a total score of  243.19 points, he moved up from fourth to third place overall, taking his second Grand Prix bronze medal.

“I’m really happy about my skating today, because I competed last week at Skate Canada and I competed this week again,” the 17-year-old said at the post-event press conference, while holding back a sneeze. “My condition wasn’t really good, I’m coughing. I made one big mistake in the beginning, but I worked hard until the end of the program. I really enjoyed my skating today.”

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SOURCE: Golden Skate, by Paula Slater