Skip to content

Hanyu roars in comeback for world title, U.S. men earn third spot

Mar 28, 2014, 8:40 AM EST

Yuzuru Hanyu. Getty Images. Getty Images

In the end, Yuzuru Hanyu stood alone once again – literally.

The reigning Olympic champion came into Friday’s free skate at the World Figure Skating Championships down seven points of compatriot Tatsuki Machida, the short program leader who turned in a solid free skate just minutes earlier.

But the 19 year old, Japan’s first-ever Olympic men’s champion, was undeterred. He took to the ice in Saitama and delivered a clean and thorough “Romeo and Juliet” free skate, launching himself to the top of the podium once again, his second major international crown in a matter of weeks.

More: Asada sets world record in ladies’ short program | Savchenko/Szolkowy win pairs

Hanyu, who is coached by former world champion Brian Orser, stood alone to celebrate as his score was announced, jumping up and pumping his fists over his head. Orser was already tending to his other world class pupil, Javier Fernandez, who skated next.

Fernandez ended up third, making up for his botched finish in Sochi last month, where he fell to fourth place because he miscalculated his points during the free skate.

Yet there was no miscalculation for the U.S. men in Saitama, who earned a third spot for the World Championships for the first time since 2011.

They did so thanks to an inspired skate from Jeremy Abbott, the four-time national champion with a history of international hiccups. The Colorado native skated with gusto in his long program and moved from eighth to fifth overall. 2013 U.S. champ Max Aaron placed eighth.

The U.S. needed the final skater of the competition, Takahiko Kozuka, to fall below Abbott. He did just that, putting his hand down on several jumps and moving tentatively on the ice.

Skating in what he’s said will be his last-ever competition, Abbott summoned the same free skate spirit he found in Sochi, connecting with the “Symphony Number 3” music as it seemed to sway him over the ice. Technically, Abbott lost little points from jump to jump, but overall the feeling of the program was one of triumph, Abbott’s final spin was not quite done when the capacity crowd rose to its feet to congratulate him.

“I have so many emotions going through my head. I’m happy with how I skated and that was exactly what I wanted to do here,” said Abbott in a U.S. Figure Skating statement. “That’s what I’ve been training for. That’s the best I’ve ever skated that program in competition. I’m so proud and honored to do it in Japan. I had such a warm welcome.”

More: Full men’s scores and standings

Aaron’s long program, meanwhile, was reflective of his entire season: he skated fast but messy, attacking his jumps aggressively but seemingly unable to find his skates underneath him. Just two of his eight jumps were marked as cleanly executed.

“I’m frustrated. I came out here and gave it my best,” Aaron said in the same statement. “I trained hard for this but obviously it didn’t go the way I trained it. It’s reality. I have to go back and see what I can do for next season.”

The U.S. men needed a combined finish of 13th to gain a third spot at Worlds next year. They got just that, with Abbott fifth and Aaron eighth. This is the first time the U.S. men will have three spots at a World Championships since 2011.

Hanyu wasn’t completely alone in the Kiss and Cry: He brought along a stuffed Winnie the Pooh bear, which has famously followed him around the world, garnering its own Twitter handle. He mocked shaking hands with the bear before his scores came in, a world champion already confident in what he had accomplished, yet still a playful teen at heart.

Overall, the men delivered a much more engaging, dramatic and technically sound free skate than in Sochi, where falls dominated the final two groups. Many argue that a day between the short and long programs allow for better rest and recovery and thus better skating. Saitama may have proved that.

Ice dancing
A surprising turn of events ended the short dance program of the ice dancing competition, which is without the two teams that have dominated the discipline over the last five years.

Italians Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte were the ones to step up Friday and take advantage of that, skating a near-flawless routine to score a 69.70 and sit a half point ahead of Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje.

It’s Weaver and Poje’s compatriots Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir who are skipping the World Championships, as are reigning Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S. The two teams own the gold and silver medals from the last two Olympic Games.

America was well represented in the short dance, however, where both Madison Chock and Evan Bates as well as Maia and Alex Shibutani put out strong performances, finishing fourth and sixth, respectively.

“We had the most fun today that we have all season performing [our short dance],” Bates said via U.S. Figure Skating. “Our goal was to pay tribute to the program and skate it well. It’s been a great program for us.”

Chock/Bates were eighth in Sochi, the Shibutanis ninth.

Chock/Bates sit just half a point off the podium behind veterans Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat, who have medaled just once at Worlds (bronze in 2012) and were fourth at the Olympics last month.

Sochi bronze medalists Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia looked poised to continue their strong run before Katsalapov stepped out of a sequence of twizzles, costing the team valuable points and putting them in fifth heading into the free dance.

Men’s overall standings
1. Yuzuru HANYU JPN 282.59
2. Tatsuki MACHIDA JPN 282.26
3. Javier FERNANDEZ ESP 275.93
4. Maksim KOVTUN RUS 247.37
5. Jeremy ABBOTT USA 246.35
6. Takahiko KOZUKA JPN 238.02
7. Han YAN CHN 231.91
8. Max AARON USA 225.66

Ice dance standings – Short dance
1. Anna CAPPELLINI/Luca LANOTTE ITA 69.70
2. Kaitlyn WEAVER/Andrew POJE CAN 69.20
3. Nathalie PECHALAT/Fabian BOURZAT FRA 68.20
4. Madison CHOCK/Evan BATES USA 67.71
5. Yelena ILINYKH/Nikita KATSALAPOV RUS 65.67
6. Maia SHIBUTANI/Alex SHIBUTANI USA 63.55
7. Nelli ZHIGANSHINA/Alexander GAZSI GER 62.27
8. Victoria SINITSINA/Ruslan ZHIGANSHIN RUS 62.11
18. Alexandra ALDRIDGE/Daniel EATON USA 53.34

Latest Posts
  1. Lindsey Vonn wins final race before World Championships

    Jan 25, 2015, 7:36 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn captured victory No. 64 in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

  2. Ashley Wagner shatters records for third U.S. figure skating title

    Jan 24, 2015, 11:50 PM EST

    Ashley Wagner Getty Images

    Wagner becomes the oldest women’s champion since Michelle Kwan.

  3. Chloe Kim wins Winter X Games halfpipe at age 14

    Jan 24, 2015, 9:15 PM EST

    Chloe Kim Getty Images

    Kim outdueled the greatest snowboarder of all time.

  4. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships — 8 p.m. ET

    Jan 24, 2015, 7:00 PM EST

    AP AP

    Gracie Gold wants to deny history for Ashley Wagner.

  5. WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships — 3 p.m. ET

    Jan 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani Getty Images

    Pairs free skate and free dance national titles to be awarded.

  6. Lindsey Vonn struggles in St. Moritz downhill (video)

    Jan 24, 2015, 6:23 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn missed an opportunity to all but clinch the World Cup season downhill title.

  7. Jason Brown leads U.S. short program; quad debate stoked

    Jan 23, 2015, 11:58 PM EST

    Jason Brown

    Brown is poised to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion in 11 years.

  8. Lindsey Jacobellis wins ninth Winter X Games title

    Jan 23, 2015, 3:12 PM EST

    Lindsey Jacobellis Getty Images

    Jacobellis has now won 13 gold medals in 18 major championships.

  9. McKayla Maroney, Meb Keflezighi get Topps baseball cards

    Jan 23, 2015, 9:54 AM EST

    McKayla Maroney

    Olympic medalists threw out ceremonial first pitches last season.

  10. Bode Miller will not race Kitzbuehel downhill, hopeful for World Champs

    Jan 23, 2015, 8:44 AM EST

    AP AP

    Miller now looks ahead to the World Championships.

  11. Shaun White beaten in Winter X Games halfpipe

    Jan 22, 2015, 11:57 PM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    White had the same finish as he did in Sochi.

  12. Ashley Wagner tops U.S. Championships short program

    Jan 22, 2015, 11:44 PM EST

    AP AP

    The free skate is live on NBC on Saturday night.

  13. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir join NBC’s Super Bowl team

    Jan 22, 2015, 2:43 PM EST

    Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski AP

    Weir and Lipinski will be based at the Super Bowl XLIX Tailgate Party.

  14. Greg LeMond against reducing Lance Armstrong’s lifetime ban

    Jan 22, 2015, 8:47 AM EST

    Greg LeMond Getty Images

    But LeMond might be willing to talk to Armstrong.

  15. Maddie Bowman caps unrivaled year with X Games three-peat

    Jan 22, 2015, 8:28 AM EST

    Maddie Bowman Getty Images

    No other U.S. Olympian from Sochi can say they’ve performed better in top competitions in the last year.

  16. U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s preview

    Jan 21, 2015, 5:45 PM EST

    Jason Brown, Jeremy Abbott, Max Aaron, Joshua Farris Getty Images

    A mix of youth and experience vying for the title and three World Championships spots.

  17. Boston 2024 Olympic bid presentation, renderings (photos)

    Jan 21, 2015, 3:30 PM EST

    Olympic Stadium

    Boston hopes to become the first U.S. city to host an Olympics since Salt Lake City hosted the 2002 Winter Games.

  18. NBCSN to air coverage of Kitzbuehel’s famed Hahnenkamm downhill

    Jan 21, 2015, 8:53 AM EST

    Kitzbuehel Hahnenkamm Getty Images

    NBCSN will also cover the last two men’s World Cup races before the World Championships.

  19. U.S. Figure Skating Championships women’s preview

    Jan 20, 2015, 4:57 PM EST

    Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner, Polina Edmunds, Mirai Nagasu Getty Images

    Rivalry for gold and a crowd fighting for World Championships spots.

  20. Lindsey Vonn talks risk, fear and her future in skiing

    Jan 20, 2015, 3:05 PM EST

    Lindsey Vonn Getty Images

    “If anything else happens, I’m pretty much done. That’s the risk I’m willing to take.”