Hanyu wins NHK Trophy, aims for GP Final

Yuzuru Hanyu performs in the men’s free skate at the NHK Trophy figure skating tournament in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016, (Mainichi)

Yuzuru Hanyu, center, poses with his gold medal after winning his second straight NHK Trophy title in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)
Yuzuru Hanyu, center, poses with his gold medal after winning his second straight NHK Trophy title in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) — Yuzuru Hanyu added another gold medal to his growing collection on Saturday, when he won his second straight NHK Trophy title by topping both the men’s short and free programs for a combined total of 301.47 points.

Together with Satoko Miyahara, who won the women’s silver earlier, Hanyu secured a berth in the Grand Prix Final, where he will be looking to become the first singles skater to win the elite event for four consecutive seasons. The NHK Trophy is the last of six Grand Prix series events from which competitors for the final are chosen.

Three skaters have won the final four times. Japanese icon Mao Asada captured women’s gold in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2013. Russian skaters Evgeni Plushenko and Irina Slutskaya also have four Grand Prix Final titles each.

In Saturday evening’s free program, Hanyu, who achieved Level 4s on all his spins and steps in the short program, managed to rack up the season’s highest score of 197.58 despite tumbling on his quad Salchow-triple toe-loop attempt after two smooth opening quads.

Satoko Miyahara sports her silver medal after finishing second in the women's free skate at the NHK Trophy figure skating tournament in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)
Satoko Miyahara sports her silver medal after finishing second in the women’s free skate at the NHK Trophy figure skating tournament in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

But as he did yesterday after a minor error, Hanyu quickly regained his composure and was safe and solid for the rest of his 4-minute, 30-second program to “Hope and Legacy” by Jo Hisaishi, leaving room to playfully stick out his tongue as he took a bow.

American skater Nathan Chen, who joined the international senior circuit this season, was second with 268.91 points, and Japan’s Keiji Tanaka third with 248.44.

“I was really nervous today,” said Hanyu.

“I’m glad I was able to clear the 300-point mark again and to be able to do it here in Japan is special. I felt like a rock star thanks to all the cheering from the fans,” he said.

Earlier, Miyahara missed out on her second straight NHK Trophy gold, turning in a consistent performance in the women’s free skate that was only good enough for silver.

Still, the 18-year-old Four Continents champion, who debuted on the senior circuit in the 2013-2014 season, earned a total score of 198.00 to qualify for next month’s Grand Prix Final, where she won silver last year in her first appearance.

Satoko Miyahara, left, shows her silver medal after finishing second in the women's free skate at the NHK Trophy figure skating tournament in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)
Satoko Miyahara, left, shows her silver medal after finishing second in the women’s free skate at the NHK Trophy figure skating tournament in Sapporo on Nov. 26, 2016. (Mainichi)

Overnight leader Anna Pogorilaya held on for gold, while her Russian compatriot, Maria Sotskova, was third.

Miyahara nailed four triple jumps and rebounded from her third-place finish in the short program but her mistake from a day earlier — when she mislanded a triple Lutz for the first time in a year in a competition — proved costly.

Skating in front of a home crowd at Makomanai Ice Arena, where she was crowned national champion in December 2015, Miyahara hit the ice in the second group between the two Russians. Miyahara received a standing ovation after being awarded 133.80 points for her routine to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst.

Pogorilaya was the only skater with a free skate program component score over 70 and won with a total of 210.86. Sotskova, second after the short program, finished with 195.88.

“I was nervous in the free program because of how I did yesterday in the short. I made some adjustments but I didn’t make any big mistakes so I’m glad about that. I tried to play the role of a strong woman, which was the program theme,” said Miyahara.

“I barely made it to the Grand Prix Final but as long as I’m skating there I hope I don’t make the same mistake that I made here.”

Japanese NHK Trophy debutants Wakaba Higuchi and Yura Matsuda finished fourth and seventh, respectively.

Earlier, reigning Japanese national pairs champions Sumire Suto and Canadian partner Francis Boudreau-Audet finished seventh and last in a deep and talented pairs field.

Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, who were second after the short program, outperformed overnight leaders Peng Cheng and Jin Yang of China in the free skate to claim gold with a total score of 204.56 points.

In ice dancing, the Japanese team of Emi Hirai and Marien de la Asuncion are ninth out of nine despite posting a season-high 49.37 points for their blues and swing program in the short dance. Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir lead with 79.47.

The other Japanese couple, Kana Muramoto and Chris Reed, withdrew citing injury. According to the ISU, Reed is suffering from an injury to his left knee sustained at practice two weeks ago.

The NHK Trophy 2016, the last of six events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series, concludes Sunday with the free dance in ice dancing and exhibition gala.

Six highest-ranking skaters from each discipline qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, from Dec. 8-11.

Source : mainichi.jp

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