Four of a kind may be a winner at most tables but in men’s figure skating these days all it does at the World Championships is get you a seat. More than a third of the 30 competitors in Wednesday night’s short program at TD Garden tried a quadruple jump and the top contenders essayed two. And when the quadfest ended after four hours of soaring and splatter, it was Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the Olympic champion who was a leap and a bound ahead of the rest with a flawless and mesmerizing performance.
“I do feel the expectation of my standard has been rising and I do feel the pressure naturally but it doesn’t really affect my performance in how I am supposed to keep up my quality,” said the 21-year-old, who piled up a 12-point lead over Spanish defending titlist Javier Fernandez, his Toronto training partner and pal. “I want to really enjoy my skating and I think I was able to show that today
Hanyu, who won the Olympic gold medal two years ago in Sochi, landed his opening quadruple salchow jump and followed it with a clean quad toe-triple toe combination to post a near-record 110.56 points. Fernandez, who lifted the title from Hanyu last year, hit his opening quad toe-triple toe combination but fell on the ensuing quad salchow.
“Little mistake in the quad sal,” shrugged Fernandez, who knew he was risking a fall by putting in a second quad to match Hanyu. “I felt great going through it and I guess in the landing I lose a little bit the balance.”
Canada’s Patrick Chan, the three-time former victor, was third ahead of Japanese teenager Shoma Uno after taking last season off to reflect and recharge. “I’m relieved,” said Chan, whose clean quad toe combination helped make up for a crashed triple axel. “Ihere’s a lot of pressure I haven’t been familiar with for two seasons . . . to be in the top three is for me a huge achievement.”
For the American men, who haven’t won a global medal since 2009, their longest drought in nearly four decades, making the podium on Friday figured to be a long shot. The more realistic goal was to preserve three entries for next year’s championships in Helsinki, which will determine each country’s spots for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
So when US champ Adam Rippon and former domestic titlist Max Aaron placed seventh and eighth, they put themselves in a position to at least achieve that goal.
Rippon and Aaron are seeking redemption as much as anything. With two Olympic berths on the line at the US championships here two years ago Aaron, who came in as champion, missed the team and Rippon finished a distant eighth.
Though Rippon didn’t attempt a quad, he submitted a clean effort that left him within reach of a top-five overall finish with an 85.72. “I wanted to set myself up with the points so that I could definitely be in contention to mix things up with the free skate,’’ he said. “I’m really glad that I was able to do that.”
While Aaron touched down on his opening quad salchow, he recovered to hit his axel and later completed a triple lutz-triple toe. “I’d obviously love to be 10 points higher but mistakes add up and they add up quickly,” said Aaron, who scored 81.28. “But for the mistakes I made I’m happy with the score I got.”
Hanyu, who just missed breaking the world mark of 110.95 that he set at the Grand Prix Final, was delighted with his, screaming “yeah!” and clapping for himself as he skated off the ice.
Hanyu had been rattled earlier in the day when he nearly collided with Kazakh rival Denis Ten, who got in his way during practice. “It didn’t affect him tonight but I bet you he had to go back and do a lot of soul-searching and release the demons because he was carrying it right in his chest,” said his coach Brian Orser. “He was angry. I was telling him, you need to breathe and let it go. You have to move on. Because he’s too good to let that stuff bother him.”