A nervous Nathan Chen fell in competition for the first time since December. Yuzuru Hanyu messed up a jumping combination. Neither of the world championships favorites is in the top four after the short program in Helsinki on Thursday.
Instead, two-time defending world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain catapulted to a comfortable lead with a personal-best short program. Fernandez landed his jumps clean, with two quads, for 109.05 points.
“I always say I’m old,” said Fernandez, a 25-year-old competing at his 11th worlds. “I’ve been in this game forever.”
Japan’s Shoma Uno is second with 104.86, followed by Canada’s Patrick Chan at 102.13 and China’s Jin Boyang at 98.64.
Fifth-place Hanyu put his knee down on the opening jump of his planned quadruple Salchow-triple toe loop combination. He doubled the toe loop, but it was invalidated due to the quad Salchow landing problem. He ended up with 98.39 points, more than 12 points off his world record.
“I’m very frustrated,” Hanyu said, according to Kyodo News. “That quadruple Salchow was a pain. I don’t know why I can’t learn from my past experiences. I’m filled with disappointment.”
Chen is sixth after falling on a triple Axel and totaling 97.33 points, hurting his hopes to become the youngest men’s world champion. Chen also had boot problems, according to reports from Helsinki.
“Obviously, the Axel was a pretty big mistake and could have been avoided,” said Chen, adding he felt more nerves before Thursday’s skate than he had all season. “I need to learn how to deal with [the fall] and move on.”
The free skate is Saturday morning, with coverage on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Later Thursday, China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong delivered a clutch performance to win their first pairs title after taking silver the previous two years.
Chen last fell in the Grand Prix Final short program in December. He then outscored the field, including Uno, Fernandez, Hanyu, in the Grand Prix Final free skate to jump from fifth to second.
After that, Chen won the U.S. Championships in record fashion and beat Hanyu and Uno at the Four Continents Championships in February, landing a record five quads in the free skate at both events. He has landed 20 straight quads in competition.
Chen has indicated he may attempt six quads in the worlds free skate on Saturday. He may need them to challenge for gold.
“Triples are hard,” Chen said with a laugh after his triple Axel fall Thursday, according to media in Helsinki. “Quads are really my thing.”
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Men’s Short Program
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 109.05
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 104.86
3. Patrick Chan (CAN) — 102.13
4. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 98.64
5. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 98.39
6. Nathan Chen (USA) — 97.33
8. Jason Brown (USA) — 93.10