Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu was beaten in the Cup of China short program Friday, his first competition since sweeping the Sochi Olympics and World Championships.
Hanyu, who pulled out of his planned October season debut with a back injury, scored 82.95 points, falling 3.01 shy of Russian leader Maksim Kovtun. Hanyu did not perform a quadruple jump or a jumping combination. Kovtun landed two quads.
“In one word, it was the worst,” Hanyu said, according to the Japan Times. “It’s surprising that this kind of performance was good enough for second.
“It’s extremely frustrating. I’ll have a hard look in the mirror, and then I want to put on the kind of performance tomorrow [in the free skate] that people expect from me.”
Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya led a one-two Russian effort on the women’s side, hitting her triple-triple combination, double Axel and triple flip (short program video here) to lead Elizaveta Tuktamysheva by 1.57.
Kovtun, 19 like Hanyu, beat four-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko at the 2014 Russian Championships but was passed over in favor of Plushenko for Russia’s lone Olympic men’s spot.
Russia failed to earn more than one men’s spot in Sochi due to Kovtun’s 17th-place finish at the 2013 World Championships, the competition that determined how many spots nations earned for the Olympics. Kovtun went on to finish fourth at the World Championships in March won by Hanyu.
If Hanyu and/or Lipnitskaya win the Cup of China after the free skate Saturday, it will mark the first time in Grand Prix series history (since 1995) that one nation swept the first three events with three different singles champions, on either the men’s or women’s side.
Japan’s Tatsuki Machida and Takahito Mura and Russians Yelena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya won Skate America and Skate Canada the previous two weeks.
The only times one nation swept the first three Grand Prix events on either the men’s or women’s side were 1998 and 1999. Russian men won every event those seasons, but the first three were not split among three different men.
One nation has never swept the first three events in women’s history, regardless of number of different skaters.
U.S. Olympian Polina Edmunds, in her Grand Prix series debut, was seventh after falling on her opening triple Lutz. Edmunds, 16, was the youngest U.S. Olympic figure skater since Tara Lipinski in 1998. She finished ninth in Sochi and eighth at the World Championships in March.
U.S. Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani led World champions Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte after the short dance.
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Cup of China coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.
Cup of China short program
1. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 85.96
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 82.95
3. Han Yan (CHN) — 79.21
4. Richard Dornbush (USA) — 77.23
1. Yulia Lipnitskaya (RUS) — 69.56
2. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (RUS) — 67.99
3. Kanako Murakami (JPN) — 60.44
7. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 50.32
8. Christina Gao (USA) — 47.15
11. Ashley Cain (USA) — 39.8