Olympic and World champion Yuzuru Hanyu earned the last berth in the Grand Prix Final by finishing fourth — barely — at the NHK Trophy in Osaka, Japan, on Saturday.
Hanyu fell in both of his programs at NHK Trophy, not at his best three weeks after a warm-up collision at the Cup of China.
“I feel I made the right decision to compete,” Hanyu said, according to the Japan Times. “I wasn’t in the best shape physically or mentally, but am proud that I was able to take part in the two events after the accident happened.”
He finished 16.27 points behind winner Daisuke Murakami on Saturday.
More importantly, he finished .15 ahead of American Jeremy Abbott. Had Abbott beaten Hanyu, American Jason Brown would have made the Grand Prix Final over Hanyu.
The Grand Prix Final, which is in two weeks in Barcelona, is the biggest annual international competition outside the World Championships. It takes the top six skaters per discipline from the six-event Grand Prix series, which concluded with NHK Trophy.
A U.S. man didn’t qualify for the Grand Prix Final for a third straight year. At no other stretch in the 20-year history of the series had U.S. men gone back-to-back years shut out of the Grand Prix Final.
Abbott was in position to make the Grand Prix Final after the short program Friday. But he dropped from second to fifth and out of contention.
Brown performed the best of the U.S. men in the Grand Prix season and will be favored to win his first U.S. title in January. Abbott is among the contenders to grab one of three U.S. men’s spots in the World Championships in March.
Murakami, who formerly represented the U.S., rallied from third after the short program to notch the biggest win of his career in his first Grand Prix appearance in three years.
NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air NHK Trophy coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.
NHK Trophy men’s results
1. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 246.07
2. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 236.65
3. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 234.44
4. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 229.8
5. Jeremy Abbott (USA) — 229.65
7. Ross Miner (USA) — 205.36
11. Josh Farris (USA) — 169.88
Leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Tatsuki Machida (JPN) — 269.09 (Skate America)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 265.01 (Rostelecom Cup)
3. Takahito Mura (JPN) — 255.81 (Skate Canada)
4. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 252 (Rostelecom Cup)
5. Daisuke Murakami (JPN) — 246.07 (NHK Trophy)
6. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 244.87 (Skate Canada)
7. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 243.35 (Trophee Bompard)
8. Maksim Kovtun (RUS) — 243.34 (Cup of China)
9. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 241.23 (Rostelecom Cup)
10. Misha Ge (UZB) — 238.05 (Rostelecom Cup)
Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan not competing in Grand Prixs.
U.S. leaders in Grand Prix season
1. Jason Brown — 235.56 (Rostelecom Cup)
2. Jason Brown — 234.17 (Skate America)
3. Max Aaron — 231.77 (Skate Canada)
4. Stephen Carriere — 231.67 (Skate Canada)
5 . Jeremy Abbott — 229.65 (NHK Trophy)
6. Richard Dornbush — 226.73 (Cup of China)
7. Adam Rippon — 225.42 (Trophee Bompard)
8. Jeremy Abbott — 219.33 (Skate America)
Grand Prix Final qualifiers
1. Maksim Kovtun (RUS)
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP)
3. Tatsuki Machida (JPN)
4. Takahito Mura (JPN)
5. Sergey Voronov (RUS)
6. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)