How did Spain’s Javier Fernandez repeat as World champion?
He only put down the best program of his career to erase the largest Olympic or Worlds lead ever and overtake the greatest skater of all time in Boston on Friday night. And he did it after being unable to skate the day before due to a heel injury.
Fernandez landed three quadruple jumps over a clean free skate, 13 minutes after training partner, Olympic champion and world-record holder Yuzuru Hanyu finished a shockingly error-filled performance.
Fernandez scored 216.41 points in the free skate, the second-highest since this system was implemented in 2005 behind Hanyu’s record 219.48 at the Grand Prix Final in December. Fernandez’s overall total: 314.93.
“I knew to have a chance to beat Yuzu, I need to do the best program of my life,” Fernandez said.
Hanyu was well off his best, scoring 184.61 in the free skate after flawed jump landings that included putting his hands down, turning out and even falling. His total: 295.17.
“I want to do it over,” Hanyu said after falling to silver behind Fernandez at Worlds for a second straight year.
And with that, Fernandez easily overcame a 12.04-point deficit after Wednesday’s short program. Hanyu’s lead going into the free skate was the largest-ever for any man, woman, pair or ice dance couple at an Olympics or Worlds under the 12-year-old system.
Jin Boyang took bronze, China’s first men’s medal at an Olympics or Worlds, after being in fifth place after the short program. The quadruple-jump prince is 18 years old and made his Worlds debut.
Three-time World champion Patrick Chan of Canada fell into the TD Garden boards and from third to fifth.
The U.S. trio of Adam Rippon, Max Aaron and Grant Hochstein all recorded personal-best free skates in international competition, finishing sixth, eighth and 10th, respectively, to thunderous standing ovations.
“I’ve never been to an Olympic Games, but if this is anything like the Olympic Games, I can’t tell you how much fun I would have out there if I can make it,” Aaron said.
It’s the first time three U.S. men finished in the top 10 at Worlds since 2005, but it wasn’t enough to keep the U.S. at three men’s spots for 2017 Worlds. The top two U.S. men’s finishes needed to add up to 13 or fewer to keep three spots. Rippon and Aaron added up to 14.
Back to the champion.
Last year, Fernandez said he believed Spain had nine ice rinks, not including the Madrid sheet on which he learned to skate, which became the site of a restaurant.
Now, Fernandez is a two-time World champion and four-time European champion. His first World crown last year knocked soccer off the Spanish sports newspaper Marca front page. He has become a hope for a nation with two Winter Olympic medals, both in Alpine skiing and the last in 1992.
“It’s out of your mind,” said Fernandez, who finished an agonizing fourth at the Sochi Olympics and felt like he let Spain down.
The World Championships conclude Saturday with coverage of the pairs and women’s free skates on NBCSN, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra beginning at 2 p.m. ET. A full broadcast schedule is here.