Yuzuru Hanyu returned to the site of a scary warm-up collision and five-fall performance from November and skated much stronger Friday, topping the World Championships short program in Shanghai.
He scored 95.20 points, leading top rivals Spain’s Javier Fernandez by 2.46 and Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten by 9.31. Jason Brown was the top American in sixth (full results here).
Hanyu, the 20-year-old Olympic and World champion, can become the first Japanese skater to repeat as World champion in the free skate Saturday.
In the short program, he stumbled out of a quadruple toe loop, but judges still put him above the two-time World bronze medalist Fernandez, who cleanly landed all of his jumps, including a quadruple Salchow.
“I made an error on the quad toe loop, but my physical condition is nothing to worry about,” Hanyu, who missed weeks in the winter following bladder surgery, said, according to The Associated Press. “For the free skate, I’d like to put out everything that I have.”
At least 10 kids on skates spent minutes cleaning the ice following Hanyu’s short program Friday, after the crowd littered it with gifts and toys, mostly stuffed bears.
Fernandez will skate after Hanyu in the free skate Saturday.
“I’m going to skate around [the bears] and try not to kill myself,” Fernandez said, according to the AP.
Ten, the Olympic bronze medalist thought to be the biggest threat to Hanyu, fell on a quad toe loop and was a distant third.
The U.S. champion Brown scored the highest of any man who did not attempt a quad. He’s in the same position as he was after the Sochi Olympics short program, sixth and less than half of a point out of fourth.
“I feel really proud,” Brown said, according to U.S. Figure Skating.
U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon, in his third Worlds appearance and first since 2012, had his quad Lutz downgraded and under-rotated a triple Lutz. He’s in 11th.
“I’m kind of mad right now,” Rippon said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “I’m going to take my feeling and channel it into my long program.”
The third American, Joshua Farris, fell on his opening triple Axel in his Worlds debut. He’s in 13th, disappointing after taking silver at the Four Continents Championships in February.
“I was nervous, but no more than I normally am,” Farris said, according to U.S. Figure Skating. “That fall did surprise me. In the air I didn’t think I was going to fall. It shook me up a bit.”
The top two U.S. men’s placements following the free skate Saturday must add up to 13 or better (such as Brown in sixth and Rippon in seventh) to ensure they keep three spots for the 2016 World Championships in Boston. Right now, that total is 17.
A U.S. man has not won a Worlds medal since Evan Lysacek‘s gold in 2009.
Men’s Short Program
1. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 95.20
2. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 92.74
3. Denis Ten (KAZ) — 85.89
4. Sergey Voronov (RUS) — 84.70
5. Yan Han (CHN) — 84.45
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 84.32
11. Adam Rippon (USA) — 75.14
13. Joshua Farris (USA) — 73.52
Youngest World champions in ice dance since 1975