Brilliant Chen builds big lead over Hanyu in Grand Prix Final
Nathan Chen delivered a flawless and flamboyant short programme on Thursday at the ISU Grand Prix Final in Turin to leave his great rival Yuzuru Hanyu a distant second.
Earlier, China's two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong backed up their billing as title favourites by taking the lead after the pairs short programme at the Palavela.
Chen, winner of the competition the last two years, was smooth and relaxed skating to La Boheme by Charles Aznavour.
He nailed his three jumps, the last scored a bonus because it came in the second half of the programme.
His total of 110.38 was a personal best and only 0.15 points short of Hanyu's world record for a short programme set in Moscow in 2018.
"I'm very happy with the score. But there are a lot of things I can improve on," said Chen, explaining that he "was a little shaky on" two of his jumps.
Double Olympic champion Hanyu matched Chen for fluid and expressive style but missed the triple toe element at the end of a combination jump.
The error was costly and the adoring fans who had pelted the ice with Winnie the Pooh toys fell silent, or even started to cry, as 97.43 came up for the Japanese star.
"To be honest, I am a little disappointed," Hanyu said. "Also, the point gap between me and Nathan is a little big."
Hanyu, who turns 25 this week, is returning to the six-skater elite event after a two-year absence. His score was good enough for second place.
The big surprise was sixth-ranked skater Kevin Aymoz who took third with a personal best of 96.71 despite a technical glitch at the start of his routine.
As the music began, Aymoz took a couple of steps only to realise they weren't playing his tune.
After a painful delay, as the Frenchman stood waiting, Prince's 'The Question of U' started and he set off.
"I felt so lonely standing there on the ice like I was the only one in the world," he said.
"But when the music did start I forgot totally and it was just a pleasure to share."
Russian Dmitri Aliev who fourth on 88.78 followed by compatriot Alexander Samarin on 81.32 with Chinese star Jin Boyang sixth on 80.67.
In the pairs, Sui and Han, gold medallists at the 2017 and 2019 world championships, scored 77.50 points to head a trio of young Russian pairs, yet they were not happy.
"We were not really satisfied with today's performance," admitted Sui. "The skating and execution was a little tight."
Skate Canada and Cup of Russia winners Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii, who skated to 'My Way', are second on 76.65 with Daria Pavliuchenkova and Denis Khodykin third on 75.16.
Kozlovskii explained that their programme was "an interpretation of ourselves, our souls. In it we try to find ourselves, our right road, our way."
Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov are fourth (71.48) ahead of China's Peng Cheng and Jin Yang (69.67) while Canadian duo Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro (67.09) are last going into Saturday's free skate.
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