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Hanyu beats Chan to win Grand Prix title Oda in third place

TOKYO, Dec 6, (AFP): Japanese teenager Yuzuru Hanyu beat three-time world champion Patrick Chan for two straight nights to win the Grand Prix Final title Friday, stalling the Canadian’s bid for an elusive Olympic gold. Hanyu, who shattered Chan’s world short programme record overnight, fell in his opening quadruple salchow as he skated to “Romeo and Juliet” by Nino Rota. But the Japanese national champion, who turns 19 on Saturday, went on with a series of excellent jumps, spins and steps to earn 193.41 points in the free skate for a total of 293.25, improving his personal best scores along the way. Chan, who broke his own world best scores in the short programme, the free skate and the total at the Grand Prix in Paris three weeks ago, skated right before Hanyu the day after he was beaten for the first time this season. The 22-year-old, who finished fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Gamesympics and hopes to lift the first men’s Olympic figure skating gold for Canada, went flat out with a flawless free skate to earn 192.61 points but finished second overall with 280.08. Japan’s Nobunari Oda stayed in third spot with 255.96 with 175.02 from the free skate.

“I was not satisfied with my performance,” said Hanyu, who finished second behind Chan in their two Grand Prix duels at Skate Canada and the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris. “I felt like the points were too high, so knowing that I received those scores, I will have to work up to actually feel like I deserve them,” he said. “After the fall, I managed to land another quad and a series of jumps. I think this was a big gain.” Hanyu became the second Japanese to win the Grand Prix Final title after 2010 world champion Daisuke Takahashi who triumphed last year to deny Chan’s bid to win it for a third straight time. The world’s top skaters are allotted to compete in two of each season’s six Grand Prix events. The top-six finishers in each category in terms of placements qualify for the high-profile finale. Chan said he was “positive” after the defeat because of a change to his winning formula.

“It’s as good as a gold medal for me because I learned to appreciate the fact that I get more satisfaction skating a good long (free) programme than winning a gold medal,” he said. Chan explained that he had always managed to win as good short programmes made up for bad free skates. “Here it is actually reversed. That is a lot of positives in my book.” Despite the fall, Hanyu gained many points for the “grade of excellence” in other jumps including two combinatons with a 3.5-revolutuon triple axel. He collected 102.03 “technical” points against 97.13 for Chan who, in turn, edged the Japanese 95.48-92.38 in “programme components” which measures skating skills and artistry. Hanyu, the 2012 world championship bronze medallist who has won two senior Grand Prix events since 2011, emerged as the top candidate for three berths for Japanese men at the Sochi Olympics in February. “This is a great step forward to Sochi,” he said adding he had not thought about “winning or losing against Patrick.”

“My theme this time was just to enjoy skating as much as I can.” In the pairs short programme earlier Friday, Russia’s world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov took a 82.65-79.46 lead over German rivals Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy. A fierce rivalry in the ice dance resumed as America’s world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White led Olympic title-holders Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada by a hair-slim 0.07 point in their first head-to-head clash of the season.

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