Flawless Fernandez takes lead at figure skating worlds; SLC’s Chen sixth

First Published      Last Updated Mar 30 2017 10:36 pm

Figure skating » The European champ tops his personal best score.

Helsinki • Javier Fernandez led the men's event at the figure skating world championships on Thursday and eclipsed his personal best score from winning the European title in January.

Meanwhile, China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won the pairs.

Fernandez, the two-time defending champion from Spain, skated an immaculate short program to the tune of "Malaguena," landing a quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop combination, plus a quad salchow, for 109.05 points. That was within two points of Yuzuru Hanyu's world record.

Japanese skater Shoma Uno was second with 104.86 points, and three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada in third on 102.13.

Facing fierce competition from athletic teenage skaters such as Uno and U.S. champion and Salt Lake City native Nathan Chen, comparative veterans Fernandez and Chan said they were happy to show they still have what it takes to compete.

"We always want to try and skate our best and to surprise everybody. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't happen," said Fernandez, who made his world championship debut 10 years ago. "I've been in this game forever."

Chan was the only man in the top six to perform only one quad jump in his short program, rather than the two which have increasingly become the mark of top skaters. He said it was hard not to be intimidated by the skills of up-and-coming rivals.

"I almost psych myself out by seeing and acknowledging what they're doing and then forgetting about what I need to do," said Chan, who won the world title in 2011, 2012, and 2013. "I have to remind myself what are my strengths ... I am in a whole different situation, whole different generation of skaters, than when I won my first world title."

The 19-year-old Uno was out to avoid repeating the poor free skate which cost him the chance of a worlds medal last year. Jin Boyang of China was fourth with 98.64, followed by Olympic champion Hanyu on 98.39.

Four Continents champion Chen was sixth with 97.33, blaming nerves which made him "a little slow," and a problem with his boots. The free skate is on Saturday.

After coming second in the last two world championships, Sui and Han finally won pairs gold thanks to a smooth program set to "Bridge Over Troubled Water," despite a fall on a triple salchow. That capped a remarkable recovery for the pair after surgery on Sui's feet meant they couldn't compete this season until last month.

"We made our best performance today and we were ourselves," Han said. "The audience can feel our emotion and our story."

Their total of 232.06 points denied veteran German Aliona Savchenko a sixth career world gold. She had to settle for 230.30 points and silver with Bruno Massot on Thursday. Russians Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took third, a day after Morozov's blade sliced into his partner's leg during training. She required 10 stitches.