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Japan’s Hanyu breaks high-score record, defending champ Asada leads at Grand Prix Final

Yuzuru Hanyu

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan greets for fans after his perform of men’s short program of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final at Marine Messe Fukuoka in Fukuoka, western Japan, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Shizuo Kambayashi

Mao Asada and Yuzuru Hanyu thrilled their home crowd Thursday in Fukuoka, Japan, the two Japanese skaters jumping out to healthy leads following their respective short programs at the Grand Prix Final.

Hanyu, 18, delivered a world-record performance in his short, registering a score of 99.84 to build a healthy 12-point lead over Patrick Chan, who had the short program record from earlier this season. The Canadian was second with a 87.47.

The men’s finishers were well spread out, with Nobunari Oda, a substitute for injured Daisuke Takahashi, in third with a 80.94 and Yan Han, the 17-year-old from China, in fourth with a 77.75. Russia’s Maksim Kovtun and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida rounded out the group, not able to top the 70-point mark.

Asada, the event’s defending champion, broke into a big smile after what was a big performance for her, which opened with a triple Axel, the only being executed in ladies’ skating. She was called for under-rotating the jump, but said she felt “good about it” after her program.

Asada’s 72.36 safely placed the 2010 Vancouver silver medalist into first, ahead of Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, who recorded a 68.38. American Ashley Wagner looked strong in her skate, but came just shy of passing Sotnikova with a 68.14.

“That’s OK,” her coach Rafael Arutyunyan told her in the Kiss and Cry, patting her on the leg following the scores.

Wagner had defeated Sotnikova at the Trophee Eric Bompard last month, but will need a strong long program in order to do so in Fukuoka.

“I feel really good,” Wagner said, according to a U.S. Figure Skating release. “I wish the score had been higher... But so far so good. I missed a level on my footwork and I have that to work on, but overall I’m very happy.”

There didn’t appear to be much happiness from 15-year-old Russian Yulia Lipnitskaya, who – like Wagner – skated cleanly but was marked down on her program component scores, earning a 66.62 overall and putting her into fourth.

Fourteen-year-old Yelena Radyonova and Anna Pogorilaya, both of Russia, finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

Hanyu was masterful in a program that included a quadruple toe, a triple Axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. Chan opened with a monstrous quadruple toe-triple toe combination, but later nearly fell on his triple Axel and doubled a Lutz that was meant to be a triple.

“I was surprised when I saw the score,” Hanyu said, according to the Associated Press. “All my jumps were very good. I lost a bit of concentration near the end and need to improve that but now I have to focus on the free skate.”

Hanyu is looking to become the second straight Japanese man to claim this title after Takahashi, who withdrew due to a shin injury, was champion a year ago. Hanyu was runner-up to Takahashi at that event.

Chan, the reigning and three-time world champion has won the Grand Prix Final twice, in 2010 and 2011. Asada, a two-time world champion herself, has three Grand Prix Final golds to her name, in 2005, 2008 and 2012.

“I’m not super happy with how I skated,” the AP reported Chan saying. “When you achieve close to perfection like I did in Paris it’s hard to do it again. Tomorrow is a new day and the long program is where it’s won and where it’s lost so we’ll see.”

Grand Prix Final offers glimpse at Olympic picture

So happy with that skate! As for the rest....just keep swimming, just keep swimming🐟 #GPF13

— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) December 5, 2013