Japan`s Hanyu stars as Plushenko bows out

Last Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 - 16:36

Sochi: Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu gave a stunning display to put him on the road to Olympic gold as Russian veteran Yevgeny Plushenko called time on his long career after withdrawing injured from the Sochi Games.

In a dramatic night of action at the Iceberg Skating Palace 19-year-old Hanyu set a new world record score in the men`s short programme to open up a 3.93-point lead on three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada.

Two-time gold Olympic medallist Plushenko had earlier stunned the crowd when he withdrew before he competed complaining of a recurring back injury.

"Amateur sport is finished for me. Maybe not in the way that I wanted. But I leave with a gold medal, that is also great," the 31-year-old said.

Plushenko had taken to the ice for the six-minute warm-up before he opened his bid to become the first man to win a record five Olympic figure skating medals -- individual gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010, and team gold in Sochi.

But he injured himself attempting a triple axel jump.

The Russian then skated around the rink holding his back before unsuccessfully trying the jump again.

Plushenko, who was the first up to skate in his group, went over to Swedish referee Mona Jonsson shaking his head.

After it was announced he was withdrawing the veteran bowed and waved to spectators as he left the rink to muted applause from the stunned and deflated crowd.

Plushenko underwent back surgery last year, the latest in twelve operations he had endured over the years on his back and knees.

As Russia have only one men`s berth in Sochi and the deadline for substituting Plushenko had already passed the hosts had no men in the event.

But as three-time world champion announced he was bowing out of sport Hanyu took centre stage to give the best performance of his life.

Skating to "Parisian Walkways" by Gary Moore he hit a quad toeloop, triple axel and triple lutz-triple toeloop combination to score 101.45.

He bettered the previous record he set on his way to victory over Chan in the Grand Prix final by 1.61sec.

"I wasn`t trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could -- and I did," said Hanyu. "I was very, very surprised by the score."

Chan, 23, scored 97.52 after he under rotated his triple axel jump in his performance to Rachmaninov`s "Elegie in E Flat".

After beating Plushenko in the short programme of the team event, Hanyu said he had been disappointed not to compete again against his childhood idol.

"I was disappointed not to see him in first place when I took the ice," said Hanyu.

"I took up skating because of him. I respect him and admire him dearly. It`s just sad. I`m really glad I had the opportunity to skate against him in the team event."

Chan said he preferred being second going into Friday`s free skating final.

"I like being in second. I like the chase," said the Canadian.

"I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, that target is bigger.

"Four points I made up before in the long programme. I have done it before. I have a plan."

Chan added: "It`s disappointing I didn`t get to compete against him (Plushenko)."

World bronze medallist Javier Fernandez, Hanyu`s training partner with coach Brian Orser in Toronto, is sitting in third at 86.98.

"Javier inspires me so much on a day-to-day basis," said Hanyu. "When I`ve struggled with the quad in the past, he was always so supportive. So it means a lot to me that we`re sitting here on this podium together."

The Spaniard stumbled on a triple Axel jump but otherwise performed an entertaining routine to "Satan Takes a Holiday".

"It wasn`t my day, I was stumbling a lot," said Fernandez.

"I`m still in the game so the only thing you can do is fight until the end."

Japan`s Daisuke Takahashi is fourth with 86.40 after the Olympic bronze medallist two-footed his opening quad toeloop jump.

The top four are bidding to give their countries their first Olympic men`s gold in figure skating.

Germany`s Peter Liebers was a surprise fifth, with just over a point separating the skaters ranked third through eighth.

US champion Jeremy Abbott, skating in Plushenko`s group, slumped to 15th after a nasty fall on his opening quadruple toeloop, hitting his right hip and crashing into the boards.

AFP

First Published: Friday, February 14, 2014 - 16:36

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