Japanese prodigy Yuzuru Hanyu put in an outstanding performance in the men’s short programme, falling just two points short of his best-ever score of 99.84, the current world record. The 18-year-old thereby took control of the competition, propelling his team into an early lead.
“I was incredibly nervous,” admitted Hanyu. “This is the Olympics and all the skaters are brilliant. I felt a bit of pressure going into my first Games, but now that I know what it’s about, I’ll be better equipped to do well in the individual event. Plushenko is my hero and it was just a great feeling to be skating on the same ice as him.”
Home favourite Plushenko, now 31, delivered a faultless display, managing a quad-triple combination jump from the outset of his routine. The raucous Sochi crowd chanted his name, and all of the athletes present rose to applaud the skater. “I’m so happy,” said the three-time Olympic medallist. “It can be difficult to skate in my homeland, but sometimes it helps.”
Three-time world champion Patrick Chan (CAN) finished third behind Hanyu and 2006 Olympic champion Plushenko, with China’s Yan Han and France’s Florent Amodio finishing fourth and fifth.
Trankov and Volosozhar shine
At this stage, prior to the pairs event, Japan topped the standings on 10 points, followed by Russia (nine), Canada (eight), China (seven), France (six), Peter Liebers for Germany (five), Jeremy Abbott for the USA (four), Yakov Godorozha for Ukraine (three), Matthew Parr for Great Britain (two) and Paul Bonifacio Parkinson for Italy (one).
Reigning pairs world champions Tatiana Volosozar and Maxim Trankov (RUS) were on stunning form, enthralling the fans with a brilliant short programme and relegating Canada’s Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford and the Peng Cheng/Zhang Hao pairing (CHN) to second and third place respectively.
Following that performance, Russia found itself at the top of the provisional standings with 19 points, ahead of Canada (17), China (15), Japan (13), Germany, France and the USA. Further down, the Italians boast eight points, Ukraine have five and Great Britain have three.
Upon completion of the ice dancing and ladies’ events on Saturday, the five teams with the best scores will move on to the final stage of the competition, which will feature free programmes in the four different disciplines. The identity of the first-ever Olympic figure skating team champions will be revealed at around 10 pm on Sunday 9 February.