Pooh grit: Chen outshines Hanyu to retain world skate title


Saitama (Japan) (AFP)

American Nathan Chen overcame a dashing Yuzuru Hanyu free routine with an electrifying performance of his own Saturday to retain his world figure skating title.

The 19-year-old, who dominated Thursday's short skate, kept his cool after watching Hanyu break the world record to smash it again himself, scoring 216.02 points for a winning total of 323.42 in Saitama.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Chen. "The competition went awesome and I'm so proud of the way it went."

Olympic champion Hanyu, who recently returned from an ankle injury that forced him out of December's Japanese nationals, took to the ice to deafening cheers after tweaking the nose of the stuffed Winnie the Pooh he carries with him everywhere.

Third after the short routine, Hanyu nailed a quadruple lutz, triple toe-loop combo on his way to a score of 206.10 points, becoming the first skater to clear the 300-point mark by 0.97.

The 24-year-old Hanyu pumped his fist and shot a glare towards the judges as an avalanche of Pooh bears cascaded onto the rink from his legions of adoring Japanese fans.

But with ice in his veins, Chen hit back, crushing four gorgeous quadruple jumps, including a quad toe-loop, triple toe-loop combination he made look ridiculously easy.

Fellow American Vincent Zhou took bronze after an ethereal free skate that earned him a total of 281.16 points, giving the United States two men's medallists for the first time since 1996.

"I fully expected Yuzuru to bring the house down and for there to be a crazy atmosphere," said Chen.

"But fortunately all the Pooh bears were on one side of the rink so I could skate around for the warm-up."

- 'Damn it, I lost!' -

A shattered Hanyu could barely conceal his disappointment after failing to win a third world title.

"Damn it, I lost!" he yelled as he walked back to his dressing room, stopping on his way to watch a replay of Chen's skate on a monitor and adding: "He's so cool! I was never going to beat that kind of performance."

After calming down, the two-time Olympic gold medallist adopted a more philosophical tone.

"Honestly, I'm gutted to lose, but I have to accept that I just wasn't good enough," he said.

"Figure skating is about being in the zone over two days and I didn't do that. It's not the result I wanted but these guys give me extra incentive to come back stronger and reach the top again."

Shoma Uno, who took silver behind his illustrious countryman at last year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, finished a distant fourth on a total of 270.32 points after crash-landing his first two quad attempts.

China's Jin Boyang finished fifth on 262.71 points with Russian Mikhail Kolyada placing sixth with a total of 262.44.

"It's hard to believe this actually happened," he said bronze medallist Zhou. "To share the podium with fricking Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu is unbelievable."

Earlier on Saturday, French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron completed a successful defence of their world title with a sparkling free routine.