Hanyu topples Fernandez to claim second world figure skating gold

Emmeline MOORE
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Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu performs during the men's free skating program at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, on April 1, 2017

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu demonstrated his spellbinding skating skills, soaring jumps and superstar status as he toppled two-time champion Javier Fernandez to claim a second world gold.

The 22-year-old matched his younger rivals quad for quad with a spectacular free skate in Helsinki that underlined his status as favourite heading to Pyeongchang.

"People say that other skaters are trying to catch up with me but you can see that I'm actually trying to catch up with other skaters," said Hanyu.

The skater from Sendai had trailed Fernandez by 10 points in fifth place after the short programme -- the reverse of Boston last year when Hanyu threw away a 12-point lead to finish runner-up to his Spanish training partner for a second straight world championships.

But Hanyu pulled out a superb free skate to the music of Joe Hisaishi's "Hope and Legacy" about Finnish nature, nailing his best performance of the season and a record 223.20 points.

He added to his world title from 2014 to the delight of the hundreds of flag-waving Japanese fans in the Hartwall Arena, leading a one-two ahead of teammate Shoma Uno with China's Jin Boyang taking bronze as Asia swept the men's podium for the first time.

Uno and Jin, both aged 19, also nailed four quads each, both breaking the 200-point barrier in the free skate for the first time.

"I demonstrated everything I was capable of, my whole package," said an exhausted Hanyu. "I wanted to do five quads but did not have enough energy."

- New heights -

And Hanyu credited his rivals for pushing him to new heights.

"The reason that we have so many types of quads today is because of Boyang," he said.

"There is no doubt that he pushed us all, because he did the quad Lutz so people realised that it's humanly possible.

"So he is responsible of pulling us all up to the level where we are today."

Fernandez, 26, dropped to fourth just ahead of former three-time winner Patrick Chan of Canada.

Four Continents champion Nathan Chen -- the first skater to land five quads in a free skate at US nationals -- attempted six but fell on two to finish sixth.

"And also the younger skaters like Shoma, Boyang, and Nathan, they are all talented and everyone has their own strengths," continued Hanyu.

Hanyu's dream now is to emulate American Dick Button the last man to win back-to-back Olympic titles in 1952.

But he conceded he needed to be more consistent after a mixed season winning the Grand Prix final and the NHK Trophy but finishing behind Chan in Skate Canada and Chen in the Four Continents.

"Looking towards the Olympic season I think it's important to skate clean both in the short and the free, these two programmes together."

Chen, 17, took to the ice after Hanyu in his debut worlds and had to dodge between the soft toys and gifts on the ice.

"It definitely was a little bit of a mind game. He skated amazing today," said the American teen.

"There are always champions in all sports that are champions because they keep pushing their own personal limits," added Olympic silver medallist Chan of Hanyu.

- Canada top -

Meanwhile Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir capped their winning return this season with a third ice dancing title to put Canada top of the medals table ahead of Japan on the final day of competition.

The 2010 Olympic champions held on despite Moir losing his footing during the free dance final, finishing 2.58 ahead of two-time holders Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.

"This is a great start and we're looking forward to building on it," said 27-year-old Virtue as they bid for a second Olympic gold.

"It has been a successful season for us but we're not going to get carried away with that because we've never had a 'perfect season'."

They added to their world titles in 2010 and 2012.

Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva successfully defended her women's title as China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong won pairs gold earlier in the week.