Japan's Hanyu, Canadian ice dancers golden at worlds

Emmeline MOORE
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Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu in action during the free programme at the World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, on April 1, 2017

Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu snatched a second career gold and Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir a third on the final day of the world figure skating championship on Saturday.

The 22-year-old Hanyu, so close to gold in the last two world championships, led a Japanese one-two ahead of Shoma Uno with China's Jin Boyang taking bronze as Asia swept the men's podium for the first time ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Hanyu had been trailing in fifth after the short programme, but pulled out a best-ever score in the free skate to reclaim the title he won in 2014.

Bears and gifts rained down on the ice after his performance at a capacity-packed Hartwall Arena in Helsinki and he wiped tears from his eyes as he watched his scores appear.

"After the short programme I was so disappointed and down, but the fans and team helped lift me," said Hanyu, who scored 321.59 points.

In the high-quality men's field the top three all hit four quads with 19-year-old Uno achieving 319.31 for his first world medal and Jin, 19, taking his second straight bronze with 303.58.

"I could hear the crowd roaring me on, not just the many Japanese in the crowd but everybody supporting me was very impressive," said Hanyu.

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

Two-time defending champion Javier Fernandez of Spain went into the free-skating final in the lead but dropped to fourth after falling during an error-strewn skate to an Elvis selection.

"I have to take this as a positive thing heading into the Olympic season," said 26-year-old Fernandez.

"Maybe it means there won't be so much pressure. I kind of knew how Yuzuru had skated and it added some pressure on me."

Last year Hanyu threw away a 12-point lead to finish runner-up to Toronto training partner Fernandez.

This time the situation was reversed with the Japanese star over 10 points adrift of five-time European champion Fernandez going into the final day of competition.

But he 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.

"I have very warm memories about Finland as I won my first international competition here when I was a kid," recalled Hanyu after improving on his own world-record score in the free skate at the 2015 Grand Prix final by 3.72 points.

Uno -- decked out in a black matador jacket with red trim -- also achieved a career best for his presentation to Astor Piazzolla's "Buenos Aires Hora Cero".

But the former world junior champion's overwhelming ambition remains to better his talented team-mate.

"I have practised so hard. My only motivation was to surpass Yuzuru," said the teenager.

"This gives me confidence going into the Olympic season that I can do quads and skate clean."

- 'Perfect season' -

Virtue and Moir ended their return season on a high with a third title after 2010 and 2012 as they look to recapture Olympic gold.

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.

After taking two years off following their Olympic silver medal in Sochi the Canadians have gone on a winning streak that also saw them capture the Grand Prix Final title for the first time.

"This is a great start and we're looking forward to building on it," said 27-year-old Virtue.

"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'."