BARCELONA • Japan's Olympic figure skating champion Yuzuru Hanyu soared to new heights, posting another world record score in the short programme at the ISU Grand Prix Final on Thursday.
Fresh from his record scores at the NHK Trophy, he achieved 110.95 points in the short programme to better his 106.33 from Nagano two weeks ago, which had eclipsed his own previous high of 101.45 set at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
He also set a new record in the free skating and overall total in Nagano, where he became the first skater to break the mythical 300-point mark with 322.40 points.
"I was surprised too," admitted Hanyu, after an exquisite performance to Chopin's Ballade No. 1 which included two perfectly executed quadruple jumps and a triple axel.
He applauded his own performance as the music died away to give way to cheers from the large contingent of Japanese fans in Barcelona's International Convention Centre.
The 21-year-old leads world champion and training partner Javier Fernandez of Spain (91.52) going into today's free skating final. China's Jin Boyang is a distant third (86.95).
A victory today would see Hanyu become the first man to win three consecutive men's Grand Prix Final titles in the event which marks its 20th anniversary this season.
"Wow," was all coach Brian Orser could say rinkside before joining his other skater Fernandez, who took to the ice after Hanyu's heroics.
"Skating after Yuzuru is always hard because of the fans," said Fernandez, who finished second behind Hanyu in Barcelona last year. "Then I saw the world record and I said to myself, 'It doesn't matter what I do, I'm not going to do better than that'.
"It's already hard and the first thing I did on the ice was fall," added Fernandez of his warm-up tumble.
Fernandez, 24, stumbled out of his opening quad jump in his Spanish-themed Malaguena routine performed by Paco de Lucia and Placido Domingo but otherwise gave a strong performance.
"It's going to be hard to get those points but I'll try my best," said Fernandez. "I know he's really consistent."
Former three-time world champion and reigning Olympic silver medallist Patrick Chan is sitting last in the six-skater field. The 24-year-old, returning to competition after taking last season off, did not nail a quad in his skate to Michael Buble's Mack The Knife.
"Every competition is a free start, so I'll show what I can do in the free programme," said the Canadian.