Japanese figure skating star Yuzuru Hanyu and his American rival Nathan Chen are set to battle it out at the World Figure Skating Championships opening in Helsinki on March 29.
Both skaters notched up combined scores of over 300 points in the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Gangneung, South Korea, in February, and their performances could provide a hint on the direction of gold medal contention at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year.
Hanyu and Chen have faced off three times this season. At both the NHK Trophy in November last year and the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in December, Hanyu claimed victories while Chen was second. At the Four Continents, however, Chen turned the tables. Getting off to a slow start in the short program, Hanyu pulled off four quadruple jumps in the free skate and earned a combined score of 303.71 points. Chen, however, managed to secure top spot in the short program, and while he didn't match Hanyu's score in the free skate, he edged past his Japanese rival with a total point score of 307.46 to claim victory.
Hanyu attempted three types of quadruple jump in the free skate: a toe loop, a Salchow and a loop. Chen, meanwhile, performed four types: a toe loop, a Salchow, a flip and a Lutz, to gain a large edge in the overall base value score, which indicates the difficulty.
Hanyu scored higher in the grade of execution (GOE). He also had the edge in skating skills, performance, interpretation of the music and other program components to earn a higher overall program component score. It all came down to Hanyu's under-rotation in his quadruple Salchow attempts in both the short and free skating, and Chen's success on all of his quadruple jumps.
Hanyu said of his rival, "He completed his program without falling or under-rotating, and he deserves respect." He added, however, "I'm not going into the competition scared that I'll be outdone (by Chen); rather, I want to go for perfection." He said he was confident that his skills would allow him to beat Chen.
Chen also paid respects to Hanyu, saying, "Yuzu's raised the level of figure skating since I was competing at the junior level." He said he wanted to hone his technique, as he was not landing smoothly in some areas, and said, "There are some points I should improve."
The men's short program of the World Figure Skating Championships will be held on March 30 and the free skate on April 1 Japanese time, in the evening.