The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series is officially under way as the pairs and men each performed their short programs at 2012 Hilton HHonors Skate America at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., on Friday. Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan posted a world record short program to lead the men’s event while Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia lead in pairs.
Hanyu opened his season with the best short program in the history of the IJS scoring system at an ISU event as he posted a score of 95.07 points. He opened his program with a quad toe which earned a GOE of 2.00 and was nearly flawless throughout. The reigning World bronze medalist is in prime position to earn his second career Grand Prix Series gold medal.
“Ninety-five is an extremely high score and I wasn’t expecting it,” Hanyu said. “I want to concentrate on the free skate now. This is only part of the event and I want to control my thoughts until the very end.”
In second place, Takahiko Kozuka of Japan earned a personal best 85.32 points with a performance that included an opening quad toe and a triple-triple combination which earned 11.41 points. Kozuka, who finished 11th at last year’s World Championships has earned a medal at each of his four Grand Prix series events in the last two years.
American Jeremy Abbott is in third place with 77.71 points and was pleased with his performance overall. Abbott faltered on his opening quad toe, but landed a triple Lutz-triple toe which earned more than 11 points as well as earning the second highest score of the competition for his components.
“This was the first step,” Abbott said. “I did what I came here to do and I’m proud of myself for that. I got a pretty good score, better than a lot of my scores last season, so I just need to keep working on my consistency and keep building up from there.”
Despite a short program they admittedly had a hard time skating, Volosozhar and Trankov sit in first place going into the pairs free skate with 65.78 points. The program was highlighted by a level 4 lift which earned five points. On the flipside, they received uncharacteristic negative GOEs on their side-by-side triple Salchows and throw triple loop.
“We have to think about this because we had the same problem at the World Championships last year,” Trankov said. “We’re scared of our short program, we’re very nervous. We never feel this way about our free skate.”
Qing Pang and Jian Tong, who began their 13th Grand Prix season in Kent, are in second place with 61.96 points. The team has adjusted their training this season, down to four days a week from five or six in years past, in order to accommodate Tong’s sore knee.
“The biggest trouble that I have is my knee hurts when I skate. When I bend my knee when I’m skating, it hurts and doesn’t have the flexibility. I used to train 5-6 days a week, but now we’ve reduced it to four days.”
The duo is competing at Skate America for the first time since winning silver at the event in 2007.
Americans Caydee Denney and John Coughlin earned the highest technical mark of the segment, netting 33.14 of their 60.75 points on their “tricks.” Among the highlights were their twist and throw triple flip. The team, entering their second season, appreciated skating for a hometown crowd at Skate America, a privilege they also got last year.
“We’re always excited to compete at our home Grand Prix, Skate America. We’re excited to have a full season under our belts and it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Competition continues on Saturday with each of the four disciplines taking to the ice. The ladies begin the day with their short program at 12:30 p.m. PT while the ice dancing competition will get started shortly thereafter at 2:15 p.m. The men and pairs will each perform their free skate in the evening at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively.