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BC-FIG--Worlds,2nd Ld-Writethru

March 21, 2019
AP Sports Writer

SAITAMA, Japan (AP) — Defending champion Nathan Chen upstaged two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to lead the short program at the figure skating world championships on Thursday.

Skating to “Caravan” by Duke Ellington, Chen performed a lively program that featured a triple axel, a quad lutz, and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination for a season-best score of 107.40 points.

“There are always things I can do better, things I can improve on but ultimately everything I did, I did as best as I could and I hope to continue that into the free program,” Chen said.

American teammate Jason Brown was second with 96.81 points after a routine that included a triple flip, a triple axel, and a triple lutz-triple toeloop.

Coming back from a four-month absence because of injury, Hanyu showed some rustiness in his opening jump, a double salchow instead of a planned quad salchow.

The Japanese skater quickly recovered with a triple axel and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination but finished third with 94.87 points.

“I’m disappointed with my short program,” Hanyu said. “I made a big mistake and I’ve got to reform and improve for the free skate. But I’m honored to be in the top three.”

Hanyu last won the world title in 2017 at Helsinki. His first world championship win was in 2014 at Saitama Super Arena, the same venue as this week.

Hanyu has come back a right ankle ligament injury in November. He was similarly injured in 2017 and came back at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics, where he became the first male figure skater to win consecutive Olympic golds since Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.

Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China won the free skate to claim the gold medal in pairs.

Skating to “Rain in Your Black Eyes” by Ezio Bosso, Wenjing and Cong produced a near-flawless free skate and received 155.60 points for a total of 234.84.

Russian skaters Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov took silver with 228.47 points, followed by teammates Alexander Enbert and Natalia Zabiiako with 217.98.

Peng Cheng and Jin Yang of China were fourth with 215.84.

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