Osaka / Japan

Russian veteran Sergei Voronov grabbed the lead in the Men’s Short Program but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) had to withdraw due to injury. Israel’s Alexei Bychenko  sits in second place, followed by Jason Brown (USA).

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Performing to ‘Adios Nonino’ by Astor Piazzolla, Voronov pulled off a quad-triple toe, a triple Lutz and triple Axel to score a season’s best of 90.06, just below his personal best of 90.33 points.

“I am happy with my performance because not only the jumps but the whole program came out at a high level,” the two-time European medallist said.

Asked about being, at 30 years of age, a so-called veteran in the sport, he replied: “In my country, a veteran is a respected person, a veteran of the war for example. With 30 years, you just start to flourish in life. The most important thing is that you love what you are doing. If we didn’t love it, we couldn’t do it.”

Bychenko’s program to ‘Hava Nagila’ featured a triple Axel, quad toeloop and a triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination, helping the 2016 European silver medallist to a season-best 85.52 points.

“Today’s performance was nice,” Bychenko said. “The technical side was really good but still a bit shaky. We know what we are supposed to work on to fix it. I think that result today is because of the focus on the competition.”

He added: “I will turn 30 as well in two months and it’s only a number. It’s about what we do on the ice, not about age.”

Brown completed a triple Lutz and excellent spins in his upbeat program to ‘The Room Where It Happens’ from the musical ‘Hamilton’.

However, the Skate Canada silver medallist stepped out of the landing on his triple Axel and reduced his combination to a triple flip-double toeloop to finish with 85.36 points.

“I had the best time performing out there, except I had a few hiccups that I am not super proud of,” Brown said. “I know I can do better. On the other hand, it is another opportunity early in the season to learn and to grow from, so I’m excited to take what I learned from the short program and apply it to the free skate tomorrow and try to be a lot cleaner.”

Adam Rippon (USA) remains within striking distance of the podium. He stumbled out of his final spin but still managed a season-best 84.95 points. Keegan Messing (CAN) finished fifth with 80.13 points and Kazuki Tomono (JPN) completed the top six on 79.88 points.

Hanyu sustained an injury to his right foot when he fell in practice on Thursday afternoon. “I am very sorry to have everyone worried about me,” Hanyu said in a statement released by the Japanese Skating Federation. “The doctors have worked hard on treating me since last night. Unfortunately, they have made their final decision that I should not take part (in the NHK Trophy). I will focus on my treatment and work hard towards the nationals.”

The NHK Trophy is the fourth of six events in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating series 2017/18, which culminates in the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Nagoya, Japan, in December. The top six skaters/couples in each discipline qualify for the final. The global prize money for the Grand Prix is US $ 272,000.

Full entry lists and results of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating 2017/18 are available here. Follow the discussion on social media by using #GPFigure #FigureSkating.