March 27, 2015 / 1:43 PM / 3 years ago

Hanyu sends fans wild, France spring ice dance surprise

(Reuters) - Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu and Spain’s Javier Fernandez gave their coach Brian Orser a day to remember after the duo topped the standings at the world figure skating championships on Friday following the men’s short skate.

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu competes in the men short program during the ISU World Figure Skating Championship in Shanghai March 27, 2015. REUTERS/Aly Song

The last time Hanyu competed in Shanghai’s Oriental Sports Center, he skated with a large bandage wrapped around his head following a collision with China’s Yan Han in November that left him requiring staples in his head and stitches in his jaw.

That injury was a distant memory as Hanyu opened his bid to become the first Japanese skater to win back-to-back world titles with a performance that earned him 95.20 points despite almost sitting down following a botched landing on his quadruple jump.

Hanyu soared through his remaining jumps to earn a standing ovation from screaming fans and a bombardment of stuffed toys that covered the ice.

Canadian Orser banged his hands on the side hoardings as triple European champion Fernandez produced a near flawless performance to the thumping beats of ‘Black Betty which also included a high-flying quadruple Salchow.

With Fernandez being awarded 92.74, the Orser charges outclassed the rest of the field as Denis Ten finished a distant third with 85.89.

There was a major surprise in the ice dance when Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron surged from fourth to the top of the podium with an emotive free dance to Mozart’s ‘Concerto No. 23’.

A year after Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White beat Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Olympic gold, fans in Shanghai had expected to witness another North American battle on Friday.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates of the United States carried a 1.79-point lead over Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje into the free dance but they were both upstaged by a French couple who proved that anything is possible under the accumulative scoring system.

”It is like a dream, we haven’t realized yet what happened. We cried when the scores came up and we saw our placement,” said European champion Cizeron, who has enjoyed a rapid rise since finishing 13th at the worlds in 2014.

Their total of 184.28 eclipsed second-placed Chock and Bates by almost three points while Weaver and Poje’s unbeaten run this season ended with a bronze medal.

“Andrew and I felt great in our free dance... and we got off the ice thinking that we gave everything that we could,” Weaver said.

”Unfortunately the marks didn’t add up in our favor. But we are not going to mark of the season as a loss. We had an incredible year.”

Writing by Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Ed Osmond

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