Hanyu tops short program at Grand Prix Final

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu took the first step toward defending his title at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final after he earned the highest score for the short program despite a fall on Friday.

Hanyu nailed his opening quadruple toeloop, but then fell on the second jump of a triple lutz and triple toeloop.

It didn't stop the Japanese skater from receiving a shower of flowers and his season-best score of 94.08 points for his elegant routine performed to the music of Chopin.

Countryman Tatsuki Machida was second with 87.82, followed by Russian Maxim Kovtun with 87.02.

In ice dance, Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje of Canada led after the short dance with 71.34 points, ahead of American pairs Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani.

Hanyu, who turned 20 on Sunday, barely qualified for the final with a fourth-place finish at the NHK Trophy following a collision with another skater during warm-ups at the Cup of China last month.

But other than his tumble, he skated masterfully and has put himself in position to repeat as champion if he can hold his lead through Saturday's free skate.

"I felt very happy with the skate because at NHK and China I couldn't focus on the competition," Hanyu said. "But today I feel really comfortable and I was really focused."

The sold-out stands around the temporary rink at Barcelona's International Convention Center roared when local favorite Javier Fernandez stepped onto the ice.

But Fernandez went down on his opening quad salchow and finished with 79.18, fifth of the six finalists.

Like all six couples, Weaver and Poje performed to traditional Spanish "paso doble" music, with Poje in a bull fighter costume and Weaver wearing a bright red dress.

"It was a great atmosphere, we really tried to soak it in and it really helped us through our 'paso doble,'" said Weaver. "It gave us energy and emotion."

Chock and Bates skated last and appeared to be heading toward a strong performance when Bates fell seconds before the finish.

They still managed the second highest mark of 65.06 points, ahead of 63.90 for the Shibutani siblings.

"We struggled a bit," Bates said. "We had a rough skate, but it is something we are going to rebound from."

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