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Hanyu shows early-season rust in runaway victory

Virtue, Moir triumph in return; Nagasu nabs gold; Séguin, Bilodeau win
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Yuzuru Hanyu was not his usual otherworldly self, but he was easily good enough to finish first in Pierrefonds. -Getty Images

The result was familiar. The way Yuzuru Hanyu skated was not.

The Japanese Olympic gold medalist made several mistakes in his free skate at the 2016 Autumn Classic International on Saturday, but he still finished where everyone expected him to -- on top of the final standings.

Other winners crowned on the last day of competition in Pierrefonds, Quebec, were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (dance), Mirai Nagasu (ladies) and Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau (pairs).


Hanyu landed his first two quad attempts (loop, salchow), but the trouble in his "Hope and Legacy" free skate started soon thereafter. He fell on his quad toe, reduced a planned triple-triple to a triple-double, singled a loop (on the back end of a combination) and fell on his triple lutz. By his impossible standards, his scores (172.27 for the free skate, 260.57 overall) were low, but they were more than enough to place him on the top step of the podium.

Misha Ge gave a smooth and passionate performance of his Nutcracker free skate, for which he received a standing ovation. He did, however, have two of his jumps (a double loop and a triple flip) invalidated because of rule violations. Nevertheless, the popular Uzbekistani skated off with the silver, concluding the week with 230.55 points.

Max Aaron redid the music in his The Lion King free skate, and the new cut seemed to suit the skater better. The U.S. silver medalist landed his two quad attempts (putting his hand down on both) as well as two triple axels (one in combination) and a triple lutz-half loop-triple salchow en route to 155.39 points on the day and 226.13 for the competition. He climbed up from fifth to third and came away with the bronze.


Competing for the first time in more than 2 1/2 years, Virtue and Moir looked like they'd barely lost a step, winning the title by almost 29 points. Their free dance, skated to the Sam Smith song "Latch," featured six Level 4 elements, the most impressive among them a diagonal step sequence that earned a 2.64 Grade of Execution (GOE)  and 11.24 points. The Canadians totaled 111.48 points in the segment and took the gold with a score of 189.20.

Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker rebounded from a disappointing outing in the short dance with a mesmerizing performance Saturday, moving them up one spot and into silver-medal position. Highlights of their "Liebestraum" free included their twizzles, curve lift and rotational lift, all of which earned Level 4's. They came away with a segment mark of 97.80 and 161.00 total points, both personal bests.

Falling one spot to third were Laurence Fournier Beaudry and Nikolaj Sørensen, whose "Hymne à l'amour" free dance was rated just the fourth best of the day.

Isabella Tobias and Ilia Tkachenko placed third in the free dance and came in fourth overall.


Following a career-best short program Friday, Nagasu had a rough go of it in the free, getting dinged for four under-rotations and having a triple toe downgraded. Her performance to "The Winner Takes It All" netted her 115.71 points, and she finished with 189.11 overall to take the title by exactly three points.

Sitting sixth coming into the day, Alaine Chartrand of Canada gave the fans from the host country something to cheer about as she won the free skate and set a personal best by more than 16 points in the process. Her routine, set to music from the Rome soundtrack, featured a clean triple lutz-triple toe, four triples landed in the second half of the program and Level 4's on all of her spins and her step sequence. Her segment total of 129.50 gave the Canadian champion a total of 186.11, and she took home with the silver.

Elizabet Tursynbaeva of Kazakhstan, the defending champion at this event, placed third in the free skate to fall one spot from the short program. She took the bronze by two points over Japan's Rika Hongo.

Team USA's Franchesca Chiera came in eighth with 137.21 points.


Julianne Séguin and Charlie Bilodeau proved they not only were the class of the field in Pierrefonds -- they showed they could compete with many of the world's best teams. The protocol sheet for their Cinema Paradiso free skate was a thing of beauty: Only three of the 84 GOEs they were awarded were of the negative variety, and all 12 of their overall GOEs were well above zero. The Canadian silver medalists posted a personal-best score of 136.90 in the segment to finish with 208.30, placing them nearly 10 points clear of their closest competitors.

Not to be outdone, Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès came through with the finest free skate of their career, blowing past their previous best by almost 10 points. The French duo made a valiant effort at a throw quad salchow (she landed it on two feet), and they started their program to "The Sound of Silence" (the Disturbed version) with a beautiful triple twist and a triple toe-double toe-double toe combination. The performance netted the team 133.32 points, and they snagged the silver with a final score of 198.90.  

Things did not go as well for Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran, who came into the day in second place. The U.S. bronze medalists made mistakes on several elements, including both jumps, their twist and their throw triple salchow. As a result, they fell one spot and claimed the bronze with a final score of 173.62.