BARCELONA - Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu said he was happy with his "almost perfect" skate as he continued his recovery from serious head injuries by easily defending his title at the ISU Grand Prix Final on Saturday.
The Japanese superstar, whose collision with a rival during a warm-up in a Grand Prix event in China last month raised questions about his participation in the NHK Trophy in Osaka, fell in both his short and free programmes in Barcelona but still managed to win by a 35-point margin on his nearest rival.
The 20-year-old, skating to the Phantom of the Opera, was not far off his personal best as he scored 194.08 points for a total of 288.16 - to take gold ahead of his Spanish training partner Javier Fernandez (253.90).
"I'm not fully recovered yet but I did it and it was almost perfect so I'm really happy today," said Hanyu, who finished second in China and fourth in Osaka to scrape into the Grand Prix final.
"I felt happiness at being able to use my body fully.
"My team really supported me and I got so many messages from fans all over the world. I really wanted to send them a message of gratitude today." Despite the frenzied support for Fernandez, Hanyu had no shortage of fans, with gifts showering the ice after his performance, and an army of supporters waiting outside the venue for autographs.
"I think there are more Japanese people here today. Everyone is crazy for Javi and Me. I think Javi is happy too," said Hanyu.
Hanyu opened with back-to-back quad jumps and also hit seven triples, but tiredness towards the end of the programme saw him fall on his final triple lutz.
A work in progress
"I was exhausted," explained Hanyu.
"I only had a week since the NHK Trophy. I still have to add a quad toeloop in the second half of my programme so it's a work in progress.
"Nationals are near so I need to work on that (triple lutz)." Japanese hopes of a 1-2 were crushed when Tatsuki Machida dropped from second to last after an error-strewn free skate to Beethoven's ninth symphony.
"It's very difficult to skate this programme," said the world silver medallist. "It's too big for me. It's like a wall I have to climb." The third Japanese skater in the six-man field Takahito Mura, the reigning Four Continents champion, finished fifth.
"My physical condition was good, very good but I think that mentally I was not good because of the mistakes I made in the short programme," said Mura.
Fernandez, who trains with Hanyu under Canadian coach Brian Orser in Toronto, scored a season's best with 174.72 and 253.90 overall.
The two-time European champion's skate to The Barber of Seville included two quad jumps and six triples, but despite singling a lutz the 23-year-old moved up from fifth to second.
"Although it was my season's best it was still not my best skate. I did a lot of mistakes," said the world bronze medallist.
"There was a lot of pressure and I knew I had to do a good programme for the people that are watching supporting me." Sergei Voronov put Russia back on the men's podium for the first time since Yevgeny Plushenko won the title in 2004, taking bronze ahead of compatriot Maxim Kovtum.