Updated: 03/27/2014 00:43 | By Agence France-Presse

Machida upstages Olympic champ Hanyu

Japan's Tatsuki Machida upstaged compatriot and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu before a home crowd in the short programme Wednesday to lead the men's event at the world figure skating championships.


Machida upstages Olympic champ Hanyu

Japan's Tatsuki Machida performs during the men's short program at the world figure skating championships in Saitama, on March 26, 2014 - by Kazuhiro Nogi

The 25-year-old, who won the US and Russian Grand Prix titles this season but finished fifth at the Sochi Games, scored a personal best of 98.21 points with Spain's Javier Fernandez second on 96.42 points.

Hanyu, 19, fell on his opening quadruple toeloop and trailed in third spot on 91.24 points going into the final free skate on Friday.

Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic came in fourth at 89.08 and China's 18-year-old Yan Han fifth at 86.70.

Skating to the soundtrack of "East of Eden" by Lee Holdridge, Machida nailed an opening quadruple-triple toeloop combination, followed by a clean triple Axel.

He also hit a maximum level-four in a flying sit spin and a step sequence to improve his personal short programme best by 7.03 points.

"I am very proud I could perform the best 'East of Eden' ever for all the audience," said Machida competing in his first world championships.

"I got motivated when Hanyu got the gold in Sochi ... I want to give all to reach the gold medal," he added.

Double European champion Fernandez, who trains with Hanyu in Toronto under Canadian coach Brian Orser, also scored his personal best skating to "Satan Takes a Holiday."

"Not everybody can come prepared and he (Hanyu) still has another programme so I bet he will be great," said the 22-year-old Spaniard who was third at last year's world championships and fourth in Sochi.

Hanyu, who beat Canada's three-time world champion Patrick Chan into second spot in Sochi and at the Grand Prix Final in December, sprang back brilliantly after his fall.

He went on at level four in three kinds of spins and a step sequence while nailing a triple Axel and a triple-triple combination.

Hanyu said how he jumped the toeloop "wasn't that bad".

"So I am going to adjust that for the free programme."

Chan and Sochi bronze medallist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan skipped the post-Olympic worlds along with controversial women's champion Adelina Sotnikova of Russia and her runner-up and 2010 Vancouver Games champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea.

Hanyu is the only Olympic title-holder from Sochi to compete at the world championships.

He is the first man since Russian Alexei Yagudin in 2002 to compete for a world title after winning the Olympic gold in the same season.

In the pairs, retiring Olympic bronze medallists Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany launched their bid for a fifth world pairs title in style by dominating the short programme.

In the absence of Olympic champions and main rivals, Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, the pair collected 79.02 points, skating to the music of "Pink Panther" on the opening day of the world championships, their last competition.

Canada's Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, seventh at the Sochi Games last month and third at last year's worlds, scored a personal best of 77.01 to trail in second spot going into the final free skate on Thursday.

Russia's Sochi silver medallists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov came in third at 76.15.

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