PyeongChang / Republic of Korea

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Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) © Getty Images

Reigning Olympic Champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan left no doubt in the Men’s Short Program on Friday at Gangneung Ice Arena that he is back and determined to defend his title. Spain’s two-time World Champion Javier Fernandez and World silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan are not far behind in second and third place, heading into the Free Skating on Saturday.

Skating to ‘Ballade No. 1’ by Frederic Chopin, Hanyu nailed a quad Salchow, triple Axel, quad toe-triple toe and two-level four spins to pick up 111.68 points. “I don’t have any particular expectation or special emotion. I was glad I was able to perform what I needed to do,” Hanyu said, who has not competed since October after suffering an injury to his right ankle in early November. "I just felt happy to skate, I just felt satisfied with my every element," the two-time World Champion added. "I wanted to say to everyone that I am back here. I just want to do my best, and do what is best for me. Not as an Olympic Champion but for me."

Fernandez opened his playful Charlie Chaplin program with a quad toe-triple toe combination and followed up with a quad Salchow and triple Axel. His three spins and the footwork merited a level four and the six-time European Champion earned 107.58 points. "I'll say tomorrow I would be happy if I am in the same position. I have been training to be first, but we know how good a talent Yuzu is. He is really tough competition. I will fight all the way. And if I'm first, I'm first; if I'm second, I'm second; and if I'm third, I'm third. I'll be happy,” Fernandez shared.

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Javier Fernandez (ESP) © Getty Images

Uno produced a quad flip, quad toe-triple toe and three level-four spins in his routine to ‘Four Seasons’, however he had to fight for the landing of the triple Axel. The 2017 World silver medalist scored 104.17 points. "When I go to any competition I try to be the same. The Olympic Games was not special in my consciousness but I think I had the highest excitement for these Games during this season. I tried to restrain that,” the Four Continents silver medalist commented.

Reigning Four Continents Champion Boyang Jin (CHN) remained within striking distance of the podium in fourth place on 103. 32 points, a new personal best. He landed a quadruple Lutz-triple toe combination, quad toe and triple Axel. European silver medalist Dmitri Aliev (OAR) delivered a clean program that included a quadruple Lutz-triple toeloop and a quadruple toeloop. With a personal best of 98.98 points he came fifth. Three-time World Champion and 2014 Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan (CAN) hit a quad toe but crashed on the triple Axel. He is currently ranks sixth (90.01 points).

ISU Grand Prix Finalist Adam Rippon (USA) follows in seventh on 87.95 points and ISU Grand Prix Final bronze medalist Mikhail Kolyada (OAR), who missed his quadruple toeloop, placed eighth (86.69 points).

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Shoma Uno (JPN) © Getty Images

ISU Grand Prix Final Champion Nathan Chen (USA) made errors on all three jumps and finished 17th in the Short Program. “Honestly, it was bad. I made as many mistakes as I possibly could have,” Chen said. However, a lot can happen in the Free Skating as the difference in points between the skaters ranked sixth to 17th is only about eight points.

2014 Olympic bronze medalist Denis Ten (KAZ), who came back from a severe ankle injury sustained last August doubled the Salchow and got no credit for his combination spin to place 27th (70.12 points). He did not qualify for the Free Skating. "Obviously I am disappointed to not have shown my best performance today and I am even more disappointed, because I really gave it everything I had to prepare for this competition. Each day I woke up and I was in pain but I woke up with the hope that it is a new day, with new achievements and a new fight. Today these hopes did not pan out,” Ten said.