Reigning champ Yuzuru Hanyu leads headed into free skate

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Yuzuru Hanyu, the Olympic champion from 2014, leads again in PyeongChang after the men’s short program on Thursday.

His loyal fans showered the ice with Winnie the Pooh after he finished his program.

He scored 111.68 points, the second-highest score ever recorded. (Second only to himself, set earlier this season.)

Hanyu was away from competition for three months due to damaged ligaments in his ankle sustained in November.

Following Hanyu is his Toronto-based training partner, Javier Fernandez of Spain. Hanyu and Fernandez have traded world championship titles dating back to 2014 and train together under two-time Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser.

Shoma Uno of Japan finished third after the short program. Should Uno and Hanyu land on the podium together, it will be the first time since 2002 that two men of the same country share an Olympic podium. Back in Salt Lake City, Russia’s Alexei Yagudin struck gold and Yevgeny Plushenko earned the silver.

Team USA’s best hope for an individual medal, Nathan Chen, struggled through his short program and sits in 17th place. His teammates, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou, sit in seventh and 12th, respectively.

More to come. In the meantime, catch in-depth analysis from Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie White and Ben Agosto on the Olympic Ice Post-Show.

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