Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu gave a virtuoso display to set a new world record score of 101.45 for the short programme in the men’s figure skating at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Skating to "Parisian Walkways" by Gary Moore the 19-year old served up a quad toeloop, triple axel and triple lutz-triple toeloop combination, in a routine that left him 3.93-points ahead of three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada.
There was disappointment, however, for Evgeni Plushenko, who was forced to withdraw after the warm-up due to back problems. The two-time Olympic gold medallist then announced that he was retiring from the rink.
“This is not the finish that I wanted. But I leave with a gold medal, that is also great," the 31-year-old, who had helped Russia claim the team title several days earlier, winning his fourth Olympic medal in the process.
In Plushenko’s absence, the main focus was on Hanyu and Chan. The Japanese youngster coped with the spotlight brilliantly, bettering his own previous world record, set on his way to victory over Chan in the Grand Prix final, by 1.61 points.
“I wasn't trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could -- and I did," said Hanyu. “I was very, very surprised by the score.”
Chan meanwhile scored 97.52 after he under rotated his triple axel jump in his performance to Rachmaninov's “Elegie in E Flat”.
He also paid a heartfelt tribute to Plushenko: “I was disappointed not to see him in first place when I took the ice,” admitted the Japanese star.
“I took up skating because of him. I respect him and admire him dearly. It's just sad. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to skate against him in the team event.”
Chan said he was happy going into the following day’s free skating final in second place.
“I like being in second. I like the chase," said the 23-year-old Canadian. “I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, that target is bigger.
“I’ve made up four points before in the long programme. I’ve done it before and I have a plan.”
World bronze medallist Javier Fernandez of Spain, who trains with Hanyu under the guidance of coach Brian Orser, currently lies in third on 86.98 points, after producing an entertaining routine to “Satan Takes a Holiday".
“It wasn't my day, I was stumbling a lot,” said Fernandez. “But I'm still in the game so the only thing you can do is fight until the end.”
Remarkably, all three of the top three skaters going into the final programme are bidding to give their countries a first ever Olympic men's figure skating gold.