SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu made figure skating history Thursday while Highland Park’s Jason Brown put on the performance his young skating career to finish sixth in the men’s short program at the Sochi Games.
Brown’s within the width of a skate blade of third heading into Friday’s free skate. Brown earned a career-best score of 86.00. He sits less than a point behind the third-place finisher, Spain’s Javier Fernandez. The Two-time European champ earned an 86.98.
“All year in this program, in every competition I have gone to, I have gotten a personal best,” the 19-year-old Brown said. “I didn’t want to stop in the Olympics.”
Brown will be the final skater Friday night. Fernandez leads off the last group of six, with Takahashi second, Hanyu third and Chan fourth. Peter Liebers of Germany is the other skater in the final group.
Hanyu won’t to fend off a challenge from another record-setter, Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko.
Hanyu became the first figure skater to break the 100-point mark with a spectacular performance in Thursday night. He earned 101.45 points with a playful, almost seductive routine in which he seemed to flow above the ice.
“I was so surprised with my score,” Hanyu said. “I didn’t know I got over 100.”
He shouldn’t have been, considering the speed, sharpness, entertainment value and total conviction of his skating. The stunned 19-year-old also won the men’s short program in the team event.
While Hanyu was soaring to a nearly 4-point lead over three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada, Plushenko finished his stellar career with another injury.
The only figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four games, including gold in the new team event last weekend, Plushenko hurt his back in training Wednesday. He gave it a go in warmups before Thursday’s short program, but after falling on a triple axel, he knew he was done.
“I said to myself, ‘Evgeni, you must skate. It’s two more days, short and long program,’” the 31-year-old and 2006 Olympic gold medalist said.
But he could not.
“I think it’s God saying, ‘Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,’” added Plushenko, who said he’s had 12 surgeries.
No man from an Asian nation or Canada has even won Olympic gold in figure skating. Chan, who was fifth in Vancouver, put on his best Olympic routine to stay within sight of Hanyu.
“Four points in singles men’s is not much,” Chan said. “I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It’s exciting to me.”
Hanyu and Fernandez are coached by Brian Orser, who guided South Korea’s Yuna Kim to women’s gold in Vancouver. Because they skated consecutively, Orser had to scramble to change from a gray blazer to a Spain team jacket, but first he sprinted over to congratulate his Japanese student.
The night began with wild swings, from Plushenko falling in warmups to U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott crashing. Abbott stayed down for a lengthy period after his fall, and just when coach Yuka Sato was about to open the entry door to help him, he struggled to his feet and continued his program.
The four-time U.S. champ nailed every subsequent element to wind up 15th.
“I’m not in the least bit ashamed,” Abbott said. “I stood up and I finished that program and I’m proud of my effort and I’m proud of what I did under the circumstance.”
AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen and freelancer Marie Millikan contributed to this story.