SOCHI, Russia -- At first, the way Yuzuru Hanyu skated was just wild abandon.
Hanyu was a gangly teen, a seeming octopus of loose limbs whose goal was to be 10 feet off the ice, no matter how he got there, no matter that getting down without a splat often perplexed him.
That is what Brian Orser saw when he began coaching Hanyu, then 17, in the spring of 2012.
"When I first got him, it looked like he had 16 arms and legs," Orser said. "But there was a certain spirit I liked about him, even if it was a little bit out of control. I needed to get him a little more guided but not take away the spirit."
It was a spirit that would not be crushed March 11, 2011, when Hanyu experienced firsthand the earthquake that devastated Japan.
And it was a spirit on exuberant display Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace when Hanyu became the first man to score more than 100 points in a short program. With 101.45, he takes a lead of 3.93 over three-time world champion Patrick Chan into Friday's free skate final.
"I was really nervous today," Hanyu said. "I will continue to be nervous until the end of the Olympics."
That cannot approach the anxiety he felt nearly three years ago.
He was training at his home rink in Sendai, about 80 miles from the earthquake's epicenter, when everything began to shake. Hanyu ran in his skates from the building, which was by bursting pipes.
His house also was damaged, forcing Hanyu and his family to an evacuation center in a gymnasium. After three days, they were able to return at their own risk, but he had no place to train.
Hanyu and his club moved around Japan for four months until the Sendai rink reopened. He stayed there through the following season, which ended with his bronze medal at the 2012 world championships.
The Japanese Skating Federation decided Hanyu needed more polish to progress further, and it asked Orser if he wanted to help apply it. Hanyu soon moved with his mother to Toronto to work with Orser, the two-time Canadian Olympic silver medalist who had coached Yuna Kim of South Korea to the 2010 Olympic women's title.
"Yuzu was a bit of a puppy," said Tracy Wilson, the Olympic ice dance bronze medalist who helps coach Hanyu. "His jumps were spectacular, his falls sensational. You can only carry that on for so long."
When Japanese officials approached Orser, he already was coaching another foreign star, Javier Fernandez, who would become Spain's first world medalist and was third in Thursday's short program, more than 10 points behind Chan. The coach said he asked for Fernandez's approval before agreeing to coach Hanyu.
"Yuzu is a very disciplined athlete, and Javi has inspired him to get more focused and more consistent," Orser said.
Hanyu continues to have ups and downs, but his arc has been ascendant this season. In December's Grand Prix final, he got the previous record short-program score, 99.84, and went on to beat Chan.
"That was the turning point," Wilson said.
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