Yuzuru Hanyu isn’t ready to give up his crown just yet. After capturing the gold medal in Sochi, Hanyu followed it up with an amazing performance in Pyeongchang, easily taking first place in the men’s figure skating short program. Hanyu is now the heavy favorite going into the next day’s free skate program, which will determine the medals.
Hanyu blew away the field with a score of 111.68, though there are a handful of challengers right behind him. Spain’s Javier Fernandez got 107.58, while fellow Japanese contender Shoma Uno is third with 104.17. Other top contenders include China’s Jin Boyang, Russian athlete Dmitri Aliev, and Canada’s Patrick Chan.
The short program was a mixed bag for Team USA. New folk hero Adam Rippon was excellent once again, finishing seventh, but his lack of quad jumps still hurts his overall score with the judges. Eighteen-year-old Nathan Chen couldn’t live up to the hype, falling multiple times and plummeting to 17th. Vincent Zhou placed 12th with a solid, if unspectacular run. It will be a surprise if any Americans make the podium after the free skate.
With the short program in the books, all eyes now turn to the free skate, where the pressure is ramped up and the margin for error disappears. That event can be seen in the United States on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET.
The night’s final skater was China’s Jin Boyang, who used music from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He perfectly landed his quad lutz/triple toeloop combo to start, then breezed through the rest of the routine with no problems whatsoever. He got a 103.32 score to establish himself as one of the top contenders Friday night.
Even after the Japanese stole the show, Spaniard Javier Fernandez made sure to remind everyone he’s a big medal contender. Fernandez nailed his run with near-perfection, to the tune of the Charlie Chaplin Modern Times soundtrack. There were practically zero mistakes on the technical side, and the judges rewarded Fernandez handsomely with a 107.58 score.
If anyone has a shot of challenging Hanyu, it might be his Japanese teammate, Shoma Uno. The winner of the team short program, Uno had another phenomenal skate set to “Winter (From Four Seasons).” He got a score of 104.17, the only other skater to reach the century mark to this point.
American Nathan Chen had a tough act to follow after Hanyu, and nerves clearly got the better of the 18-year-old. He botched multiple jumps and didn’t much to improve on a middling team event performance and finished well out of medal contention.
The next skater up is the defending Sochi gold medalist, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. He skated to “Ballade No. 1” by Frederic Chopin. Hanyu’s early skate was flawless, hitting his spots without any trouble. A quad toeloop into triple toeloop was executed perfectly, and he finished with a brilliant score of 111.68.
We enter the final intermission of the night with Aliev in first place, followed by Chan and Rippon. With Hanyu, Chen, Uno, and many other top contenders coming up, this event could come right down to the wire.
Alexei Bychenko of Israel skated to the Jewish folk song “Hava Nagila,” and had close to the same quality run he did in the team event. A few minor miscues aside, Bychenko managed 84.13 to qualify comfortably.
Canada’s Patrick Chan was one of the heavy medal favorites heading, and he had a great start to his program with “Dust in the Wind” blaring. However, he committed a critical fall in the middle, which dropped his score to 90.01. It was still good for second place at the time, though.
Rippon’s lead did not last long, however. Russian athlete Dmitri Aliev blew past the field with a 98.98 score, pulling off a near-perfect run while dressed up in a fancy coat and skating to “Masquerade Waltz.”
Now it’s Adam Rippon time. He skated to “Let Me Think About It” and had an appropriately sparkly outfit to match.
Rippon hit most of his spots with little-to-no trouble, although the judges docked him for not landing a triple axel perfectly. Beyond that, he had another clean program that got a great reaction from the crowd. Rippon earned an 87.95 score, vaulting into first place.
Heading into the third intermission, Zhou fell another spot down the standings when Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx jumped him with an 84.74 score.
Much like in the team event, Germany’s Paul Fentz skated to a jazzy cover of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” His actual program got a middling score, just barely qualifying him for the free skate.
Anyway, here's Wonderwall.— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 16, 2018
If you're wondering why this Oasis classic is trending, Germany's Paul Fentz skated to a big band version of Wonderwall. #WinterOlympics https://t.co/fmMl0C4Amf pic.twitter.com/OHZpLdS1Da
The partisan crowd really woke up when South Korea’s Jun-hwan Cha started. He mostly nailed his run set to “Gypsy Dance,” earning a rousing ovation at the end. His 83.43 score put him around the middle of the standings.
Back from another intermission with Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina, who skated to Japanese drums while rocking a dragon shirt. An 85.15 score barely edged out Messing as the new leader.
Despite being born in Alaska, Keegan Messing is representing Canada in the Olympics. He skated a jaunty program set to “Singin’ in the Rain,” jumping Zhou for first place with a score of 85.11.
Australian Brendan Kerry leapfrogged Han in the standings with a largely clean program, set to a slow cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” With an 83.06 score, he also moved on to the finals.
Chinese skater Yan Han was a potential darkhorse contender, but ended up placing 19th.
After a brief intermission, we came back with Ukraine’s Yaroslav Paniot, who suffered multiple ugly falls and came in dead last with 46.58 points.
The Philippines are competing in the Winter Olympics for just the second time, and Michael Christian Martinez won the crowd over with a spirited program, even if he finished near the bottom of the standings.
Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten earned a bronze medal in Sochi, but he couldn’t follow up that performance here with only a 70.12 score. Ten didn’t even qualify for the final round when all was said and done.
Vincent Zhou is the first American up, skating to “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol. He got off to a hot start by landing his historic quad lutz, but the triple toe followup was less than perfect. Otherwise, it was a solid Olympic debut, earning a personal-best score of 84.53.
Men’s short program results
|5||Olympic Athletes of Russia||Dmitri Aliev||98.98||Q|
|7||United States||Adam Rippon||87.95||Q|
|8||Olympic Athletes of Russia||Mikhail Kolyada||86.69||Q|
|9||Czech Republic||Michal Brezina||85.15||Q|
|12||United States||Vincent Zhou||84.53||Q|
|15||South Korea||Jun-hwan Cha||83.43||Q|
|17||United States||Nathan Chen||82.27||Q|
|25||Malaysia||Julian Zhi Jie Yee||73.58|
|28||Philippines||Michael Christian Martinez||55.56|
Before the event
One of the most anticipated events at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics gets underway with the men’s individual figure skating event. The short program starts Friday morning (Thursday night in the United States) and medals will be handed out after the free skate program the next day. American viewers can catch it live at 8 p.m. ET on NBC (live stream).
Team USA hasn’t won a gold in men’s figure skating since the 2010 Vancouver games, though it has an excellent chance this year with some up-and-coming stars. Adam Rippon is the biggest American name this year after winning over the nation’s heart with his magnetic personality and endless charm. Rippon helped his country claim the bronze medal in the team event, and while he might have a challenge making the podium in a stacked field, he’s the runaway fan favorite nonetheless.
Another American name to watch is Nathan Chen, making his first Olympics at 18 years old. He’ll be trying to bounce back after a nervy performance in the team short program, and has the natural talent to make a serious medal run. Seventeen-year-old Vincent Zhou will also be making his Olympic debut here.
The top medal contenders feature Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu and Canadian Patrick Chan, who won gold and silver in Sochi, respectively. Javier Fernandez of Spain, Yan Han of China, Shoma Uno of Japan (the winner in team short program), and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan (the Sochi bronze medalist) are the other big names to watch in what should be a fiercely competitive event.