Previous the midway level in his quick program, American Nathan Chen lastly shook a monkey off his again.
As he whipped round 4 occasions in his quadruple Lutz-triple toe mixture soar, the final in his program, it was as if Chen forged apart the remorse, disappointment and missed alternative that had haunted him because the final time he skated a brief program—and fell or missed jumps—on the Olympics.
Chen’s cleanly skated quick program earned him a monster rating of 111.71—a private finest, and simply shy of the best quick program ever recorded at a world competitors. His statement-making skate set the stage for a shocking night time of packages for the remaining U.S. athletes. Ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and pairs staff Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier every additionally set private finest scores.
These performances put the U.S. staff in a great place for making the rostrum in staff determine skating. After three of the eight competitions that make up the staff occasion, the U.S. stands in first place, with 28 out of 30 doable factors. The Russian Olympic Committee is in second with 26 factors, and host nation China is in third with 21.
Chen’s efficiency must also give him a crucial sense of confidence heading into the lads’s singles quick program, which beings on Tuesday. “I nonetheless have lots forward of me,” he stated. “In fact I’m very, very completely satisfied. I may not be probably the most emotive particular person, however deep down, I’m completely satisfied.”
U.S. in robust place in staff skating
The skaters are judged utilizing common determine skating scoring, however the highest scoring skater will earn 10 factors for his or her nation, the subsequent highest scorer 9 factors, and so forth towards the staff’s whole tally. Solely the groups with the 5 highest factors whole will advance to the finals, which might be decided by the free packages. The primary place finishes by Chen and Hubbell-Donohue earned the U.S. 10 factors every—whereas Knierim-Frazier’s third place added eight factors, giving the U.S. 28 factors after the primary day, sufficient to guide the pack going into the second day of competitors.
The staff occasion is skated over three days, and kicks off the 11 determine skating occasions on the Beijing Winter Olympics. As one of many first occasions of the Video games, the staff occasion is already foreshadowing the disruption that COVID-19 will doubtless have on the competitors, and doubtlessly on who finally ends up on the rostrum — the German and Ukrainian groups needed to make last-minute changes after skaters examined optimistic in Beijing.
READ MORE: Your Full Information to Determine Skating on the Beijing Olympics
Following the lads’s quick program, the ice dancers carried out their rhythm dances, which had been required this season to mirror “road kinds.” That may embrace the whole lot from hip-hop and funk to blues. If there had been greater than 800 folks in Beijing’s Capital Indoor Stadium, the extra acquainted music—Elvis, Michael and Janet Jackson, and Elton John—would have had the viewers on their ft. However performing even for the sparse crowd and the judges, the U.S.’s Hubbell and Donohue edged out the Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov to win their phase. Italy’s Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri completed in third.
Hubbell and Donohue displayed the uncooked energy and pace that they’re recognized for, and have refined since transferring to Montreal to coach with Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon in 2015. Skating to a medley of “Nasty” and “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, it was clear that they benefited from working with a dancer on Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour; they completely translated the crispness of Jackson’s choreography to the ice whereas sustaining spectacular protection and movement between their expertise. The hassle pushed them previous the present world and Olympic world champions Sinitsina and Katsalapov, an enormous assertion for the People who completed simply off the rostrum on the final Olympics within the ice dance competitors. “We felt like there was alternative right here not solely to set ourselves up for our personal private accomplishment in medaling, however giving that reward to our different Crew USA athletes,” says Hubbell. “All of us carry that accountability but additionally that privilege. We actually wished to do our half. This was a very fantastic approach to start the Video games.”
Russian skater Katsalapov took accountability for his or her second place end, after a slight bobble towards the tip of this system. “I gave first place to my competitor totally free,” he stated. “However solely right this moment. With simply this one mistake, I’m actually aggravated, however we realized a lesson.”
Excellent news is available in pairs
Whereas pairs is traditionally the weakest self-discipline for U.S. skaters—no American pairs staff has received a world championship medal since 2002, or an Olympic medal since 1988 (each had been bronze)—Knierim and Frazier didn’t let that trouble them. That’s even if they’ve solely been skating collectively for a couple of years and had been pressured to withdraw from the U.S. nationwide championships in early January after Frazier examined optimistic for COVID-19. In addition they earned a private finest with a clear, strong skate that positioned them in third. “I’m so happy with us,” Knierim stated afterward. “We had a number of stress inside us that we needed to push down, and making an attempt to disregard it. However we actually rose to the event right this moment.”
The pairs portion of the staff occasion previewed what is going to doubtless be a showdown within the pairs competitors between Wenjing Sui and Cong Han of China, and Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov of Russian Olympic Committee for gold; Sui and Han made an announcement with a fierce, aggressively skated program to the Mission Inconceivable theme that set a brand new quick program rating file, topping the earlier one held by Mishina and Galliamov. The Russians appeared surprised by their scores, and the truth that they completed behind the Chinese language pair. However, they could have one other alternative to compete in opposition to the Chinese language couple throughout the free program of the staff occasion—if each are chosen for that portion. They may also face off throughout the pairs quick and free packages on Feb. 18 and 19.
Subsequent within the staff occasion is the ladies’s quick program, on Sunday, Beijing-time. These scores will decide which 5 international locations with the best factors will proceed to compete within the finals, the place skaters will carry out their free packages, starting with the lads. For the U.S., the robust begin is crucial, because the ladies’s squads from ROC and Japan are robust, particularly within the free packages; whoever of the three Russian ladies is chosen to skate is prone to carry out at the very least one, if not a number of quadruple jumps, and not one of the American ladies have included them of their packages this season.
Coaches can identify any of the skaters on their Olympic squads to skate in any of the staff occasions; to allow them to resolve that the identical males’s or ladies’s skater, or pairs or dance staff will compete in each the qualifying and closing segments. Or, they will break up who skates in every occasion to present skaters an opportunity to compete on Olympic ice earlier than their particular person occasions. There’s additionally a little bit of gamesmanship concerned; staff leaders need to calculate the perfect system for staying forward of the competitors, with out exhausting their strongest rivals. If a skater competes in each occasions within the staff competitors, for instance, they might then find yourself skating 4 packages, together with their particular person occasion, in a matter of days. That may very well be a problem, particularly in the event that they wish to skate 4 clear packages. There’s a superb line between getting extra expertise skating a routine—or using the momentum of a powerful begin, because the U.S. has—and overdoing it.
The ultimate might be held on on Monday, when the international locations with the highest 5 level whole will area ladies, pairs and ice dance groups to skate their free packages. The ladies’s portion may very well be history-making, if one of many Russian ladies turns into the primary feminine skater to land a quadruple soar on the Olympics—and will decide who stands on the high of the rostrum for the staff occasion.