Nathan Chen Sets Himself Up for the Gold Medal With a World Record Short Program

Whereas 30 males took to the ice at Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Feb. 8 for the boys’s quick program in determine skating, the main target was on the 4 skaters almost definitely to earn a spot on the Olympic podium.

In the case of gold, nevertheless, there are solely two: American Nathan Chen and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu. Hanyu is the reigning Olympic champion, and Chen is hungry for the one {hardware} that he’s lacking from his assortment of world and nationwide championships after his fifth-place efficiency in Pyeongchang.

When the occasion was over, only one stood aside. Chen skated an almost good program, stuffed with technical prowess and emotion, which set a brand new world document and simply vaulted him to first place. Hanyu popped a deliberate quadruple soar and misplaced worthwhile factors, which landed him in eighth general.
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Heading into the free program, Chen now finds himself in a really completely different place than he did in 2018. 4 years in the past, errors in his quick program pushed him to 17th. This time, he has a cushty 5.85 level cushion over his subsequent competitor. Hanyu may nonetheless be a risk, however Chen has definitively established that he’s the quad king at these Video games.

Chen will lead the highest 24 scoring skaters on to the free program, which might be held on Thursday.

READ MORE: Your Full Information to Determine Skating on the Beijing Olympics

The 22-year-old’s redemption narrative was actually a draw for the occasion, as was the anticipated face-off between the 2 skaters extensively thought to be among the many finest ever in males’s determine skating. Hanyu’s determination to not fly into Beijing till Feb. 6, two days earlier than his competitors, solely elevated the anticipation. Reporters crammed into the follow rink starting at daybreak the day after his arrival, desperate to catch the primary glimpse of the Japanese star coaching on Olympic ice.

However they—and determine skating followers everywhere in the world—needed to wait greater than three hours for Hanyu, Chen and the opposite contenders to compete. When Hanyu lastly skated to heart ice, he crossed himself and held his palms in prayer, as he does earlier than each routine. His program was set to “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saens, a piano association that he selected as a result of it conveys happiness.

Figure Skating - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 4
Annice Lyn–Getty PicturesNathan Chen of Crew USA skates in the course of the Males’s Single Free Skating Quick Program on day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Video games at Capital Indoor Stadium on Feb. 8, 2022 in Beijing.

Hanyu misses quadruple Salchow

Hanyu’s first soar, a deliberate quadruple Salchow, was solely a single, and he obtained no factors for it. However, he landed his quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop soar mixture. “Once I took off, I used to be [over] some gap [in the ice] perhaps from another skater’s toe loop or flip [jump] or one thing,” he mentioned in explaining the missed soar. As a result of the quick program is a tightly designed routine that features seven required components, the missed soar price him dearly, and he scored uncharacteristically underneath 100 factors, which put him in eighth place heading into the free program. “I’ve another probability. I’ve numerous time with the music and lots of jumps in there so I might be my finest [in the free program],” he mentioned about his technique to maneuver up after the free program.

Chen couldn’t assist however discover, however pressured himself to place it apart and concentrate on his personal upcoming routine. “Once I heard that, I believed, ‘Keep on with [your] sport plan, nothing adjustments. Give attention to what [you] can do, attempt to do the very best [you] can. Scores, rivals—all these things is out of [your] management.’”

Hanyu’s Japanese teammate Shoma Uno adopted, and executed a quadruple flip and the identical quadruple toeloop-triple toeloop that Hanyu carried out, though he put his hand down for steadiness on the second soar. Nonetheless, Uno’s quadruple flip and excessive scores for execution have been sufficient to surpass Hanyu and put him in third general.

The ultimate and youngest member of the Japanese males’s staff, Yuma Kagiyama, 18, skated within the ultimate group with Chen. Kagiyama impressed along with his free program in the course of the staff occasion, and didn’t disappoint throughout this skate. He began out with a quadruple Salchow-triple toeloop mixture, adopted by a quadruple toeloop. His playfulness to Michael Bublé’s “When You’re Smiling” additionally earned him worthwhile program part scores, together with an ideal 10.0 for efficiency from one decide, and vaulted him into to start with the skaters at that time, forward of each his Japanese teammates and the remainder of the pack.

Sebastien Bozon–AFP/Getty PicturesJapan’s Yuzuru Hanyu competes within the males’s single skating quick program of the determine skating occasion in the course of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Video games on the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing on Feb. 8, 2022.

Chen’s record-setting program

However Chen was subsequent. His maturity and expertise instantly set him other than the proficient, however younger Kagiyama. Chen opted for a well-recognized program, which he skated within the 2019-2020 season, however didn’t get to compete at world championships as a result of they have been canceled resulting from COVID-19. His consolation with the choreography confirmed, and was rewarded by the judges with not only a excessive technical rating, however an equally spectacular elements rating, which includes extra subjective components like interpretation of the music, skating pace and stream between components. Chen earned six 10.0s in these classes from 4 completely different judges.

His choreographer, Shae-Lynn Bourne, says the 2 labored collectively to create a program particularly to showcase Chen’s “romantic aspect, his passionate aspect.”

“We wished to weave the jumps into the efficiency, so it’s like a dream nearly, and also you don’t make folks suppose that any second a soar is coming,” she advised TIME earlier than the Video games. Chen achieved simply that, mesmerizing along with his pace and stream, and easy leaps.

He might have made it look straightforward for anybody watching, however these jumps earned the best scores of the occasion. Chen was the one skater of the 4 high contenders to decide on the more difficult quadruple Lutz-triple toeloop mixture. He was additionally the one one to back-load his program by doing the mix within the second half of the routine, the place it earns bonus factors because it’s more durable to land jumps cleanly on drained legs.

Chen confirmed no indicators of fatigue, and propelled himself into the air for a superbly executed mixture that earned a whopping 21.21 factors, the best rating of any soar within the competitors. It was sufficient to place him in first, and assist him set one other world document for the best quick program rating, at 113. 97, beating the earlier one set by Hanyu, at 111.82, in 2020.

Pumping his fist into the air after his ultimate pose, Chen seemed each relieved and decided to have lastly carried out the best way he, and everybody else, anticipated him to on Olympic ice. “I’d say it [was] fairly near my finest,” he mentioned about his efficiency. “Clearly there are at all times issues you may enhance on, there are at all times issues you are able to do just a little bit higher, however general I’m very comfortable.”

American Jason Brown closed out the competitors. And whereas Brown doesn’t compete with a quadruple soar, which implies his base scores are mechanically decrease than these of the highest contenders, his presentation and interpretation of the music are at all times attracts—and his passionate skate to Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” was sufficient to put him in sixth, forward of Hanyu.

Zhou out after testing constructive

Lacking from the competitors was the Crew USA’s Vincent Zhou, who withdrew on Monday after testing constructive for COVID-19. In an emotional video posted to his social media account, Zhou expressed each shock and unhappiness at having his Olympic journey come to such an abrupt finish. “Hopefully I’ll have the chance to signify Crew USA on the world championships, and I might be stronger then, I might be again higher then,” he mentioned. “This isn’t the tip. It is a setup for a much bigger comeback.”

Zhou is in an isolation lodge till he exams detrimental. His coach Tom Zakrajsek suggested him that he ought to take a second in the course of the time he was scheduled to compete within the quick program, play his music and visualize the quick program he wished to carry out. “I hoped that is likely to be useful to him,” Zakrajsek tells TIME. “He’s been killing it in practices right here so I believed it would present a tiny little bit of closure.”

Zhou’s withdrawal was simply one other stark reminder of the big strain going through the entire athletes competing in Beijing, in the course of a pandemic. “It positively brings folks [on] edge, and I’m actually, actually upset for him,” Chen mentioned. “We’ve been by means of a lot collectively as rivals since we have been very younger, so to see that occur proper earlier than the quick program is so robust.”


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