Four years after what he called a “disastrous” Olympic debut, Nathan Chen continued his mission of redemption on Tuesday with a dominating, world-record performance in the men’s short program in Beijing and holds a sizable lead after the first day of competition.
Just like he was in 2018, Chen is a favorite for gold at these Olympics, but this time there were no signs of nervousness or pressure. The 22-year-old put in a nearly flawless performance – which included two quadruple jumps and a triple axel – and recorded the best score of the day at 113.97, also the highest short program score in history. figure skating.
Even the normally stoic Chen couldn’t hide his emotions at the end of his routine by throwing a passionate punch.
“I was thrilled,” Chen said in an interview on the NBC show. “At the last Olympics, the two short programs didn’t go the way I wanted and to finally have the opportunity to skate the programs the way I wanted – that’s really good. It means a lot.
Just days after finishing first in the men’s short program in the team event, helping the Americans win a silver medal, Chen made it clear he was no longer haunted by what happened at Pyeongchang, where he had fallen in the short program of both competitions. .
Since then he has won three world championship titles, and now only free skating – and a pair of Japanese skaters in Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno – keep him from securing a coveted Olympic gold medal.
Kagiyama, 18, took a surprising second place in the short program with a score of 108.12, and Uno, who won silver in 2018, is currently in third place.
Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning double gold medalist who also hails from Japan and had the previous world mark in the short program, was expected to be Chen’s fiercest contender for the top spot on the podium, but he blew his first quadruple salchow — resulting in zero points for the element — and he’s in eighth place after the first day of competition. His score of 95.15 was his lowest in a short program since 2019. Still, Hanyu is expected to attempt a quadruple axel in his free skate – something that has never been done before – and that could make him an overseas contender. for a medal. .
Nathan Chen set the all-time highest score in a men’s short program ❄️
— Sports Center (@SportsCenter) February 8, 2022
Hanyu appeared devastated at the end of her performance. He later explained that his skate got caught in a hole in the ice and he couldn’t take off for the jump. But he remained optimistic about his chances.
“I have one more chance,” Hanyu told reporters. “I have a lot of time with music and a lot of jumping into it, so I [can] be my best.”
Jason Brown was the only other American to compete on Tuesday after Vincent Zhou had to withdraw due to a positive case of COVID-19. Brown scored a personal best 97.24 and currently sits in sixth place. The 27-year-old is taking part in his second Games, but his first since 2014. He was a substitute in 2018 and remains a fan favourite.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” a visibly emotional Brown said during an interview on the show. “I gave it my all. It was a long time coming, eight years of trying to get back to this stage, and to be able to put in such a performance is great.”
Tuesday’s top 24 skaters qualified for Thursday’s free skate at Capital Indoor Stadium. That includes Mexican figure skater Donovan Carrillo in a first for the country.
Chen had the highest score in the free skating portion of the men’s competition in 2018, but was unable to make up the shortfall after the short program and finished in fifth place. This time he is hoping for a different outcome and has put himself in the best possible position for the gold.