Chen gives a record-breaking program to start the Olympic pursuit

BEIJING (AP), Nathan Chen had just broken the world record in figure skating for short programs. He even made a rare display emotion by throwing a defiant fist when asked how he would spend the next 48 hours leading up to his long-awaited Olympic coronation.

Chen gives a record-breaking program to start the Olympic pursuit

Chen gives a record-breaking program to start the Olympic pursuit

BEIJING (AP), Nathan Chen had just broken the world record in figure skating for short programs. He even made a rare display emotion by throwing a defiant fist when asked how he would spend the next 48 hours leading up to his long-awaited Olympic coronation.

The 22-year-old American star responded Tuesday with a shrug. "I have some clothes to wash. There are other things I need to do in my room. It's just a regular chore. There's nothing crazy about it.

On the historic Capital Indoor Stadium's ice, he left the insane -- and the downright amazing -- behind.

Chen smiled confidently and avenged the Pyeongchang Games' poor program four years ago. Chen opened with a flawless quad flip, then breezed through his sometimes-vexing triple axlel. He then drilled his quad-lutz-triple-toe loop combination, before stopping and landing a great airman.

His score of 113.97 was nearly twice as high as the previous world record held by Yuzuru Hanyu and six points higher than Yuma Kagiyama, who was in second place heading into Thursday's free skating.

Chen said that he was "just elated" after helping the U.S win team silver earlier in this week. "Both of my short programs at the last Olympics didn't go as I expected. It feels great to finally be able to skate the programs that I want.

Hanyu, their long-time idol, failed to complete his opening quad salchow, and received no points in the jump. This huge mistake cost him a chance at a third Olympic gold medal. Hanyu was eighth with 95.15 points. This is a huge deficit that even his quad axel in free skate cannot make up.

Hanyu said, "I feel really stunned," adding that his skate might have struck a crack in the ice. "But I still have one chance."

For the past four years, the showdown between Chen & Hanyu was building towards Tuesday. It had begun since Chen's "disastrous short program" in Pyeongchang that took him out medal contention.

Chen didn't take a break, but he continued to work with Rafael Arutyunyan, his longtime coach, while simultaneously working towards his Yale degree. He improved every aspect of figure skating from technical marks to artistry and began to create programs that no one else would have the courage to attempt.

His Beijing program, which had a base value 36.27 points, was his most difficult ever in competition.

The feat left many people in America, including Scott Hamilton, 1984 Olympic champion, astonished.

Hamilton stated, "I've probably said it no less that a thousand times over four years, but I'll repeat it again -- Nathan Chen is virtually unbeatable when he's on his game," Hamilton added. Hanyu was the first man to defend an Olympic title since American skater Dick Button, in 1952. Hanyu then took a break to heal ligament damage to his right ankle. Due to the pandemic, he missed the Grand Prix season 2020 and then missed the Grand Prix season 2017 due to more injuries to his right ankle.

Just as it seemed that Kagiyama, Uno and Uno had overtaken him, Hanyu, 27, showed up to the Japanese championships and regained the crown. The long-awaited match with Chen was now in Beijing.

It lasted approximately as long as it took to lace up the skates.

Hanyu, who was already a pro at skating, was only seconds into his program, when he started to set up for the first quad. Hanyu was unable to take off and there was a loud gasp from the separated crowd of about a thousand.

Base value for the quad salchow is 9.70 points. Hanyu received none.

Chen said, "Knowing what it feels like to skate -- not necessarily at your potential, but not as you anticipate -- it doesn’t feel great, especially during an Olympics," and he can relate to that sentiment as well as anyone else. Yuzu is always there. He is a two-time Olympic champion and, no matter what happens in the future, Yuzu will always be an icon of figure skating."

Uno, as if to highlight Hanyu’s incredible misstep, was next on the ice, and performed flawlessly. After landing his quad flip, he made it look effortless to do a quad-triple-toe loop combination. Uno had already accumulated 105.90 points by the time he finished his program to a Vivaldi concerto. He was now in first place.

Uno, a member of the bronze-winning Japanese team, said that he had the opportunity to skate the program for the team and that the experience was beneficial for him on the individual skate. Although I made mistakes on jumps, I was able to perform better.

Japan had a second medal candidate heading into Thursday, when Kagiyama landed his quad salchow and quad toe loop-triple loop. He then skated flawlessly the rest of the way to "When You're Smiling", by Michael Buble.

Kagiyama was naturally happy with the performance.

He said, "This is my first Olympic Games. To be honest with me, I thought that I would be very nervous starting to the end." "I thought I was having fun skateboarding, and I can't complain about the jumps. My legs gave up on me, which was a slight minus for me, but the rest of my skating was great."

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