With flowing footwork and high-flying quadruple jumps, Nathan Chen, the gold medal favorite in men’s singles figure skating, easily finished first Friday in the men’s short program of the team event, giving to the American team an advantage to win an early medal. at the Beijing Games.
More than that, however, Chen has taken a big step to redeem himself after a disappointing performance at the 2018 Games, where falls and errors in the team’s short programs and singles events fell dismally short. of his expectations. After a spectacular performance in the long program in Pyeongchang, he finished fifth in singles.
In a black tuxedo and white t-shirt on a version of “La Bohème” on Friday, Chen landed two quadruple jumps, including a quadruple-Lutz/triple-loop combination, which helped him score 111.71 points, his record for the season. better.
But with the men’s singles event scheduled for next week, he’s not celebrating yet.
“There will be a time and a place for that,” said Chen, a three-time world champion with just one loss since the 2018 Worlds. I may not be the most emotional person, but deep down inside I am really, really happy.
Chen’s effort, along with a second-place finish from Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in rhythm dancing and a strong pairs performance from Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, gave Team USA 28 points on the first three races. (Competition resumes Sunday with the women’s short program.)
The United States is hoping to win another medal in this event after winning bronze in the competition at the last two Olympics. This time the skaters feel better than ever about their chances, especially after some outstanding performances in the first lap.
“I watched Nathan Chen kill him, and on the contrary, it gave me some excitement and calm, because I felt like our country was collectively ready,” Knierim said.
The Russian Olympic Committee team finished second, with 26 points, after Mark Kondratiuk’s third-place finish in men’s singles and a shaky second-place finish from ice dancing world champions Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.
China was a surprising third, with 21 points, after a record score in the pairs short program of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong.
The team skating event is a hybrid competition in which 10 nations send skaters in all four disciplines. (Well, not every team in every discipline, as it turns out the positive coronavirus tests destroyed the scoring chances – and therefore the medal hopes – of the German and Ukrainian teams.)
The format makes the event an all-in-one mini-Olympiad. Each nation enters a male, female, pairs team and set of ice dancers, and each performs two routines, as they do in their main competitions. Points are awarded based on order of finish (10 for first, 9 for second, 8 for third, and so on). The five countries with the highest scores after the first round qualify for a free skate on Monday, and the team with the most points after all events wins.
The team event, however, is not just a medal event in its own right. It’s also a chance for savvy skating fans to find clues about who looks to be in good shape for the big events ahead. Countries usually send their best skaters, but can exchange up to two skaters or teams between programs. Four years ago, for example, Chen skated the short program for the Americans and Adam Rippon took the free program.