Nathan Chen of the United States performs during the men's short program figure skating in the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. The only one who can get in his way is Chen.
This comes with the territory. The outcome of the match this time will count towards which of the two gets a bye into the quarter-finals of the Olympic tournament. It's been a heartbreaking go for Salt Lake's skating son.
His routine set to Chopin's Ballade No.1 earned him 10 points more than the one he led the short programme with in Russian Federation four years ago. (Hanyu is already the youngest male skater since Button to win Olympic gold.) Hanyu has not competed since November, when he tore a ligament in his ankle. "I think honestly putting down a rough short program, and being so low in the placement just took the pressure away from me". And they just feel like any other athlete, any other competitors, and it's really cool to see the Olympics do that - being able to bring people who normally wouldn't be able to compete against us together. It should've been different, but stuff happens.
Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia put in an nearly flawless race, only one mistake in the final shoot to win gold in the women's biathlon 12.5 km mass start.
His warm-up routine was flawless, his quads were landed, he looked comfortable.
"But to skate like that, to have a successful performance, means so much to me". "Going to have to think about it".
But there were tell-tale signs of trouble since the team competition.
"I have been working on it [putting six quads in the free skate] for a while".
He was hesitant, landings were again uncharacteristically erratic, and the confidence he exuded during this same routine was nowhere to be found.
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After Chen's skate, his teammate Zhou, 17, followed with a powerful performance of his own, setting the tone from the start with a quad lutz / triple toeloop combination that the judges awarded with more than 19 points.
"It was a good experience, I know I didn't do the ideal programme but I was satisfied with what I did and it got me an Olympic medal, that's all I've got to say".
"I no longer felt like I was striving for that first-place spot", Chen said.
After he finished his performance to "Mao's Last Dancer", Chen squeezed his eyes shut at center ice. Hanyu bends down, looks the bear in the yes, and softly rubs his ears and cheeks. "My injuries were more severe than I thought and I could not practice as much as I wanted to".
But with skating's emphasis on the quad, performance is no longer enough. He partnered with Vera Wang to design his Olympic costume, a black-and-white ensemble that blended with and juxtaposed the bright backdrop of the Olympic ice.
After returning to the Olympic compound, the 18-year-old Chen, who is nicknamed the "Quad King" for his proficiency with a range of quadruple jumps, held a news conference Thursday in Pyeongchang. He ultimately tallied an 87.47 technical component score and a 171.41 the overall free skate.
"I'm very happy that I skated with no elements I wasn't satisfied with", said the 23-year-old.