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Yuzuru Hanyu First Man Since 1952 to Repeat as Olympic Champion

Matches Dick Button's Back to Back Gold in 1948 and 1952

by George Rossano


(18 February 2018)  History was made twice in the Men's event today; first with Yuzuru Hanyu winning his second consecutive Men's Olympic championship, and second with Nathan Chen landing five clean quads in Olympic competition.

Hanyu's back-to-back victories are the first since those of Dick Button in 1948 and 1952.  Hanayu is now the fourth man to win the Olympic Men's title two or more times, the others being Button (USA, 1948, 1952), Karl Schaefer (AUT, 1932, 1936) and Gilles Grafstrom (SWE, 1920, 1924, 1928).

Nathan Chen (USA) skated early in the event due to his 17th place finish in the short program (third in the second warm-up group).  Chen was finally able to relax, and threw all caution to the wind.  He modified his planed content by adding a second quad flip fin place of the original triple loop, for a total of six attempted quads.  He landed five of the six cleanly, while on the second flip he stepped out of the landing.

"I've been working on it for a while," he said about attempting six quads n the program.  "It's never really fully come together. I already fell so many times, I was like, 'I already fell so many times (in earlier performances) I might as well go out and throw everything down and see what would happen' ."

What happened was a record breaking score of 215.08 for the free skate, with 127.64 Technical Element points.  It was clear this score would rocket him above the middle of the pack he was buried in after the short.  But it was also likely that the top skaters could also turn in big scores, and he would likely need two of the top four to falter to make the podium.  In the end that proved not to be the case, with the top four from the short all skating clean or nearly so.  In the end he moved up to fifth place, 0.42 points behind Boyang Jin.

The two other U.S. entries skated third and sixth in the third warm-up.  The first of these was Vincent Zhou who placed 12th in the short program.  He attempted five quads, three of which were clean.  He had a number errors on the quads, as well as on one of the two triple Axels he attempted, but still, his technical score was third highest of the group.  The worst of these was a step out and hand down on quad flip with an edge attention and an under-rotation of quad Lutz.  The only level he missed was on his step sequence, and his components averaged 7.99.  He moved up to sixth overall.

America's sweetheart, Adam Rippon, placed tenth in the free skate after placing seventh in the short, rounding out three top ten finishes for the U.S. men.  Rippon's result was largely the result of the lack of a quad, as his program was nearly cleanly skated and well presented.  His components averaged 8.69, better than three other men with quads who placed higher than he did in the free skate.

For both the team event and the individual free skate he used double Axel instead of his usual opening quad Lutz attempt.  His goal at this competition was to skate two clean programs that highlighted his other skill.  His only error in the free was a downgrade on double loop in a three jump combination.  All four of the leveled elements achieved level 4.

On his Olympic experience he said, "For me personally, I am going into my last spins and I'm like, 'I am having my Olympic moment that I have worked so hard for.'  Three clean programs here at the Olympic Games and to come away and finish in the top ten in the individual and have a bronze medal you know, that bonze is worth it's weight in gold."

Going into the last warm-up group four of the six all had a reasonable chance to medal.  Dmitri Aliev (OAR), who placed fifth in the short, not far behind the top three was a dark hours, but he did not skate up to the task.  Patrick Chan (CAN), with only one successful quad was not a contender, but had a beautiful skate nonetheless, with component scores that averaged 9.19.  This is probably the last time we will see Chan in competition as he will likely not do Worlds.

Boyang Jin (CHN) had a shot at the podium and skated clean except for a fall on a quad toe loop attempt.  He cleanly landed three other quad attempts, including an opening quad Lutz.  He missed two levels on his step sequence, while all three spins hit level 4.  is components averaged 8.58 and there in lies the rub.  He had the fourth highest, better than Hanyu and Fernandez, but was ninth in components.  "The result is good for me," he said.  "I am still young and I still have a long way to go.  I will keep working hard."

For the last three skaters, Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) skated first, followed by Javier Fernandez (ESP) and Shoma Uno (JPN).

The celestial Hanyu started strong with a quad Salchow and quad toe loop.  He did not show the power and speed he usually has in his best performances.  In the middle he began to fade somewhat.  After landing quad Salchow - triple toe loop in the second half, he stepped out of quad toe loop that was to be in a three jump combination.   He fought back by converting the subsequent element from a two jump to three jump combination.  Two jump elements later he landed triple Lutz on the toe and had to fight for the landing and avoid touching the ice.  He missed one level on his step sequence.  Despite the errors is was a strong fluid performance with average components of 9.66 and a season best score.

Afterwards he said, "This is the best day of my skating life.  My tears were from the heart.  I can find one word and that is happy."  He added, "I just thought 'skate.  Just think about skating all day, all week, every day.  And I trusted."

Second in the free, he clinched the Gold medal, and repeated as Olympic champion.  An adoring audience with hundreds of Japanese flags showing showered him with outpouring of applause and Pooh dolls.

Second in the short, Fernandez had a shot at the Gold, as Hanyu had not skated clean.  He skated clean, with two quads.  He missed one level each in two spins, and also popped his second quad Saclhow attempt to a double.  A very well executed quad would likely have been enough to give him the Gold, and certainly the Silver.  His components averaged 9.61, not far from Hanyu, in a season best performance.  A strong performance by Shoma Unno, knocked him down to the Bronze, 1.66 points behind Uno.

On his result he said, "I finally got the medal I always wanted.  I am proud I can take it home and share it with the people."  He added, "I feel like I had a few mistakes.  But I think it was a good program, a good fight."

Shoma Uno was last to skate.  He made two errors, an opening fall on quad loop and a poorly executed quad toe loop - double toe loop combination.  Both jumps had poor landing edges, the double being worse, with a foot down on the landing.  He missed one level on his step sequence and his closing combination spin.  His program averaged 9.27, and he finished third in the free and second overall, 10.95 points behind Hanyu.  The Gold-Silver finish from Japan was the first time Japanese athletes have done that at the Olympics since Sapporo in 1972.

A man of few words, the soft spoken Uno said, "I missed the first jump, but the rest of the program was fine.  I stayed calm after the mistake and was able to give a good performance.  I tried to skate like in practice."  He added, "I tried for the jumps.  I know the success rate is not that high, but I still wanted to try everything."

After the event all three men, were non-committal about competing at Worlds, though Fernandez seemed to be inclined towards not going, as was Hanyu.

Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano