Epic Collapse in Short Program is Followed by Epic Achievement
by George Rossano
(18 February) Like a legendary Phoenix, Nathan Chen arose from the ashes of the Short Program to triumph in the Free Skate. No, he did not win the gold, or even reach the podium, but his free skate was a high water mark in the history of Men's figure skating. He attempted six quad jumps and landed five cleanly, while stepping out of one, a quad flip, that he decided to add to his routine after the debacle of the Short Program.
"I did the best I could in the free program to try and catch up with the points," he said, "but it was not enough to clinch a podium spot. I am proud of my long program and I was able to win the long actually, it was a big accomplishment for me. So onwards and upwards."
Chen was 17th in the short, but more importantly he was 22 points below third place and 29 points below the leader. It was a huge deficit to have to overcome. With a phenomenal technical Score of 127.64 he blew away the competition in the Free Skate, and when his scores came up, it was clear they would move him up in the standings considerably, but with component scores only in the high eights it was also clear he would still need some of the top contenders to falter, particularly Boyang Jin and Shoma Uno, in order to medal.
Throughout the event the judge spread their marks, going down substantially for skaters who did not skate clean, and up substantially for those that did. It was clear as the event unfolded that if the top skaters performed well, they would also get big scores, and ultimately both Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez both scored personal bests.
When the snow settled, Chen placed first in the Free Skate and fifth overall. He ended up 0.42 points behind Jin, so the several point he lost on the quad flip cost him one place. His final score was 7.89 points off the podium. Overlooked in all the discussion of Chen's skating, and what jumps he might or might not have landed to medal, however, is that he also trailed Hanyu by nearly 17 points in program component points, only ten of which would have been enough to have won the silver, were he among the leaders in component skills.
Like Fernandez who had a great chance to medal in Sochi, but barely fell short, and had to wait four years to stand on the Olympic podium, so now will Chen. Onwards and upwards to Beijing.
Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano