by George Rossano
(16 February) Throughout the season, U.S. medal hopes for the Olympic Men's event grew to the point that Nathan Chen entered the game not only as a medal contender, but as a contender for the Gold. Twice in 2017 Chen had beaten Yuzuru Hanyu, and he had also bested Shoma Uno and outscored Javier Fernandez.
In the Team event Men's Short Program, Chen did not skate well, but neither did several of the other men and it was tossed off to nerves early in the games. It has been speculated there is some unknown issue that might be affecting his skating, but if there is it appears to be a state secret. In any case, hopes remained high going into the Short Program today.
Chen was 26th to skate, second in the last warm-up group following Yuzuru Hanyu. It was an epic collapse. On opening quad toe loop - triple toe loop he fell on the quad and omitted the triple. After two spins he stepped out of quad toe loop, and that error prevented him from completing a jump combination. The quad Lutz was then designated +Combo and lost 20% of its base value. On the subsequent triple Axel he stepped out of the landing.
Beyond the elements, the performance was flat with no spark or presence. His components averaged 8.38, well below what the judges would score some one they thought was gold medal caliber. His GoEs for his successful elements were also mostly 0s through 2s, with few 3s, again well below what is needed for a medal wining result.
The writing is on the wall. His Olympic dream will have to wait another four years. He is 20.8 points below third place, and 29.41 behind the leader. Making up enough points to medal would require a miraculous Free Skate, and at least one of the leaders falling on their sword. Chen would have to skate his personal best, and at least one of the leaders would have to score more than 20 points below their personal bests.
Copyright 2018 by George S. Rossano