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2022 Olympic Winter Games

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany



New World Record for Nathan Chen in Olympic Short Program

(9 Feb. 2022)  The Men’s Short Program in Beijing had an excellent level. There were much fewer big mistakes in men’s competitions than usually in the last couple of years. Nobody among the best seven made a big mistake.

Three times World Champion Nathan Chen of Irvine, California, did not only take the lead, he even collected 113.97 points, which was a new world record. After Skate America in November 2021, he had decided to skip his planned short program to two songs by Benjamin Clementine because this music did not fit him and in Las Vegas he had been only third after several mistakes. He decided to go back to the music and choreography of his short from the 2019/20 season which had been very successful for him, except that the World Championship 2020 in Montreal, Canada was cancelled in the last minute due to the beginning Covid-19 pandemic.

Therefore in Beijing, Chen again skated to the song “La Boheme“ by French well-known singer Charles Aznavour whose father had been Armenian and fled to France after the war of 2015 and 2016 in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians had been killed in one of the first genocides of the 20th century. Charles Aznavour was also politically and diplomatically active, for example as an ambassador, and always supported the survival of the Armenian people, many of whom had fled to France. He had died in 2018 at the age of 94. Chen’s coach Rafael Arutunian, whose ancestors also had to leave Armenia, came to the USA in 2000 and is U.S. citizen since 2019. He suggested this music to Chen after Aznavour‘s death as a remembrance to him and to Armenia. Shae-Lynn Bourne had choreographed this program with him and two years later he looked more mature and deeper in it.

Chen opened his short program with an outstanding quad flip who got eight GOEs of +4 and one of +5, followed by a very good triple Axel. In the second half, his combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent and gained 21.21 points. His step sequence was very dynamic and even stellar and had eight GOEs of +5. The three level 4 spins were excellent as well and had mainly GOEs of +4. His components had an average of 9.6 and six perfect 10.0 from four different judges. At the end, he showed his emotions and punched the air with his right fist, which is very unusual for him because normally he is a very mild-mannered and controlled man. 

But after the disaster in the short program at the Games of 2018, where he finished only 17th after three mistakes, he felt relieved that this time, everything worked fine. He said: “I have no idea what came over me. Normally I don’t do stuff like that. It just felt right. I was really happy and it just came out.” Later he added: “It's pretty close to my best. Obviously there are always things you can improve on, but overall I'm very happy. I just want to stay present, I don’t want to think too far into the future. The more important thing is to recover and get ready for the free program.“ And to relax he had less exciting things to do in the Olympic village like doing his laundry and cleaning his room. "I have been here for a while.“

Yuma Kagiyama from Japan, runner-up at Worlds 2018 behind Chen, sits second with 108.12 points. Technically, he was almost as good as Chen. He skated to “When Your re Smiling“ by Michael Buble. His quad Salchow and his combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop were fabulous, his triple Axel as well. His spins got mainly GOEs of +4 and his step sequence level 3, but even four GOEs of +5. His components had an average of 9.4. which was a bit too high because his interpretation and style were very good, but not really outstanding. But if your elements are first class you get high components automatically even if this is exaggerated. He commented: “I thought I was going to be very nervous, but from the beginning to the end, I was just having fun skating. As for the jumps, I cannot complain, I had nice landings.“ 

Shoma Uno is on third position with 105.90 points. Performing to two classical Oboe concertos by Marcello and Vivaldi, he started with an excellent quad flip, followed by a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop with a touch-down on the triple jump. He no longer lands his jumps so deeply in his knees and therefore gets higher GOEs. The five other elements were stellar and his components around 9.4. 

Yunhwan Cha from South Korea placed fourth with 99.51 points, just two and a half weeks after winning the Four Continents Championships which were held in Estonia in Europe this year after China gave them back and no country in Asia or America wanted to organize them. He has been a student of Brian Orser for almost seven years, but had to train at home in South Korea for a long time during the pandemic and was coached by Orser only online because Canada did not allow him to enter again. His first element was an excellent quad Salchow, followed by a very good combination of triple Lutz and triple loop (which is rare). The triple Axel was good, the other four elements (all level 4) excellent.

Morisi Kvitelashvili from Georgia, who trains in the Moscow school of Eteri Tutberidze, finished fifth earning 97.98 points after a faultless performance. He skated a very good combination of quad Salchow and triple toe loop and a good quad toe loop. But his style and presentation is not as captivating and therefore his components were only around 8.4.

Jason Brown, competing last of the 29 skaters, placed sixth with 97.24 points in a flawless program. He was one of only few skaters without quad, but had four excellent triple jumps: a flip, an Axel and a combination of Lutz and toe loop. He won many points with his outstanding spins and steps and the second highest components of around 9.5, even higher than Yuzuru Hanyu‘s.

Evgeni Semenenko was the best of the three Russian men and finished seventh with 95.76 points in a clean program with a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop as well as a quad Salchow.

Super star Yuzuru Hanyu had arrived in Beijing from Japan only two days before the short program and finished eighth with 95.15 points. He began his short program to “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso“ by French composer Camille Saint-Saens with a heavy mistake because he popped the Salchow which was planned quadruple. This cost him around 13 points. All other elements were excellent, including a combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a step sequence with five GOEs of +5. But the whole program lost some fascination after the mistake and therefore he got only the third best components of around 9.4. He said: "I feel I am a little bit in shock. When I took off for the Salchow, I was under some hole, maybe (caused by) some other skater's toe (loop) or flip or something. Figure skating has two programs. I have one more chance in the free program. I have a lot of time with the music and many jumps in there.” He confirmed that he plans to try a quadruple Axel, but he has to skate in the second best group. 

Keegan Messing from Canada, who trains in Alaska, is ninth with 93.24 points after a faultless program with a good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a triple Lutz, but lower levels on spins and the step sequence. He had been tested positive on the Covid-19 virus before, was in quarantine in Vancouver for a week before being tested negative twice and being allowed to fly to China. But the few non-stop flights to Beijing were all sold out, so he had to do a nightmare journey: fly to Montreal, was tested there again, from there to Milan in Italy and from there finally to Beijing. He had one practice, slept and then did the short program. 

French skater Kevin Aymoz sits tenth with 93.00 points after a very good combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop and a triple Salchow. Boyang Jin from China placed 11th with 90.98 points after a program with a very good combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop and a good quad toe loop, but he almost fell on the triple Axel. Daniel Grassl from Italy performed a quad Lutz which got a small warning for the correct edge and a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop with another edge warning, but his spins were innovative. The second French skater Adam Siao Him Fa on 14th place with 86.74 points was lucky to be allowed to skate after being tested positive several times until two days before the short program. His combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop was good, but he fell on the quad Salchow. European and Russian champion Mark Kondratiuk came 15th with 86.11 points after making two smaller mistakes on this quads and skating a bit sloppy. Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, who trains in California, ended up only 25th and missed the final after two mistakes on jumps. 

The third U.S. skater Vincent Zhou of Colorado Springs had bad luck and was not allowed to compete because he had tested positive of the Covid-19 virus on the day after his free program in the team event. There he had helped the US team to win a silver medal, but was not allowed to stand on the podium for the victory ceremony any more. A second test the next day, the day before the short program, was positive again. As reported by Christine Brennan from USA Today, Coach Tom Zakrajsek told her via text message: “It’s a tough day. It’s a gut punch. After being here for 11 days and Vincent testing negative every day except the last couple it’s hard to imagine. Vincent and I have been in touch daily. This is heartbreaking for Vincent and everyone on his team.“