Fernandez passes Uno and takes second place, four points behind Hanyu.
Japan’s Other Star, Shoma Uno, Nails His Routine
Shoma Uno, skating to Winter from the Four Seasons, was the next man to try to take down Hanyu, his countryman. He hit his quad flip to get it started, then nailed the quad combo. A top-rate performance for the other Japanese star. He’s in third place, seven points behind Hanyu.
Nathan Chen a Longshot After Poor Routine
Nathan Chen’s gold medal hopes took a serious blow when he fell on his first quad. He then turned quad No. 2 into a triple, then stumbled on another triple. A disappointing showing for a guy known for his big jumps. Chen’s scores are poor, and he stands only in 13th place.
Chen also did not do a combination jump, which is required. He is 29 points behind Hanyu; in the current scoring system, a skater can move up significantly in the long program, but Chen would appear to be an extreme longshot to make the medal podium.
Following Chen, Mikhail Kolyada fell on his second quad attempt. He was perhaps the longest shot of the final six skaters and could not afford a mistake of that kind.
Yuzuru Hanyu Aces Routine
Yuzuru Hanyu, the defending champion, was first up, skating to Chopin. He started with a quad loop, and aced it. Daringly, he saved a quad-triple combination till late in the program, when many skaters have grown weary. And he hit it with perfection. A sensational performance. As usual, a deluge of Winnie the Pooh dolls littered the ice. Hanyu moved into first place with a huge score of 111.68.
Hanyu competed for the first time since October. He sustained ligament damage in his ankle in November, but showed no ill effects in the short program. The question is whether he will have the stamina to hold up for 4 1/2 minutes in the long program.
The Big Six Are Up Next
Six skaters remain, including all the biggest medal threats. The order of skating: Yuzuru Hanyu, the defending champ; the American quad specialist Nathan Chen; Mikhail Kolyada of Russia; the young Japanese Shoma Uno; the veteran Javier Fernandez; and Jin Boyang of China. All of them will be attempting not just one quad, but two.
Patrick Chan Hits the Ice
Patrick Chan, the defending silver medalist, has not not been nearly as good since. He fell on a triple and wound up in second place, but well behind Aliev. Chan is a three-time world champion and, because of his skating skills and jumping ability, he always has to be considered a contender. But he has sometimes struggled with self assurance.
Russian Dmitri Aliev Goes Old School for Lead
Figure skating is changing, with newer music, sometimes with lyrics, and more creative costumes. But Dmitri Aliev, an 18-year-old from Russia, is a throwback, with his military-officer-cum-bellboy outfit and the classic music of Khatchaturian. He also hit a quad toe loop. That puts him in the lead comfortably, with a score of 98.98.
Rippon Nails Four Triples
The second American to skate was Adam Rippon, who has garnered an outsized amount of attention in recent weeks, for being outspoken, openly gay and candid about struggles with an eating disorder. No quads for Rippon, but four triples cleanly landed. He thrust his fists in the air in exultation. The routine put him in first place.
Rippon, 28, forces spectators to choose what they prefer, sport or art. He is a beautiful skater, but without a quadruple jump, he has no real chance of winning a medal unless the other contenders completely fall apart.
Big-Name Contenders on Deck
With three groups of skaters completed, Michal Brezina of Czech Republic still held the lead, ahead of Keegan Messing of Canada and Jorik Hendrickx of Belgium. There are 12 skaters to go, including all the big names.
Jazzy “Wonderwall” Doesn’t Impress Judges
Figure skating competitions are always a showcase for eclectic music, and Paul Fentz of Germany may get the top prize, wheeling out “Wonderwall.” The Paul Anka version. But something about it seemed to inspire him. He hit his jumps, including a quad toeloop. Still, it did not impress the judges too much and he stood in ninth place.
Local Favorite Gets Crowd Involved
The crowd predictably loved Junhwan Cha of South Korea. His routine was clean, but it did not include a quad jump, limiting its upside. After 14 skaters, the top three are Michal Brezina of Czech Republic, Keegan Messing and Vincent Zhou.
Canadian Keegan Messing Takes the Lead
Keegan Messing of Canada makes no pretense: He is a show skater. And he got the crowd clapping along with his impersonation of Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain,” complete with pantomime umbrella. He fell on his triple axel but took first place after 12 skaters with a score of 85.11 points. For the long program, he will skate as Charlie Chaplin.
Australian Brendan Kerry in 2nd
A good performance by Brendan Kerry, who skated to an eerie, dramatic cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” He nailed two quads, a toeloop and a Salchow, and took second place behind Vincent Zhou.
Julian Yee Becomes First Winter Olympian From Malaysia
Julian Yee took the ice and made some history of his own. He is the first Malaysian ever to compete at the Winter Games, in any sport. He put a hand down one jump but performed creditably otherwise. His routine left him in fourth place in the early going. Currently, there are two Olympic-sized rinks in Malaysia (Yee trains in Canada).
Ukranian Hits the Ice; Vincent Zhou Still Leads
The first significant fall came from Yaroslav Paniot of Ukraine who hit the ice on an opening quad toe loop. Perhaps rattled, he went down two more times on easier moves. Paniot chose “Romeo and Juliet” for his music. That also did not end well.
Michael Martinez Skates to an Olympian’s Tune
A little odd Olympic trivia. Michael Martinez of the Philippines is skating to a work by the violinist Vanessa Mae, who is herself a former Winter Olympian. Four years ago she competed in the giant slalom for Thailand, finishing last. It later came out that some of her warmup races were rigged to allow her to qualify.
Men’s Favorites Are Coming Up
The big-name skaters are almost all going toward the end of the 30-man field. One name you might recognize in the early going is Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who won the bronze medal four years ago. Ten has struggled since then, in part because of injuries. Ten skated to “Tu Se” by the Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo. His plan was to do a quad salchow, but he turned it into a double. He stands in third place.
Vincent Zhou Takes Early Lead
The first American to take the ice is Vincent Zhou, 17. Skiing to “Chasing Cars,” by Snow Patrol, he nails his quad Lutz-triple toe but stumbles on the landing of a quad flip. His score of 84.53 puts him in the lead of the first three skaters.
That quad Lutz by Zhou was the first ever landed in Winter Olympics history. In making history, he benefitted from going early We should get several more quad Lutzes during the competition.
Yuzuru Hanyu, Minus Winnie the Pooh
One absence from the Olympic competition will be Yuzuru Hanyu’s trademark Winnie the Pooh doll that serves as a tissue box and a totem of good luck. The Disney (and A.A. Milne) character would be a violation of Olympic branding and sponsorship rules.
But that didn’t stop several fans here today from wearing Winnie the Pooh costumes. And a number appear to have Pooh dolls ready to toss onto the ice. Hanyu has carried a Pooh doll since he was a young skater, in part because he feels comforted by Pooh’s always smiling and uncritical appearance.
China’s Jin Boyang a No-Show
There is a bit of intrigue before the competition begins. One of the possible medal contenders, Jin Boyang of China, did not show up for his final warmup this morning. The reason is not known, but he was spotted last night on a competitors’ bus back to the Olympic Village about 10 p.m., so he may have just done his final rehearsal then and decided to sleep in. He is slated to skate 30th and last in the short program.
Top Story Lines for the Short Program
• Hanyu could be under threat from one of his own countrymen, Shoma Uno, who at 20 is three years younger. He is the first skater to land a quadruple flip.
• The American Nathan Chen seems ready to make his mark internationally. He can do five different types of quads and beat Hanyu twice last year.
• Javier Fernandez of Spain is a two-time world champion, Patrick Chan of Canada is the defending silver medalist, and Jin Boyang of China another quad machine.
• Among the musical selections you will hear: “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas (Chan), The Four Seasons by Vivaldi (Uno) and music from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Jin).
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