In the men’s short program in ice skating at the 2014 Winter Olympics, two competitors showed they are better than the rest. Yuzuru Hanyu set a record by being the first man to ever score in triple digits in a short program. Canada’s Patrick Chan kept himself within four points of Hanyu which makes the gold medal a possibility. There is a logjam for the bronze with seven competitors within five points of each other going into the free skate. This sets up a showdown of smooth, silky skaters and a fight for the bronze tomorrow despite a strange night on the ice.
Hanyu hit a quad, triple axle and triple-triple combination for his jumps in the short program. His showing was very close to flawless, and he was the only skater who could say that when the program concluded. Chan stumbled out of one jump but kept his balance. That one small slip up cost him over a point, but the Canadian skater still likes his chances moving into the free skate.
The night started oddly as Russian legend Yevgeny Plushenko withdrew from the short program with an injury sustained in warm-ups and it was too late to name a replacement. There were no Russian skaters for the home crowd to cheer, so Alexander Majorov became the new favorite. Majorov was born in Russia but represents Sweden. Plushenko’s withdrawal was a surprise after helping his country win team gold last week, and he got a bit defensive in his post-event interviews.
To make the night even more strange, almost every skater trying a quad failed. Most landed on their backside and failed to recover. American Jeremy Abbott was one of those skaters, although his 72.58 score allowed him to qualify for the free program. Another American, Jason Brown, is among those vying for the bronze. Brown went with a very technical run that lacked a quad.
The free skate will be a showdown between Hanyu and Chan. Hanyu will deploy one more triple axle in the program than Chan, but it should not be that simple to judge. These two are clearly the class of the Olympics.