U.S. skater Chen makes history with six quads

Grant SmithFeb 18, 2018

American Nathan Chen didn't make the podium Saturday but redeemed himself after a disastrous short program with a historic free skate. Chen's attempt at six would have succeeded if he hadn't put his hand on the ice during a quad flip.

Korean new year celebrations, which opened yesterday, were given a timely boost with a second gold medal of the Games for the hosts.

Chen put his head on a pillow and fell asleep.

Competition is underway in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. He was right. A two-time national senior champion, he is the only figure skater to have landed five different quad jumps in competition, and won gold in five of the seven events he has competed in this season. But he wanted to go out fighting in his first Olympics, and he finally had the performance he dreamed of.

Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu successfully defended his gold medal in Pyeongchang, reaching a tally of 317.85 total points.

Hanyu posted the highest score ever for a short program with 112.72 points back in the Fall of 2017. The only question that remained was one of stamina.

But with skating's emphasis on the quad, performance is no longer enough.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan competes during the men's single skating free skating of figure skating at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, in Gangneung Ice Arena, South Korea, on February 17, 2018.

Hanyu may have doubted, but his fellow skaters - none of whom had seen him on ice since October - didn't, with America's Adam Rippon saying last week "You can never count Yuzuru out".

Chen will skate directly after Hanyu in the final group on Friday, but believes that has advantages, including extra time to prepare while the numerous stuffed animals that Hanyu fans tend to throw to the ice are cleaned up.

Six-time European champion Javier Fernandez of Spain heads the chasing pack going into Saturday's decisive free skate at the Gangneung Ice Arena on 107.58.

Rippon stoked controversy ahead of the Games by criticizing the choice of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as the ceremonial head of the American delegation to the Winter Olympics.

"This is the best day of my skating life", he said. Rippon's spins and footwork, the artistic connective tissue between the high-value jumps, have always been world-class. His favorite yellow Pooh bear toys then rained down onto the rink as Japanese fans were screaming his name and waving banners with his name or cartoon images. No matter. He hit every element of a highly hard program with precision and grace.

"It has been surreal", said Rippon, who took equal pride in the achievements of teammates he regards as his "sons".

Initially Shiffrin said the vomiting "almost felt like a virus kind of puking", but later she said that she was well and had been scratching around for an excuse for her below-par performance. Chen landed five of six quads in his routine, for a free skate score of 215.08, while Zhou (who skated a routine choreographed by out skater Jeff Buttle) landed four of five quads, earning a 192.16.

After the slalom was won by Sweden's Frida Hansdotter, the 22-year-old Shiffrin said that she was pulling out of Saturday's super-G.

Japan had its first gold medal of the Winter Games.

Nathan Chen (U.S.): In 2010, when an interviewer asked 10-year-old Nathan Chen, the U.S. men's novice champion, when he expected to go to the Olympics, he replied that he would be too young for 2014, so 2018.

Despite the heroics, it proved impossible to catch Hanyu.

"As much as I tried to deny it, I think I did feel the pressure a lot, thinking about medals and placement and things like that, things that were entirely out of my control", said Chen.

"I knew at that point that I had literally nothing to lose, so I decided just to try it", Chen said.

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