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Olympic men's figure skating preview: Clean quads are the key

Some of the top men’s figure skaters can already call themselves medalists at these Games. Team USA’s Nathan Che...

Posted: Feb. 14, 2018 9:50 PM
Updated: Feb. 14, 2018 9:50 PM

Some of the top men’s figure skaters can already call themselves medalists at these Games. Team USA’s Nathan Chen, Canada’s Patrick Chan, and Mikhail Kolyada, an Olympic Athlete from Russia, will all contest the men’s event after making their 2018 debuts in the team event. In their quest for medals n the men’s event, they will face a bigger – and more competitive – field.

The men’s short program is Thursday, February 15 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com and the free skate is Friday, February 16 in Primetime on NBC and NBCOlympics.com.

Here are some names to know before the event kicks off:

Nathan Chen, Team USA

Credentials: two-time U.S. champion, 2017 Grand Prix Final gold medalist, 2017 Four Continents gold medalist

Buzz about Chen: Chen is the only skater to master five different types of quads: toe loop, Salchow, flip, loop and Lutz. Combined with his improving artistic skills and Vera Wang-designed costumes, he is a threat for the podium… maybe even gold.

Season so far: Chen went back to his roots to open his Olympic season – he won an international competition in his birthplace, Salt Lake City. He then traveled to Russia and won his first Grand Prix. Over Thanksgiving weekend, he won Skate America, too, to qualify for the Grand Prix Final. Chen won that, too. He went into the U.S. Nationals with tons of momentum, and cemented his place on the 2018 Olympic team with his second national title.

At the Olympics so far: Chen opened his Olympic program by doing the short program in the team event. As part of the team, Chen has already earned a bronze medal in PyeongChang.

Notes: “Everyone thinks that Karen Chen is my sister. Unfortunately we’re not related, but we’re good friends,” Chen said. The last time he competed in the PyeongChang Olympic venue, for the 2017 Four Continents, he struck gold. The last U.S. man to capture an Olympic gold was Evan Lysacek, who won in 2010.

Adam Rippon, Team USA

Credentials: 2016 U.S. champion, 2008 and 2009 world junior champion

Buzz about Rippon: In this third try to make his Olympic team, Rippon, succeeded. The 28-year-old is making his Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

Season so far: Rippon earned a bronze medal at his season opener in Finland and then captured silver medals at his two Grand Prix assignments in Japan and the U.S. He qualified for the Grand Prix Final, where he placed fifth. Then, he placed fourth at the U.S. Nationals; his body of work the past season was strong enough to place him on the 2018 Olympic team.

At the Olympics so far: Rippon is a bronze medalist already at the 2018 Olympics. His free skate in the team event helped Team USA land on the podium.

Notes: On being a gay athlete, Rippon has said, “I was recently asked in an interview what it’s like to be a gay athlete in sports. I said that it’s exactly like being a straight athlete. Lots of hard work but usually done with better eyebrows.”

Vincent Zhou, Team USA

Credentials: 2017 world junior champion, 2018 U.S. national bronze medalist, 2017 U.S. national silver medalist

Buzz about Zhou: He is the youngest member of Team USA across all sports.

Season so far: Zhou opened his Olympic season with a silver medal at a competition in Finland. He finished fourth at his first Grand Prix assignment in China, but plummeted to ninth at his France assignment. He recovered in time for Nationals, where, in his birthplace of San Jose, he captured a bronze medal and landed on the Olympic team.

Notes: Zhou is the only member of the U.S. Figure Skating Team in PyeongChang not to have a national title on his resume at the senior level. Not to worry though, he was the 2017 world junior champion, and won three consecutive national titles on the intermediate, novice, and junior levels.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Credentials: 2014 Olympic gold medalist, 2014 and 2017 world champion, four-time Grand Prix Final gold medalist, four-time Japanese national champion

Buzz about Hanyu: By now, Hanyu is expected to be healthy and compete to his full potential in PyeongChang.  

Season so far: Hanyu opened his season at the Autumn Classic, where he earned silver behind Fernandez. At his first Grand Prix assignment in Russia, Hanyu finished second behind American rival Nathan Chen. Hanyu was set to compete on home ice at the Grand Prix in Japan, but injured himself in warm-up and had to withdraw. He subsequently missed the Grand Prix Final and Japanese nationals.

Notes: Hanyu won Japan’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in the men’s figure skating event. Hanyu is the first man to enter a Games as the reigning Olympic gold medalist and reigning world champion since Dick Button in 1952. Hanyu could be the first man to win back-to-back Olympic gold medals since Button did so in 1948 and 1952. He trains in Toronto alongside one of his rivals, Javier Fernandez of Spain. They share coach Brian Orser, who won Olympic silver medals in 1984 and 1988.

Shoma Uno, Japan

Credentials: 2017 Worlds silver medalist, 2017 Asian Winter Games champion, three-time Grand Prix Final medalist, two-time Japanese national champion

Buzz about Uno: Two men from the same country haven’t shared an Olympic podium since Alexei Yagudin and Yevgeny Plushenko did so in 2002; Uno and Hanyu have a chance at accomplishing that for Japan.

Season so far: For the Olympic season, Uno kicked off his season by winning a competition in Italy. Then, he won the Grand Prix event in Canada and earned silver at the Grand Prix in France. He qualified for the Grand Prix Final, where he finished second to American Nathan Chen. With Hanyu out with injury, Uno won his second national title. In January, he earned a silver medal at the Four Continents Championships.

At the Olympics so far: Uno competed the short program in the team event for Japan, but not the free skate. He won the short program phase, but Japan ultimately finished fifth overall.

Notes: Uno is making his Olympic debut in PyeongChang. He earned silver behind Nathan Chen at the Grand Prix Final in December by half a point. He won silver behind Jin Boyang at the Four Continents a few weeks ago by three points. Uno is one of two men this season to break the 300 point mark in total score.

Jin Boyang, China

Credentials: two-time Worlds bronze medalist, four-time Chinese national champion

Buzz about Jin: Jin is one of two men this season to break the 300 point mark in total score, doing so at his most recent victory at the Four Continents Championships.  

Season so far: Jin started his season by winning an event in Finland, then competing on the Grand Prix series. He earned a silver medal in China and finished fourth at Skate America. He was reportedly dealing with injuries to his ankles, but won the 2018 Four Continents Championships in January.

Notes: Jin often credited with sparking the quad jumping revolution in men’s skating, starting with his six quad attempts across the short and long programs for the 2015-16 season.

Javier Fernandez, Spain

Credentials: 2015 and 2016 world champion, six-time European Championships gold medalist

Buzz about Fernandez: Javier Fernandez is competing in his third Olympics. He finished 14th in Vancouver 2010 and off the podium in fourth in Sochi, separated from bronze by 1.18 points, due to a costly mistake at the end of his free skate. He remains a medal threat at age 26, one of the oldest skaters in the men’s field.

Season so far: For the Olympic season, Fernandez started off with a win over Hanyu at the Autumn Classic. Fernandez’s Grand Prix assignments took him to China, where he finished sixth, and France, where he won. His next competition was January’s 2018 European Championships, where he won his sixth consecutive gold medal.

Notes: He trains in Toronto alongside one of his rivals, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. They share coach Brian Orser, who won Olympic silver medals in 1984 and 1988.

Patrick Chan, Canada

Credentials: three-time world champion (2011, 2012, 2013), two-time Olympic silver medalist (2014 men’s and team event), 10-time Canadian national champion

Buzz about Chan: Chan is making his third Olympic appearance. He finished fifth in front of a home crowd in Vancouver 2010, and earned two silvers at the Sochi Games. With few competitions to measure this season, Chan is a bit of an unknown factor, but can’t be counted out.

Season so far: The Olympic season brought many changes for Chan. He started the season with a fourth place finish at Skate Canada and then withdrew from his second Grand Prix assignment. In the meantime, he left coach Marina Zoueva and now has Oleg Epstein and Ravi Walia on his coaching team. He relocated to Vancouver, too. Chan’s next competition was the Canadian nationals, where he won his 10th title and was named to his third Olympic team.

At the Olympics so far: Chan is the first Canadian man to win an Olympic gold medal. He competed in the short and long programs for Canada in the team event and helped the country to gold.

Notes: Chan recently turned 27 and is another of the oldest competitor’s in the men’s field. He’s been surpassed in technical ability by teenagers throwing multiple quads, but he consistently receives high artistic marks.  

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