In a reversal of fortunes from the last Olympic Games, American Nathan Chen scored a world record in the figure skating short program in Beijing on Tuesday, giving him a massive lead over a shocked Yuzuru Hanyu in their quest for the gold medal.
At the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, Chen – also a gold-medal favourite then – had finished the short program at 17th place after a disastrous performance, while Japan’s Hanyu went on to win his second consecutive Olympic gold.
“I feel really shocked,” Hanyu said, appearing to be lost for words after failing to land his opening quadruple Salchow – a rare trip-up that he blamed on a hole in the ice.
“It makes me wonder, did I do something wrong to deserve this?” said Hanyu, who scored 95.15 – far from the previous world record that he held of 111.82 – and miles away from Chen’s fresh record of 113.97.
Hanyu goes into the free skate on Thursday at eighth place.
Canadian figure skater Keegan Messing was ninth, a day after arriving at the Beijing Olympics.
Skating to Charles Aznavour’s La Boheme, Chen landed all of his elements including two quadruple jumps flawlessly, leaving the triple world champion celebrating with fist pumps at its conclusion.
Japan’s rising-star, 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama, came in second place with a new personal best of 108.12, followed by compatriot Shoma Uno.