Friday, July 1, 2022

American star Chen wins gold in Olympic figure skating, Hanyu fourth

American star Chen wins gold in Olympic figure skating, Hanyu fourth

BEIJING (AFP) – Nathan Chen demolished the competition to win Olympic figure skating gold in Beijing, easily beating twice defending champion and fierce rival Yuzuru Hanyu, who finished fourth.

The American scored 218.63 on his free programme Thursday, building on his world-record-breaking short programme score from Tuesday to finish over 20 points ahead of second-placed Yuma Kagiyama of Japan.

As the music died, Chen dropped his head back in exalted relief.

Olympic gold had been the only major prize that had so far eluded the three-time world champion -- his overall score of 332.60 has now secured it.

Skating to "Rocket Man" by Elton John, Chen lived up to his nickname "Quad King" in a routine in which he landed five quadruple jumps, to rapturous cheers from the crowd.

Hanyu, who finished fourth behind his younger compatriots Kagiyama and Shoma Uno, had looked in trouble as he fell twice in his routine earlier.

His free programme score of 188.06 was far short of his all-time best of 212.99.

After a shaky start on Tuesday in the short programme, where he finished eighth, Hanyu needed to make up a gap of 18.82 points to beat Chen.

He was visibly nervous before he started -- hanging off the rink's edge, staring at the floor, making the sign of the cross and audibly keying himself up just before he took his starting position.

He first attempted a quadruple axel -- a jump no skater has ever landed in competition but which he had insisted he would perform at the Beijing Games.

He failed to land it and fell to the ice.

He quickly rose but fell once more, before carrying on his "Heaven and Earth" programme with his usual polished precision.

Looking crushed as the music died down, Hanyu recovered and skated off the rink with his head held high, the crowd still cheering him.

Hanyu said: "I think I did everything I could. I definitely landed a better axel than the previous time. Part of me feels I could've done it better, but that's the best I could pull off, I think."