Chinese American figure skating star Nathan Chen is on track to win his first Olympic gold for Team USA after a world-record-setting routine in the men’s short program on Tuesday.
On the first day of the competition, the 22-year-old athlete broke the record set by his main rival, Japan’s “Ice Prince,” Yuzuru Hanyu, with a score of 113.97, reported CNN.
Chen, whose Olympic debut in 2018 was dubbed “disastrous,” topped the program’s rankings by successfully landing a series of quadruple jumps as he skated to “La Boheme.”
The world-record-breaking score places Chen ahead of his competitors, including Japanese skaters Yuma Kagiyama, who placed second with a score of 108.12, and Shoma Uno, who placed third with a score of 105.90.
Two-time Olympic champion Hanyu, who set the previous record with a score of 111.82 at the 2020 Four Continents, landed in eighth place with a score of 95.15, reported Kyodo News.
Hanyu is reportedly planning to attempt the quadruple axel — the most challenging jump in figure skating — when the contenders face each other again during the free skate program on Thursday.
“Looking back I almost never do stuff like that, I guess it’s just indicative of how I felt in that moment — very happy,” said Chen after the event. “I’d say it’s pretty close to my best. Obviously, there are always things you can improve on, there are always things you can do a little bit better, but overall I’m very happy.”
Meanwhile, Hanyu told the press that he was not able to take off for the jump as his skate “got caught in a hole in the ice,” reported ESPN.
“I have one more chance,” Hanyu said. “I have lots of time with the music and many jumps in there, so I [can] be my best.”
“I didn’t feel like I’d made a mistake, so I kept my feelings focused on performing the rest of the program,” Hanyu was quoted by The Japan Times as saying. “I’m very thankful to have received 95 points, and I want to praise myself for performing the rest of my elements with such a high level of quality.”
Vincent Zhou of Team USA did not compete in the program. Due to his recent positive test result for COVID-19, he had to withdraw from the Olympics.