Nathan Chen Delivers Incredible, Record-Shattering Short Program

US figure skater scores 113.97 points
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 9, 2022 12:14 AM CST
Nathan Chen's Incredible Short Program Shatters Record
Nathan Chen, of the United States, competes during the men's short program figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Beijing.   (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Nathan Chen had just shattered the world record for a figure skating short program, even throwing a defiant fist in a rare display of emotion, when he was asked how he'd spend the next 48 hours before his long-awaited Olympic coronation. “I've been here a while,” the 22-year-old American star replied with a shrug Tuesday. “I've got some clothes to wash. Some other things to clean around my room. Just ordinary chores, really. Nothing crazy.” He left the crazy—the downright stunning—on the ice of Beijing's historic Capital Indoor Stadium. Wearing a confident smirk, Chen avenged his poor short program from four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games in the biggest way possible. He opened with a perfect quad flip, breezed through his often-vexing triple axel, then drilled his quad lutz-triple toe loop combination before skating to a stop and delivering a right haymaker at the air. (See the routine here.)

His score was 113.97 points, two more than the previous world record set by rival Yuzuru Hanyu, and six points clear of second-place Yuma Kagiyama headed into Thursday's free skate. “I was just elated,” said Chen, who helped the US win team silver earlier this week. “At the last Olympics, both of the short programs didn't go the way I wanted. To finally get an opportunity to skate the programs I wanted feels really good.” Kagiyama drilled a pair of quads and a triple axel during his own dynamic short program to finish with 108.12 points, while fellow Japanese skater Shoma Uno—the reigning Olympic silver medalist—was third with 105.90 points. As for their longtime idol, Hanyu bailed out of his planned opening quad salchow and received no points for the jump, a massive mistake that cost the two-time defending Olympic champion a shot at a third gold medal. Hanyu finished in eighth place with 95.15 points, a deficit so great that not even his planned quad axel in the free skate can make it up.

Chen, whose ferociously steady build toward his second Olympics included three world titles and the most recent of his six national championships, had a base value of 36.27 points for his short program—the hardest ever tried in competition. It left those watching back in the US, including 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton, marveling at his ability. “I have probably said it no less than a thousand times over the past four years—but I'll say it again—when Nathan Chen is on his game, he is virtually unbeatable," Hamilton said. Chen had previously scored his best-ever, 111.71, during the team event, NBC News reports. That was, at the time, the second-highest short program score ever, behind Hanyu's 111.82, the previous record.

(More 2022 Beijing Olympics stories.)

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