Nathan Chen completed his four-year journey toward an elusive Olympic gold medal Thursday, following his record short program at the Beijing Games with a near-perfect free skate that earned him a standing ovation from supporters inside historic Capital Indoor Stadium, the AP reports. The 22-year-old star landed all five of his quads during his “Rocketman” program, set to the soaring film score by Elton John, to finish with 332.60 points—just three off his own world record—and become the first American champion since Evan Lysacek stood on the top of the podium in 2010 in Vancouver. Chen's score easily outdistanced his two closest pursuers, Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno of Japan, and put firmly in the past any lingering memories of his brutal disappointment four years ago in Pyeongchang.
It might not be the last gold medal Chen takes home, either. The Americans, who earned silver behind Russia in the team event Monday, were awaiting confirmation from the IOC and International Skating Union that “legal issues” holding up the medal ceremony were related to reports of doping linked to Russia's biggest star, Kamila Valieva. That could ultimately elevate the US to the gold medal. Chen did his part for the American team with a winning short program, and Vincent Zhou—who was forced to withdraw from the individual event due to a positive COVID-19 test—also would earn a gold medal for his free skate.
The suave, down-to-earth Chen and his two Japanese pursuers separated themselves from the rest of the field during their short programs, when Chen shattered the world record with a flawless performance to “La Boheme.” When they took the ice for the free skate, Kagiyama and Uno made just enough mistakes to clear the way for Chen's coronation. With a socially distanced crowd watching Thursday afternoon in Beijing, and millions watching back home on late-night TV, the young Yale student soared through his opening quad salchow. Chen landed four more effortless quads, his only slight bobble coming on a late combination sequence. He couldn't wipe the grin from his face as the music finished.
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