Day of History in Pyeongchang: Yuzuru Hanyu Repeats as Gold Medalist Becoming the First Male Figure Skater to Defend Olympic Title in 66 Years


Yuzuru Hanyu successfully defended his gold medal in PyeongChang, tallying 317.85 total points. Shoma Uno, also from Japan, took the silver with 306.90 points. Javier Fernandez won Spain’s first-ever Olympic figure skating medal, a bronze, with 305.24 points.

All three men from Team USA finished inside the top 10. Nathan Chen rallied from 17th in the short program to fifth overall. Vincent Zhou followed for sixth in his Olympic debut, while Adam Rippon finished 10th.

“This is the best day of my skating life,” Hanyu said after winning. “My tears were from my heart. I can find one word and that is happy.”

Hanyu injured his ankle in November; the PyeongChang are Olympics are his first competition since. His recovery took longer than expected and he only returned to landing his triple Axel about three weeks ago. His quads only came back two weeks ago.

Hanyu joins an exclusive club of men’s skaters who have won successive Olympic golds: Gillis Grafstron (Sweden; 1920, 1924, 1928), Karl Schafer (Austria, 1932 and 1936), and most recently, Dick Button (United States, 1948 and 1952).

Also like Button, Hanyu came to the Olympics as the reigning world champion. The most recent man to win Olympic gold as the reigning world champion was Team USA’s Evan Lysacek in 2010.

Hanyu is also the third Japanese athlete across all Winter Olympic sports to win two gold medals. The others, Kenji Ogiwara and Takanori Kono, won gold in Nordic combined’s team event in 1992 and 1994.

It’s the third consecutive medal for Japanese men at the Olympics. The trend began in 2010 with Daisuke Takahashi’s bronze, followed by Hanyu’s two golds.

This is the first Olympic men’s event in 16 years that two men from the same country have earned medals. In PyeongChang, it’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno; in 2002, it was Alexei Yagudin and Yevgeny Plushenko.

“I missed the first jump, but the rest of the program was fine,” Uno said of his silver medal-winning program. “I stayed calm after the mistake and was able to give a good performance. I tried to skate like in practice.

“I tried hard for the jumps. I know the success rate is not that high, but I still wanted to try everything.”

With his bronze medal, Javier Fernandez of Spain made history of his own. He earned the first-ever figure skating medal for Spain and only the fourth Winter Olympics medal overall. The first two were won by Alpine skier siblings in 1972 and 1992. On Thursday, Spain’s Regino Hernandez took a surprise bronze in snowboard cross. Spain doubled their all-time medal tally at the Winter Olympics after Hernandez’s and Fernandez’s PyeongChang medals.

“I finally got the medal I always wanted,” Fernandez said. “I am proud I can take it home and share it with the people.

“It means a lot. For my country I hope it means a lot also. I know it means a lot for my family, they put so much effort, so much money, so much time into this. Same as me. I am sure they are as happy as I am. It means the world.”

Fernandez and Hanyu train together under coach Brian Orser, a two-time Olympic silver medalist himself. Orser also coached South Korean superstar Yuna Kim to her 2010 gold medal.

The American men each had notable free skates to close out their PyeongChang experiences.

Nathan Chen, in lowly 17th after the short program, became the first man to land five clean quads in a free skate at the Olympics. He attempted six, though one received negative Grades of Execution.

Chen won the free skate by 8.91 points over gold medalist Hanyu. Chen already won a bronze medal in the team event earlier in the Games.

“I did the best I could in the free program to try to catch up with the points, but it was not enough to clinch a podium spot. I am proud of my long program and I was able to win the long actually. It was a big accomplishment for me. So onwards and upwards.”

Plus, Chen is only 18. He could continue to appear in Olympic Games in the future, and hinted that he wants to do so.

“I think so. I still haven’t been able to stitch up the dream that I have had. Although I am here, I want to be on the top of the podium someday.”

Vincent Zhou finished right behind his teammate in sixth place in his Olympic debut. Zhou is the youngest member of Team USA across all sports. Vincent Zhou put out a strong free skate to conclude his 2018 Olympic experience. Zhou attempted five quads in the program, though three were called clean. He tallied a personal best 192.16 points and his best overall score of 279.69 points.

What’s next for Zhou? He will spend a few more days in PyeongChang before turning toward the world championships in Milan, Italy in March. And four years from now, he’ll have big plans for the 2022 Beijing Olympics.

“It’s prime time, baby,” he said, laughing. “That was my Adam Rippon moment.”

Adam Rippon, also making his Olympic debut at age 28, stunned the crowd with his free skate to finish 10th overall. He tallied 171.41 points for a total overall score of 259.36 points.

Could this have been the final competitive skate for Rippon?

“I have no idea,” he said. “I think at first I need a five-minute break and a really stiff drink and then maybe like a day or two off the ice, at least to dry out my costumes, and then we’ll see.

“For me personally, I am going into my last spins and I’m like, ‘I am having my Olympic moment that I have worked so hard for’. Three clean programmes here at the Olympic Games and to come away and finish in the top 10 in the individual and have a bronze medal you know, that bronze is worth it’s weight in gold.”

You can watch the skaters get their medals at 5 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 17 using the stream below.
SOURCE: NBC Olympics, by Rachel Lutz

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