Chen sets world record in figure skating

Dave Skretta |

American Nathan Chen has broken the world record in the Olympic figure skating short program.
American Nathan Chen has broken the world record in the Olympic figure skating short program.

American figure skater Nathan Chen has shattered the world record during his short program at the Beijing Olympics, scoring 113.97 points.

He beat the previous mark of long-time rival Yuzuru Hanyu and put himself in a strong position to win his long-coveted gold medal.

With a confident smirk as he took the ice, the 22-year-old Chen avenged his poor performance from four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games.

He opened with a perfect quad flip, breezed through a triple axel that sometimes causes him problems and then drilled his quad flip-triple toe loop combination.

Chen’s total was nearly six points ahead of Yuma Kagiyama, who is second, and nearly 20 ahead of Hanyu, the two-time Olympic champion who bailed on his opening quad attempt during a calamitous short program.

“I was just elated,” said Chen, who helped the Americans 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.”

The charismatic Chen now needs a strong free skate on Thursday to become an Olympic champion.

“There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it and a lot of things that you learn from year to year,” he said.

“So I definitely picked up a lot of experience over the past couple of years, and certainly you learn the most from your mistakes.”

Kagiyama is on 108.12 points, while fellow Japanese skater Shoma Uno – the reigning Olympic silver medallist – is third with 105.90 points.

Instead of Hanyu, their longtime idol, it will be Kagiyama and Uno standing in the way of Chen’s gold medal.

“I feel really shocked today, but I have one more chance,” said Hanyu, who believes his skate hit a hole early in his short program, forcing him to skip out of a planned quad salchow and leaving him in eighth place with 95.15 points.

The showdown between Chen and Hanyu has been building the past four years, since what Chen called a “disastrous” short program in Pyeongchang took him out of medal contention before he felt he had arrived.

The short program he nailed in Beijing, with a base value of 36.27 points, was the hardest ever in competition.

Chen’s ferociously steady build toward his second Olympics, a stretch that included three world titles and the most recent of his six national championships, contrasted starkly with the bumpy, injury-filled path that Hanyu took to Beijing.

But just when it appeared that Uno and Kagiyama had surpassed the 27-year-old Hanyu, he showed up at the Japanese championship in December and regained his crown.

The long-awaited matchup between two of figure skating’s titans was on for Beijing.

Hanyu, skating well before Chen, was seconds into his program when he set up for the first of two planned quads.

Something was amiss the moment he took off, and Hanyu bailed out of the salchow to an audible gasp from the carefully separated crowd of a few thousand people inside Capital Indoor Stadium.

Australian Brendan Kerry scored 84.79 to sit 17th and also qualify for the medal round.