October 4, 2022

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Chen wins Olympic figure skating gold as Hanyu falls, ends fourth

Nathan Chen demolished the opposition to win Olympic figure skating gold in Beijing on Thursday, easily beating defending champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who fell twice and finished fourth.

The American three-time world champion finally claimed the only major prize that had eluded him with his overall score of 332.60, more than 20 points ahead of his nearest challenger.

Chen held his nerve to score 218.63 in his free programme, building on his record-breaking short programme score from Tuesday to win gold from 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama. Another Japanese skater, Shoma Uno, took bronze.

“I never really thought that I’d be able to make it this far in my career,” said the 22-year-old Chen.

“I’d always of course dreamed about making the Olympics and winning the Olympics, but I was like, I don’t know if I can make that happen. I haven’t really had time to process fully, but it’s amazing so far.”

Skating to “Rocket Man” by Elton John, Chen lived up to his nickname “Quad King” in a routine in which he landed five quadruple jumps, to rapturous cheers from the crowd.

As the music died, Chen dropped his head back in relief.

Japanese icon Hanyu, who was chasing a third gold in a row and looking to cement his status as one of the best skaters of all time, was in trouble as he fell twice in his routine.

His free programme score of 188.06 was far short of his all-time best of 212.99.

“I think I did everything I could,” said Hanyu, who only arrived in the Chinese capital on Sunday, two days before competing.

“Honestly, it feels like everything has gone wrong this time around, but I did my best.”

‘Hanyu best ever’
After a shaky start on Tuesday in the short programme, where he finished eighth, the Olympic champion from the 2014 Sochi and 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics needed to make up a gap of 18.82 points to beat Chen.

Hanyu was visibly nervous before he started — hanging off the rink’s edge, staring at the floor, making the sign of the cross and audibly keying himself up just before he took his starting position.

He attempted a quadruple axel — a jump no skater has ever landed in competition but which he had insisted he would perform at the Beijing Games.

He failed to land it and fell to the ice.

He quickly rose but fell once more, before carrying on his “Heaven and Earth” programme with his usual polished precision.

Looking crushed as the music died down, 27-year-old Hanyu recovered and skated off the rink with his head held high, the crowd still cheering him.

Chen said that it had been “an honour to be able to share the ice with Hanyu over the years.

“Again, watching him when I was a kid, I never even dreamed that I would be able to have the opportunity to even skate with him.

“So then to be able to compete against him… it’s just been a really great honour and he’s in my opinion the greatest skater ever.”