American teenager Nathan Chen Thursday took a commanding lead after the men’s short program, outperforming runner-up Shoma Uno of Japan on the opening day of the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final in Nagoya. The prestigious competition came as the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over a state-orchestrated doping program.
Chen, the reigning US champion, opened with a superb quad Lutz-triple toeloop combination and leapt for a quadruple flip and a triple Axel, soaring to 103.32 points, followed by Uno with 101.51 points. “Both of my quads were a little bit shaky because I was nervous and a little stressed,” the 18-year-old said. “I will focus on tomorrow and for the future trust myself (to) use energy to put on the show as best as I can,” Chen said.
Uno who won silver at the world championships earlier this year displayed a masterful quadruple flip and a quad toeloop-triple toeloop combination but fell on the ice in his triple Axel, dismaying local fans in his hometown Nagoya. “When I made (the) mistake, this is not like ‘I felt so disappointed’,” Uno said. “But I felt like ‘Let’s get this done better next time’,” he added.
Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada, who finished third, said he tried to keep emotional distance from the IOC ruling, which still allows clean Russian athletes to compete under the Olympic flag. “I have not been reading the news. I tried to stay away from that because it is distracting,” Kolyada said. “The main thing obviously is to get to go to the Olympic Games.”
The men’s field was shadowed by the absence of Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, who is rehabilitating his ankle ligaments after an injury a big setback just two months before he is due to defend his gold medal in Pyeongchang. The men’s free skating and the women’s short program will take place on Friday.