Nathan Chen may be one of the favorites to win a gold medal in men’s figure skating, but the 18-year-old American’s first appearance at the Winter Olympics got off to a rocky start during the team event on Thursday night.

Nathan Chen team event
Nathan Chen made multiple major errors in his short program for the team figure skating event, but will hope to bounce back in the men’s competition. (Image: Matthew Stockman/Getty)

Chen fell once and failed to properly complete several elements in the men’s short program, the first of eight rounds in the team competition. The relatively poor routine, by his standards, dropped him to fourth place in the ten team competition, earning the United States seven points out of a possible 10.

Skating observers were stunned by his performance, some labeling it disastrous.

“That’s the worst short program I’ve ever seen from Nathan Chen,” said NBC analyst and two-time Olympian Johnny Weir.

Olympic Jitters

But if Chen was going to have a disappointing skate, it came at the right time. The results won’t have any bearing on his individual men’s scoring, and it might be just what the 17-year-old needs to mentally prepare for that event.

“I’m glad that I got the opportunity you need to at least come out there and put the programs down and learn from it,” said Chen. “Right now, all I can do is try to analyze what I did wrong, let it go and move on.”

One of the factors that may have thrown Chen and other skaters off was the morning start time. Chen started at 11 am local time (9 pm ET, 6 pm PT), as Olympic schedulers moved the figure skating events to a time more friendly for prime time TV viewing in the United States.

“I don’t think any of us in our entire careers, even mine, have ever skated this early,” said Canadian Patrick Chan, who won two silver medals at the 2014 Sochi Games and fell twice in his own routine. “I definitely think that played a role.”

Canada Solid Team Favorite

Chan would finish third for Canada, behind leader Shoma Uno of Japan and Oleksii Bychenko of Israel. Both countries also had solid results in the pairs short program, putting Canada in the lead with 17 points, and the USA in second with 14. On Saturday, the ice dancing and women’s short programs will be contested, after which the top five nations will move on to the free skate portion of the competition.

The results so far have solidified Canada’s position as a heavy favorite. The Canadians are now listed by Bwin at -250 to be the outright winner, while the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) have faded a bit to +210 after opening as a co-favorite. OAR posted just three points in the men’s competition, but bounced back to win the pairs short program to move up to fourth place overall.  The USA (+600) is still given an outside chance of walking away with the gold medals as well.

Chen’s disappointing performance in the team event has not soured oddsmakers on his chances in the men’s competition. While Uno (+140) remains the favorite, Chen (+200) is right behind him, with Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu (+225) also considered one of the favorites to be on the podium.