Nathan Chen has won the last three world championships in men’s figure skating, and comes into Beijing as the man to beat. But the American has one major hurdle standing in his way: Yuzuru Hanyu, the Japanese skater who has won the last two Olympic gold medals.
Chen and Hanyu are the clear favorites to take the top two spots in the men’s figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics, which begins on Tuesday.
Chen looks to leave Olympic struggles in the past
The American is the clear favorite, however. DraftKings Sportsbook rates Chen as the -330 pick to win gold, with Hanyu following close behind at +300. Hanyu’s Japanese teammates, Shoma Uno (+1000) and Yuma Kagiyama (+1200), will also be battling for podium positions with the two titans of men’s figure skating.
Chen struggled in Pyeongchang during the 2018 Winter Olympics. After a poor performance in the short program of the team competition, he fell once and made several other mistakes during his individual short program. That left him sitting in a stunning 17th place heading into the free skate. While Chen dominated the longer program, he still finished in fifth place overall.
“I don’t really remember how that program went and felt,” Chen told the Los Angeles Times. “I don’t really feel the need to go back and look at that. What I did, what I learned, what I experienced – that’s stuff that I’m carrying already, and all that stuff has already helped me.”
Given Chen’s recent performances, he stands as a deserving favorite heading into the men’s figure skating competition. Still, bettors shouldn’t dismiss Hanyu, who looms over the sport, especially in the Olympics.
Hanyu aiming to land quad axel
Not only is Hanyu the two-time defending Olympic champion, but he has won two more world championships in his illustrious career, and has medaled seven times in the event, including a bronze in 2021. The 27-year-old will be trying to land a quad axel, something no skater has done in competition so far.
That would require Hanyu to complete four-and-a-half rotations in the air, a harrowing feat for even the best skaters in the world.
“I’ve been practicing thinking I might die from a concussion if I fall and hit my head on the ice,” Hanyu told Mainichi Shimbun in Japan.
Hanyu nearly landed the jump in the Japanese nationals, but landed with two feet rather than on one. He’s willing to try it again at the Olympics in the hopes of pushing Chen for gold.
“When you put on the Japan jersey, you have to win,” Hanyu told reporters after winning the Japanese nationals in December. “The Olympics isn’t a recital. It’s a place where you have to win.”
Zhou withdraws from men’s figure skating event
American Vincent Zhou also rated as a potential medal contender. However, he will not take part in the men’s figure skating competition after testing positive for COVID-19 during the team competition.
“It seems pretty unreal that of all the people it would happen to myself,” Zhou said in an Instagram video confirming he had withdrawn from the event. “I’ve taken all the precautions I can. I’ve isolated myself so much that the loneliness that I felt in the last month or two has been crushing at times.”