Nathan Chen, Knierims land U.S. contingent in second place after team event
Grand Prix Final champion Nathan Chen made his Olympic debut in PyeongChang as part of the U.S. quad competing in the team event on Thursday night. Both Chen and two-time U.S. national pair champions Alexa Scimeca Knierm and Chris Knierim contributed their short programs.
Chen scored 80.61 points in after his short program, set to “Nemesis” by Benjamin Clementine. Chen executed the first quadruple flip ever seen in Olympic competition, before tacking on a double toeloop in combination. His planned a second quad jump, a quad toe, but doubled it instead. It was invalidated, and then he fell on his triple Axel attempt.
He finished in fourth place in the phase, and earned Team USA seven points. On the NBC broadcast, he said he was disappointed with his performance and because he felt he “let the team down.”
In first place is Shoma Uno, who is often seen as Japan’s No. 2 man behind reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Earlier in the week, Hanyu officially opted out of the team event to allow for the maximum recovery time after he injured his ankle in November. Japan is not expected to earn a medal in the team event.
Uno cracked the 100-point barrier with his first place score of 103.25 points. He earned 10 points for Japan. Alexei Bychenko from Israel is in second place and earned nine points for his country.
"It is my first time coming to the Olympics and I thought I would be very anxious, but I wasn't as anxious as I thought," Uno said afterward. "I thought I was going to make a mistake on the quad flip and I did, but I was able to forget about it."
Uno added that he was prepared for the early (local) competition time at the PyeongChang venue.
"I was quite sleepy in the morning, but I practised hard in the morning practice as well as at home in Japan. I also got about three hours of sleep before the competition, so it was fine."
Three-time world champion Patrick Chan from Canada finished third overall, earning eight points for his country.
South Korea’s skater, Cha Jun-Hwan, made his Olympic debut by skating in front of a home audience. He scored his country five points by finishing in sixth place on home ice.
Mikhail Kolyada, competing on behalf of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, finished in eighth place and earned the team three points. The Russian squad is widely seen as a medal threat in this event, having won gold in the team event the first time it was contested in 2014.
The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points.
Later Thursday, European gold medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov finished first in the pair event, representing Olympic Athletes from Russia. The pair team picked up 10 points for OAR/Russia. Two-time world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford followed for second place, earning Canada nine points.
"It was important to do a strong short program, a season's best," Morozov said. "We hope our performance will motivate the rest of the team."
The pair representing Germany, Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot, finished third and earned eight points.
"With a fall, you cannot be satisfied. Not everything went according to plan. But this is why we have that kind of rehearsal," Savchenko said.
Massot added: "Especially for me, at my first Olympics, it is good to have that first experience before the real competition."
The sole U.S. pair team at the PyeongChang Olympics took the ice later Thursday. The married U.S. pair, the Knierims, were nearly flawless after their short program. Their “Come What May” performance scored 69.75 points and earned seven points for Team USA.
The Gangneung venue is where the Knierims returned to competition exactly a year ago, after Scimeca Knierim recovered from multiple abdominal injuries.
The short program phase only includes a field of 10 skaters in the team event. Each earns points for their country, and after each skating discipline finishes the short program phase, the bottom five teams will be eliminated. The top five teams advance and have one entrant perform their free skate or free dance.