Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Hanyu wins men’s Olympic short program, Plushenko retires

SOCHI, Russia — Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu made figure skating history, and now can chase even more of it.

He’ll do so without having to fend off a challenge from another record-setter, Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko.

Hanyu became the first figure skater to break the 100-point mark with a spectacular performance in the men’s short program on Thursday night at the Sochi Games. He earned 101.45 points with a playful, almost seductive routine in which he seemed to flow above the ice.

“I was so surprised with my score,” Hanyu said. “I didn’t know I got over 100.”

He shouldn’t have been, considering the speed, sharpness, entertainment value and total conviction of his skating. He nailed his two biggest jumps, including a huge a quadruple toe loop to open the program, and his triple lutz-triple toe combination was exquisite.

And then the fun began.

He charmed the judges with his facial expressions, staring directly at them with an inviting smile during his intricate steps and turns to “Parisian Walkaways.”

“For Yuzuru, that was perfection,” said his coach, Brian Orser. “That’s as good as it gets.”

Hanyu, 19, also won the men’s short program in the team event and is on quite a run with wins in the Grand Prix Final, Japanese championships and his Sochi achievements.

“I always had pressure. I think I can have confidence after those competitions,” he said.

While Hanyu was soaring to a nearly 4-point lead over three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada, Plushenko finished his stellar career with another injury.

The only figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four games, including gold in the new team event last weekend, Plushenko hurt his back in training Wednesday. He gave it a go in warmups before Thursday’s short program, but after falling on a triple axel, he knew he was done.

“I said to myself, ‘Evgeni, you must skate. It’s two more days, short and long program,’” the 31-year-old and 2006 Olympic gold medalist said.

But he could not.

“I think it’s God saying, ‘Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,’” added Plushenko, who said he’s had 12 surgeries.

No man from an Asian nation or Canada has even won Olympic gold in figure skating. Chan, who was fifth in Vancouver, put on his best Olympic routine to stay within sight of Hanyu.

“Four points in singles men’s is not much,” Chan said. “I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It’s exciting to me.”

Javier Fernandez of Spain, a country that’s never won an Olympic figure skating medal, was third with 86.98.

Hanyu and Fernandez are coached by Orser, who guided South Korea’s Yuna Kim to women’s gold in Vancouver. Because they skated consecutively, Orser had to scramble to change from a gray blazer to a Spain team jacket, but first he sprinted over to congratulate his Japanese student.

American Jason Brown put on the performance his young skating career to finish sixth. He’s within the width of a skate blade of third heading into Friday’s free skate.

“All year in this program, in every competition I have gone to, I have gotten a personal best,” the 19-year-old Brown said. “I didn’t want to stop in the Olympics.”

Brown will be the final skater Friday night. Fernandez leads off the last group of six, with Takahashi second, Hanyu third and Chan fourth. Peter Liebers of Germany is the other skater in the final group.

The night began with wild swings, from Plushenko falling in warmups to U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott crashing. Abbott stayed down for a lengthy period after his fall, and just when coach Yuka Sato was about to open the entry door to help him, he struggled to his feet and continued his program.

The four-time U.S. champ nailed every subsequent element to wind up 15th.

“I’m not in the least bit ashamed,” Abbott said. “I stood up and I finished that program and I’m proud of my effort and I’m proud of what I did under the circumstance.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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