Sochi recap: Figure skating, men’s short program

Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko fell in pain and couldn’t keep going. American Jeremy Abbott fell hard into the side of the rink but won over the Russian fans by getting back up and completing an otherwise strong program. Meanwhile, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu had the best point total in an international event, and the USA’s Jason Brown was among a gaggle of skaters with a legitimate shot at bronze behind Hanyu and Patrick Chan.

Date: 13-Feb

Sport: Figure skating

Event: Men’s short program

How U.S. fared: Jeremy Abbott went up for his first jump, a quad-triple combination, and wiped out like a short-track skater on the quad landing. He slammed hard on his side and skidded hard into the boards. For a few seconds, it seems as if he would follow Evgeni Plushenko in withdrawing.

But Abbott got up, tentatively went across the ice, heard the crowd, and kept right on going. He got through the rest of his program with hardly a bobble.

It wasn’t as if the judges went overboard with sympathy. They still gave Abbott a negative Grade of Execution on his triple axel. He scored a 72.58, pretty good for someone who nearly broke himself in half attempting his first jump. No medal for him, but if anyone ever questions the guts that figure skaters bring to the ice, show that clip. He’s in 15th.

Jason Brown seems to be a Prince fan. He skated to Prince music (alas, not one of the classics) and had the old Prince symbol on his back. And he skated cleanly, just without the dazzling jumps of a few others. His 86.00 was ahead of his season best of 84.77. He’s in sixth place, just 0.98 points out of third.

What happened: Not a figure skating fan but looking for a fun performance that actually rocks? Check out Canada’s Kevin Reynolds, who leapt around to some AC/DC.

The favorites threw down in the second-to-last group. Japanese teen Yuzuru Hanyu did a fist bump after landing a flawless quad, and his confidence carried him through. He’s the first person to break 100 in an international men’s short program.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez followed with a good program despite a couple of missteps here and there. Then came the other big favorite — Canada’s Patrick Chan, skating to Rachmaninov. His opening quad-triple combo was a nice answer to Hanyu’s challenge — add the +2.00 Grade of Execution, and he got 16.40 points just on that. But he had to step out of a landing on a triple axel. With the arena so quiet you could hear Chan’s skates scrape across the ice, the Canadian nailed the rest of his program for a strong 97.52, well ahead of Fernandez and Brown — and certainly in striking range of Hanyu.

French veteran Brian Joubert, accomplished everywhere but the Olympics, closed the penultimate program with a clean, conservative program.

In the last group, Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten had the potential to challenge the leaders, but he fell badly on his opening quad and could only salvage an 84.06.

Germany’s Peter Liebers sparked a debate between NBC commentators Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski. Weir thought he was solid but not memorable. Lipinski disagreed. The judges didn’t give him great component scores, but he moved ever so slightly ahead of Brown at 86.04.

China’s Han Yan stumbled a bit to get an 85.66. The last two were the Japanese, starting with Daisuke Takahashi. The defending bronze medalist underrotated his opening quad and landed on two feet. He wound up joining the logjam between third and 10th.

Tatsuki Machida, who won a pair of Grand Prix events this season, joined the end of that logjam by failing to finish a couple of his planned elements. He’s at 83.48 points, just 3.5 behind Fernandez in third.

Quote: “The second I stood up and the crowd was screaming, I had to finish.” – Jeremy Abbott on NBC

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