In an Olympic rarity, the 2022 figure skating competition kicks off before the Opening Ceremony with the start of the three-day team event on Thursday night U.S. time.
Nathan Chen stars for Team USA as its sole entry for the men’s short program component at 8:55 p.m. ET, followed by ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue in the rhythm dance at 10:35 p.m. ET and pairs team Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in their short program at 12:15 a.m. ET.
Chen enters as an Olympic medal favorite in not only the men’s singles competition but the team event as well. The three-time reigning world champion is in the team event short program for the second time, but has much higher hopes after flubbing his Olympic debut performance at the PyeongChang 2018 Games. He was fourth of the 10 men’s skaters after mistakes, including a fall on his triple axel, cost him in Korea.
The U.S. earned bronze then but enters the 2022 Games with a shot at the silver medal. The other podium contenders include the Russian Olympic Committee, which could include reigning world champions in three of figure skating’s four disciplines, and Japan.
Men’s Short Program
Group 1 feat. Michal Brezina and Jin Boyang
With the start order for each discipline in the team event based on world standings, Germany’s Paul Fentz started the competition. The German team is competing without its pairs entry of Minerva Hase and Nolan Seegert after Seegert tested positive for COVID once in Beijing.
Fentz earned 68.84 points in what will be his only Olympic performance here. Germany did not qualify a men’s skater, but was granted a men’s spot for just the team event based on the country’s overall ranking and it having an entry for the remaining three disciplines.
Canadian Roman Sadovsky topped Fentz with 71.06 points. Canada won the 2018 Olympic team event gold medal, but has not factored into medal conversations for these Games due to the retirement of two-time Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, 2014 Olympic silver medalist Patrick Chan and 2018 Olympic pairs bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
At his fourth Olympics, 31-year-old Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic moved into first with a score of 76.77 points. Brezina trains at Great Park Ice & FivePoint Arena in Irvine, California, with Chen and their coach Rafael Arutunian.
China’s Jin Boyang, who was fourth in men’s singles in PyeongChang, fell on his quad toe but still earned the highest score so far with 82.87 points.
Group 2 feat. Uno and Chen
Final group to come, which includes (in order) Mark Kondratyuk (ROC), Shoma Uno (JPN), Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO), Chen (USA) and Daniel Grassl (ITA).
ROC’S Kondratyuk was easily into first with a short program that started with a quad toe and ended with a quad salchow for 95.81 points.
Uno, the 2018 Olympic silver medalist, starts the Japanese team’s quest for its first medal in this event with a personal best score of 105.46 points. His clean short program featured an opening quad flip, quad toe-triple toe combo and a triple axel.
The Georgian team is off to a strong start in its first Olympic team event appearance thanks to Kvitelashvili who lands third with 92.37 points, behind Uno and Kondratyuk, in the country’s quest to advance to the free skate/dance portion.
With U.S. teammates Mariah Bell, Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, Karen Chen, and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker cheering him on in the team box, Chen avenges his 2018 team event performance with a virtually flawless performance to Charles Aznavour’s version of “La Boheme.” The 22-year-old earned an international personal best score of 111.71 points.
“Honestly I’m just here to have fun, so I’m really happy,” Chen told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce.
Grassl then put Italy into fifth with 88.10 points.
Heading into the rhythm dance, the U.S. is ranked first (earning 10 points for the team event), followed by Japan (9), ROC (8), Georgia (7) and Italy (6) rounding out the top five. In jeopardy of being eliminated following the short/rhythm programs is China (5), Czech Republic (4), Canada (3) and Germany (2).
Ukraine is the 10 team in the event but has yet to start as its men’s entry, Ivan Shmuratko, tested positive for COVID.
Ice Dance – Rhythm Dance
10:48 p.m. ET: Japan is first to go in its weakest discipline, making Misato Komatsubara and Tim Koleto‘s placement all the more important to its country’s hunt for an Olympic medal. In their Olympic debut, they get the rhythm dance off to a solid start, earning 66.54 points.
10:55 p.m. ET: Performing to a medley of five Madonna songs, Czech Republic’s brother-sister duo of Natalie Taschlerova and Filip Taschler quickly top the Japanese team with a score of 68.99 points.
11:03 p.m. ET: With a fan-favorite program in which Germans Katharina Mueller and Tim Dieck portray Harley Quinn and Joker, Mueller lost her balance during a twizzle sequence and they sit in third of the three teams with 63.21 points.
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