Men's Figure Skating Olympics 2014: Top Contenders to Take Home Gold

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Men's Figure Skating Olympics 2014: Top Contenders to Take Home Gold
Bernat Armangue/Associated Press

Although the men's figure skating team event has begun in Sochi, fans will have to wait a little while longer to see the best in the world go head to head.

The competition will be tight this year, as few skaters are distancing themselves from the pack. Sure Patrick Chan comes in as the prohibitive favorite, but there are plenty of other top talents who threaten his place as the world's best.

Along with Chan, here are three other skaters capable of finishing top of the podium in men's figure skating.

 

Favorites

Patrick Chan, Canada

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

All eyes are on Patrick Chan in Sochi. Few athletes are getting more press than the 23-year-old Canadian, and rightfully so.

He's won three straight World Championships and in the two years before that winning streak began, he earned silver.

One of Chan's best performances came at the Trophee Bompard Grand Prix. He earned a first-place finish after posting a spectacular 295.27, almost 32 points better than Yuzuru Hanyu, who finished second. Chan also broke his own world records in the short and long programs.

If anybody else but Chan wins gold in men's figure skating, it will be a big surprise.

 

Javier Fernandez, Spain

Darko Bandic/Associated Press

No Spanish figure skater has been as successful as Javier Fernandez. Only 22 years old, he's the reigning back-to-back European champion.

His win back in January was particularly impressive. It's always hard for a defending champion to win again, because he has to top what he did in the previous year. However, that wasn't a problem for Fernandez, as he landed three perfect quads during his free program.

He's looking to continue that run in Sochi, per Olympic.org:

As per usual, I’m going against the grain somewhat by opting for something more fun. I know I can use it to express my personality. That’s my strategy. People say that when I’m at 100 per cent, I’m unstoppable. I believe that too.

With a bronze finish at the 2013 World Championships, Fernandez demonstrated that he can perform on the biggest against the best competition.

 

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan

Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Yuzuru Hanyu is one of the few people in the world who can say that he bested Patrick Chan. The 19-year-old Japanese star beat out Chan at the 2013-14 Grand Prix Final. He recovered well after a failed quad attempt in the free skate to win by a little over 13 points.

Hanyu dazzled fans in Monday's team event short program, with his superb run helping to put Japan in front, per USA Today's Christine Brennan:

As with any Olympic debutant, you wonder if nerves come into play. But with Hanyu's great start in Sochi, he should be perfectly fine when the individual events kick off.

 

Dark Horse

Evgeni Plushenko, Russia

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

No men's figure skater is more decorated as an Olympian than Evgeni Plushenko. The 31-year-old earned a gold in 2006 and silvers in 2002 and 2010.

However, it's hard to disagree with the fact that Plushenko is in Sochi on reputation rather than results. He finished second to Maxim Kovtun at the Russian Championships, but the country opted to send the veteran ahead of the younger star.

It's something that Chan made a subtle jab about when speaking with reporters, per the Toronto Sun's Rosie DiManno:

The backhanded compliments were flying as the three-time world figure skating champion from Toronto — and favorite for Olympic gold here — fielded a question, then another, about Russian “rival” Evgeni Plushenko.

Well, maybe rival in Plushenko’s mind.

“Huh. Plushenko. That’s the talk of the town.”

Maybe so, but not yet seen.

“He’ll probably show up at the last minute.”

Given Plushenko's history at the Olympics, you can't count him out completely. Plus, he's got the home crowd on his side.

 

Follow me on Twitter @JosephZucker.

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