The men's figure skating competition got underway with a drama-filled short program. One of the spotlight events of the 2014 Winter Olympics will conclude on Friday with the free skate. Yuzuru Hanyu leads the way heading into the second routine.
Although there were plenty of noteworthy performances, the story that stole the spotlight was the withdrawal of Russian star Evgeni Plushenko and his subsequent announcement that he will retire, per the Associated Press' Barry Wilner via Yahoo! News.
Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun provided comments from the disappointed veteran after he was forced to exit due to a back injury:
"This is not how I wanted to end my career." Evgeni Plushenko after withdrawing from men's singles because of a bad back. #Sochi2014— steve buffery (@Beezersun) February 13, 2014
Unfortunately, he was the only skater from the host nation in the men's event. So after he was forced out of the competition, the previously electric atmosphere took a hit for the other skaters. It did present an opportunity for others, however, because Plushenko was a medal contender.
With that in mind, let's check out how the other 29 skaters fared in the short program. The results are followed by a recap of the action from the Iceberg Skating Palace.
Men's Singles Short Program Results
|19||Michael Christian Martinez||PHI||64.81|
|27||Paul Bonifacio Parkinson||ITA||56.30|
Sochi2014.com; Highlighted Skaters Eliminated
One of the best performances during the first half of the short program came from American medal hopeful Jeremy Abbott. He took an extremely hard fall during the early stages of his routine and laid on the ice for awhile holding his side.
Instead of calling it quits, though, he did his best to save the program. His decision to skate on won over the fans and he actually performed very well the rest of the way. Deductions and element grades prevented a huge score, and very likely dropped him from medal contention, but he still managed to post a respectable number given the circumstances.
Another one of the strong performers in the early going was fellow American Jason Brown. It was unclear exactly how competitive he could be without a quad toe loop, but he was very efficient in connecting on his elements to earn a solid score of 86.
Christine Brennan of USA Today noted it was a career best for Brown:
Jason Brown aka @jasonbskates receives 86.00, a career best. Moves into first place. Terrific short program for him.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 13, 2014
Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic also put together a good program before the top names took to the ice.
The action really started to pick up with Japan's Hanyu, though. Not only did he deliver a picture-perfect quad, but his elements were also really strong across the board. On a day where there were plenty of slips and falls, he made a major statement.
As NBC Olympics' Nick McCarvel pointed out, the judges agreed as his score set a new record:
The strong program was the start of a very impressive stretch.
Patrick Chan of Canada, who's the skater to beat after winning gold at the World Championships each of the past three years, also delivered an elite program. If not for a step out on his triple Axel, there's a good chance he would have been right up there with Hanyu.
Instead, as Brittany Greenslade of Global Winnipeg noted, he was a shade under four points off the pace:
Javier Fernandez of Spain and Brian Joubert of France couldn't match the spectacular skates of Hanyu and Chan, but they both scored above 85 to remain in medal contention.
The Czech Republic's Michal Brezina opened the final group of skaters with an uptempo program that had a lot of potential if he could have connected on all of the elements. He was a bit off, however, especially on the Salchow, which stopped him from getting closer to the leaders.
Daisuke Takahashi of Japan and Peter Liebers of Germany were the standouts among the last group.
Takahashi could have put himself in the driver's seat for the bronze medal if he connected on his quad attempt. He couldn't do it, but still managed to earn fourth place in the short program. That shows how strong his other elements were.
Liebers also pushed his way into the top five. Like Takahashi, he didn't put together a completely perfect run, with one his miscues coming on the flying camel spin. That said, there was still enough quality overall to get him in medal contention.
Which skater will win gold?
Looking ahead to the free skate on Friday, it's seemingly a two-man race between Hanyu and Chan for the gold. They would both need poor performances in the second portion of the competition for the door to open for other skaters.
While they'll likely battle for gold, there should be an equally intriguing race for the other medal spot. There are 10 skaters, including Brown from the United States, within six points of third place heading into Friday.
Updated Medal Count