After some fantastic performances in the short program, the men's individual figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics is all but over.
Yuzuru Hanyu—who had the best showing in the short program during the team competition—beat his own mark with an incredible technical display on Thursday, as noted by Nick McCarvel of NBC Olympics:
Of course, the battle for gold is not over as Patrick Chan remains less than four points behind heading into the free skate. Additionally, only six points separates third place with 13th.
Here is a look at the current top 10 after the short program, courtesy of Sochi2014.com, followed by predictions for the medals:
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Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Few people had a bad thing to say about Hanyu after his incredible short program. Christine Brennan of USA Today believes he has the gold locked up:
Hanyu breaks his own WR w/ 101.45 points. He will be almost impossible to beat for gold, barring, well, any of stuff that happened earlier.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 13, 2014
Brennan references the early craziness that featured plenty of mistakes and falls from top competitors. However, there seems to be little chance Hanyu will suffer the same fate as his opponents.
The 19-year-old star was flawless with his jumps, especially the quad that netted him 13.16 points. His triple axel was worth about four points more than the same jump by Chan.
At this point, the only question is whether the length of the free skate could cause him problems. He had proven himself in the short program during the team competition, but Tatsuki Machida took part in the free skate for Japan.
However, Hanyu proved in last year's world championships that he can excel in the second session when he posted a nearly identical score to Chan in the free skate. Unless something drastic happens, the Japanese star should leave with a gold medal.
Silver: Patrick Chan, Canada
There has been no one better in international figure skating over the past four years than Chan. While he only finished in fifth place at the 2010 Olympics, the Canadian won the last three world championships and was the overwhelming favorite to win this time around.
In his short program, he showed what makes him so great with a difficult run that earned him a higher component score than Hanyu. However, he made a single slip on his triple axel, which was enough to make him fall into second place.
The good news is Chan is still confident going into the second day. He told Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun:
I like being in second, I like being in the chase. It's exciting for me. Now I can go out and enjoy my program and enjoy being at the Olympics, whereas I think Yuzuru has a bit of target that he's not quite used to having. And at the Olympic stage the target's kind of doubled in size. So we'll see how he handles it. But I'm going to focus on what I have to do.
Confidence is a great thing in this competition, and Chan will certainly be far ahead of whoever finishes in third place. However, Hanyu has simply been too good at the Olympics so far to beat, and the Canadian will be forced to settle for a silver.
Bronze: Jason Brown, United States
A few months ago, Jason Brown was far from a lock to even reach the Olympics. Now he is one great skate away from winning a medal in Sochi.
The 19-year-old star ended the short program in sixth place with a score of 86.00, but this is only 0.98 behind Javier Hernandez in third. While those above him have a lot more experience on the international stage, Brown is proving he belongs.
Most importantly, the American has already shown he can post a big score in the free skate after totaling a 182.61 in the U.S. Championships in January. He thrilled the crowd and became a YouTube sensation with his Riverdance routine:
While he was only able to score a 153.67 during the team competition, this seems to have been a result of nerves. He showed in his short program that he is calm and ready to contend for a medal on Friday.
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