Figure skating has taken center stage throughout the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and in Day 7 it will be the men’s individual free skate that dominates Olympics coverage.
There were plenty of dazzling performances in the men’s free skate, but the main story was Evgeni Plushenko removing himself from competition and effectively retiring from competitive figure skating.
Plushenko’s wife, actress Yana Rudkovskaya, told reporters that it just wasn’t worth the risk for the Russian legend as reported by Nicholas McCarvel of NBCOlympics.com: "He has an artificial disc in his spine. If he had skated today, something terrifying could have happened. He did everything he could at these Olympics. He helped the team win a gold medal for the country."
That gold medal came in the new team competition, and Plushenko was a critical member of Russia's group effort.
On the ice, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu was incredible, posting a score of 101.45, which was the highest score in the history of the men’s short program.
The top six after the first portion of the competition were as follows:
|Men's Short Program Standings|
|6||Jason Brown||United States||86|
Now all eyes turn to the free skate portion, where the medals will be handed out.
Men's Free Skate Schedule
Date: Feb. 14
Time: 10 a.m. ET (7 p.m. Sochi time and 3 p.m. GMT)
TV Broadcast: NBC Sports Network at 10 a.m. ET, NBC at 8 p.m. ET (rebroadcast) and BBC at 3 p.m. GMT
So who will take home the highly coveted medals?
The standings from the short program provided some foreshadowing for figure skating fans everywhere:
Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan: gold medal.
Patrick Chan, Canada: silver medal.
Javier Fernandez, Spain: bronze medal.
Hanyu’s incredible performance was just the latest in his rapid rise in the figure skating world.
He won the bronze medal in the 2012 World Championships, won the 2013 Japanese National Title and then placed fourth in the 2013 World Championships.
The only thing that could keep Hanyu off the podium at this point may just be the pressure to repeat his record-setting performance, as Canada’s Chan pointed out to reporters and Jim Caple of ESPN.com:
I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It's exciting for me. Now I can go out and enjoy the program, whereas Yuzuru has a bit of a target on his back that he's not quite used to. At the Olympics the target is kind of doubled in size. We'll see how he handles it.
Chan knows something about pressure after placing fifth in front of the home fans in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
All Chan has done since then is win the past three World Championships and medal in every international competition he entered. Chan, who is still only 23 years old, is also a six-time Canadian national champion.
He was a bit shaky on the triple axel in the short program, but if he skates cleanly the second time out, he will challenge for gold.
The bronze medal will go to Fernandez of Spain, who finished in 14th-place in Vancouver but took home the bronze in the 2013 World Championships.
Fernandez also has two consecutive Spanish national championships and the 2013 and 2014 European Championships titles.
Look for him to add an Olympic medal to his resume on Day 7 in Sochi.
Follow me on Twitter: