Olympic Figure Skating 2014: Gold Medal Solidifies Yuzuru Hanyu as Star in Sochi

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14:  Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan celebrates after winning the gold medal in the Figure Skating Men's Free Skating on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

An historic Olympic performance in the men's figure skating competition firmly cemented Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu's spot among Sochi's brightest breakout stars.

The 19-year-old set a few firsts in his first crack at the Winter Olympics. In winning his first gold medal, Hanyu became the first Japanese male figure skater to finish in first place. In fact, no Asian male had claimed gold in an Olympic figure skating event before Hanyu.

He did so in grand fashion; his short-program performance set the bar in Sochi, earning the first triple-digit score at 101.45. Dazzling the audience with a triple lutz-triple toe combination during his flawless routine, Hanyu announced to the world that he is a name to remember for years to come.

His record performance all but cemented victory the following day. Although it wasn't as graceful, he delivered.

That inspiring effort gave the teenager some leeway in the ensuing free skate. Even in a sloppy effort for his standards, Hanyu overcame some mishaps to run away with the gold, amassing an overall score of 280.09 through the two events.

Here's how CBS News described his follow-up to an amazing day:

Yuzuru Hanyu made it difficult on himself before coming through to win Japan's first gold medal in Olympic men's figure skating Friday night at the Sochi Games.

Not only did Hanyu fall on his opening jump, a quad salchow, but he also crashed on his third, a triple flip. That left plenty of room for Canada's Patrick Chan to skate through to the top of the podium, but he made three errors in a watered-down program to finish second.

An off performance placed him just 0.54 points behind Chan, who finished 20.52 over bronze-winner Denis Ten in the final tally. Although just 19 and 23, Hanyu and Chan were men among boys on the ice.

Hanyu's toughest competitor—who should could continue to vie for figure skating's top spot for years—Chan could not help but praise his foe after the short program. Here's what Chan told ESPN.com's Jim Caple after the short program:

He's grown tremendously. I remember when I saw him at Cup of Russia two seasons ago. He was young and very inexperienced. He's gained so much experience in just two years. He looks really comfortable out there. 

The rivalry had been quietly forming outside the grand spotlight. Chan was the two-time reigning Grand Prix Final champion before Hanyu stole his throne last year. The Japanese star again got the upper hand in an effort that will leave fans wondering what the future holds.

So what lies ahead for Hanyu who, it bears repeating, is still only 19? Should we all get caught up in the moment with CBS Sports' Will Brinson and frolic in Hyperbole Town?

Then again, maybe it's not all that far-fetched. He delivered the best short-program performance ever in his first Olympic try. Barring injury or another circumstance that strips him of his skating talent, he'll enter the 2018 Winter Olympics at the ripe old age of 23, poised to take home the gold again.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, let's appreciate Hanyu dominating the grand stage in 2014.