Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu has taken the men's figure skating world by storm.
Hanyu has given Japan their first even men's figure skating gold medal after a dazzling performance on Feb. 14. Sure, he fell twice—including on his opening jump, a quad salchow—but the routine was spectacular overall.
Many thought the two falls would give Canada's Patrick Chan a chance to win the gold, but Chan fell three times himself. After being pinned as a gold-medal favorite, Chan has really disappointed in Sochi.
Hanyu, 19, has already given Japan their best-ever figure skating performance. His nation has really supported his efforts, writes the Associated Press (via CBS):
But he [Hanyu] was thrilled when the final results were posted, and he skated around the rink draped in a Japanese flag after the flower ceremony. Around the Iceberg rink were about two dozen banners supporting him and the Japanese team.
Such support coupled with the amount of success he has enjoyed at these Olympics—he was also a standout performer in the team competition—could easily have gotten to the youngster's head. Hanyu has handled the accolades with the utmost grace, just as he has handled his performances on ice.
When asked if he thought he'd win after falling twice in the men's long program that would inevitably decide the podium, Hanyu responded with (via CBS), "No, I was so sad."
Hanyu has all the makings of the next great star of men's figure skating. Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the men's figure skating event after being considered a favorite in his host country. While not done intentionally, this could have represented a changing of the guard of sorts.
Plushenko, for all intents and purposes, has now passed the reins off to Hanyu to take over as the face of men's figure skating. His performance, combined with how he handles himself and the pressures of competing, will make him a staple at future Winter Games. Throw in the fact that he's just 19, and he'll be a candidate to medal for several more installments.
Chan, 23, will also continue to be one of the faces of the sport. While he didn't have the success that Hanyu has in Sochi, Chan did earn himself two silver medals. His most recent silver was disappointing considering he had the men's figure skating gold all but won, but a few missteps ultimately led to Hanyu's victory.
Regardless of the one event, Chan is widely regarded as one of the top men's skaters in the world. He'll also continue to be a staple of the Winter Games at just 23 years old. Some of put his ability to compete on the biggest stage in question, but there will certainly come another time where Chan will set himself up for gold.
It will just be up to him to capitalize.
Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, 20, took home the bronze medal in men's figure skating. He was a relative unknown entering the Olympics given his age and relative lack of international success. Aside from being the three-time national champion of his home country, Ten has also won a silver medal at the 2013 Worlds and was the 2011 Asian Winter Games champion.
Ten certainly has a bright future ahead after his program in Sochi, but he will likely need a bit more international experience before he's ready to make a real run at the gold. He has the skills to rival Hanyu and Chan for years to come.
The future of men's figure skating is bright with these three young stars being put to test at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
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