The men's free skate final at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, takes place on Saturday (Friday night ET), with the U.S team's hopes of bringing home the gold medal in tatters.
Nathan Chen was expected to battle it out with Japan's reigning Olympic champion, Yuzuru Hanyu, for top spot on the podium. However, after Chen's poor performance in the short program, Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou seemingly offer the U.S. its best chance of glory at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Per Mark Gallant of Action Network, here are the odds for the men's singles competition from before the competition started:
Shoma Uno, Japan: Evens
Nathan Chen, USA: 7-4
Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan: 2-1
Javier Fernandez, Spain: 4-1
Chen came into the 2018 Pyeongchang Games with huge expectations, but they have been tempered after disappointing showings in the short program and the team event. The 18-year-old said he was "upset that I sort of let the rest of the team down," per Christine Brennan at USA Today.
Photojournalist Kenny Holmes showed how Chen had wanted to try to make amends immediately:
Kenny Holmes @KHOLMESlive
After his debut with what he called “three big mistakes”, we found @nathanwchen on the practice literally 5 minutes later. He told us after practice he didn’t want to end his day on a bad note. He said he hopes he didn’t let his teammates down and is confident they have his back. https://t.co/g7AVQyRkc2
The teenager has also said he has resolved his problems and is ready to return to the ice, per Brennan:
His disappointing performance is likely to only increase the pressure on Chen, and he will need to prove those mistakes were just a blip. A return to top form is needed, but considering he is in 17th place heading into the free skate, he is unlikely to be in contention for the gold medal.
One of the reasons Chen has risen to the top in figure skating is his ability to land quads in both of his routines. The teenager was also the first skater to land five quadruple jumps in a program, and he will need to produce an incredibly challenging routine to get anywhere near the podium.
Hanyu is in prime position to land the goal medal, although there are lingering doubts over the defending champion because of an ankle injury he picked up in training in November.
The Olympic champion recently spoke about just how serious the injury was, per the Olympic Channel:
However, there's no doubt the Japanese's preparations for the Winter Olympics were hampered by the injury, and there will be uncertainty as to whether he can maintain his best form after he won the short program.
Shoma Uno is also a strong contender for a medal after finishing first in the men's short program in the team event. Eurosport UK offered a glimpse of just how good Uno is:
The 20-year-old was the standout performer in the team event, particularly with other top skaters making errors, and he has already shown he has the composure and the talent to thrive on the big stage.
There's no doubt there is an incredibly strong field in the men's event in Pyeongchang, and whoever takes gold will need to be at his best to see off the competition.