(Reuters) -Nathan Chen claimed redemption at the Beijing Games on Tuesday after his world record short programme in the men’s figure skating helped erase the disappointment of his Pyeongchang flop four years ago.
The world champion’s stunning 113.97-point skate at Capital Indoor Stadium wiped the previous record of 111.82 set by Japanese rival and Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu at the 2020 Four Continents tournament.
The 22-year-old Chen is top of the standings heading into Thursday’s free skate ahead of Japanese duo Yuma Kagiyama (108.12) and Shoma Uno (105.90).
Though backed to battle Hanyu for the gold in 2018, Chen had a disastrous short programme at Pyeongchang which left him 17th before the free skate and effectively out of medal contention.
That came days after a messy short programme in the team event for the United States, the eventual bronze medallists.
In Beijing, however, Chen has been unstoppable.
He topped the short programme in the team event on Friday with a score of 111.71, playing a huge part in the U.S. winning silver, their best result in the category.
Asked whether Beijing was redemption, Chen was unequivocal.
“Certainly,” the Salt Lake City native told reporters.
“It definitely means a lot to be able to have another opportunity to do the short programme and with two short programmes that I am very satisfied with compared to the last time.
“I would say it was pretty close to my best,” he added of the record skate.
“Obviously, there are always things that you can improve on, there are always things that you can do a little bit better. But overall, I am very happy.”
Chen’s rivalry with double Olympic champion Hanyu was expected to be a highlight of Beijing, but may end up falling flat for a second successive Games.
The Japanese great failed to jump his opening quadruple Salchow, an error that sent shockwaves around the rink and left him eighth in the standings with a score of 95.15.
A medal, let alone a third successive gold, may be beyond Hanyu, who blamed a divot on the ice for the missed jump.
In contrast, Chen, skating to Charles Aznavour’s La Boheme in a tuxedo costume, executed two quads and his other elements almost flawlessly, leaving him fist-pumping on the ice.
Chen said he was aware of Hanyu’s error but could only focus on himself.
“When I heard that, I was just like, ‘stick to my game-plan, nothing changes, focus on what I can do, try to do the best that I can’. Scores, competitors are out of my control.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim and Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond)