You live by the quad and you die by the quad. The strongest field ever in in the men’s Olympic figure skating event succumbed to the pressure of the Olympic stage, and to their own worst enemy: the quad.
After watching this competition, I think skating should think of banning the quad. Wishful thinking, I know.
Four years ago American Evan Lysachek did not need a quad to win Olympic gold. Those days are over. The quad is here to stay, love it or hate it.
The men’s competition was a jump-a-thon on ice. Quads were landed and quads were missed. It takes so speed and strength to do this jump, that when it’s botched, it can be ugly. Just ask Jeremy Abbott.
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu broke a scoring record with a nearly perfect short program. He was anything but in the free skate. The program started with a big splat on a quad, although Hanyu would recover to land the next one.
To Hanyu’s credit, he did not become completely unraveled. After a near fall on a triple flip he gutted it out to the end. A smart skater knows it’s never over until it’s over, and every precious point can be priceless.
At age 19, Hanyu has a terrific future. He has exceptional edge quality, and his elegant style is beyond his years. He can only get better.
When Patrick Chan took the ice the Canadian was well aware that the door to gold was wide open. The three time defending world champion did not seize them moment. The usually solid Chan was stiff and shaky. The jumps were leaning, the landings scratchy, and the overall execution unsure.
Chan lacked his usual power, speed and confidence. I also noticed that the emotion that he usually shows during a performance was not the same.
American Jason Brown was the final skater, and still had a chance for a bronze medal. Brown has adopted the strategy this season to forget about the quad and just skate clean. It worked on the international circuit and it led to a second place finish at the U.S. Championships.
It didn’t work in Sochi. The usually consistent Brown skated was off his mark in the free skate. His jumps were off, his speed and flow were missing, even his happy go lucky Irish steps didn’t look quite right. Brown fell to 9th place.
The surprise bronze medalist is Denis Ten who represents Kazakhstan. The 2013 world silver medalist actually lives in California and trains with legendary coach Frank Carroll. Ten made the podium because he was one of the few skaters that didn’t mess up. There is something to be said about going into Olympic competition as a long shot. No pressure.
After crashing and burning in the short program, America’s Jeremy Abbott played it safe in the free skate. This time he abandoned the quad, which I think was a good move. The four time U.S. champion closed out his career with a personal best free program. Abbott looked a little cautious, and I can’t blame him after the spill he took in the short.
As disappointing as his 12th place finish may be, I hope Abbott can one day appreciate his legacy. He thought about quitting after that fall, and chose to get up. He looked like he was down for the count, and like a true fighter got off the mat.
Abbott has plenty to be proud of.
The men’s free skate overall was a bit of a disappointment. I think a healthy Plushenko would have changed the vibe. His withdrawal before the short program for medical reasons was a bummer. I am not surprised his back gave out.
The land of quad is not where a 31 year old will survive very long. The jump, the falls, and even the clean landings will take its toll on a skater’s body. The older they get, the more it’s going to hurt.
With that being said, Jason Brown better have that quad ready for 2018.
He’s gonna need it.