Nathan Chen’s unreal performance earns top men’s Olympic short program score ever

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Nathan Chen went from disastrous to dominant.

In the four years since a nightmare in PyeongChang, the American figure skater has lost once. His run of excellence may have hit a new peak Monday night, when the Utah native earned some redemption and relief in a flawless run that represented the highest score ever in a men’s short program.

Chen’s 113.97 gave him a five-point lead over second place, Japan’s Kagiyama Yuma, before the competition concludes Wednesday with the free skate.

Yuzuru Hanyu – Chen’s chief rival – was buried in eighth with a 95.15 after an error-filled routine.

Chen, normally mild-mannered, unleashed a fist pump after his performance, hinting at what must have been four years of frustration since a fifth-place finish in the 2018 Olympics.

The 22-year-old, dressed in black and skating to “La Boheme,” perfectly landed moves that simply no one else can. Known as the “Quad Kind,” he finished his routine with a clean quad-lutz, triple-toe combination.

Nathan Chen
Nathan Chen made history with the highest men’s short program score ever.
AFP via Getty Images
Nathan Chen
Nathan Chen
AFP via Getty Images

“I feel elated,” Chen said on the NBC broadcast. “Last Olympics, both programs didn’t go the way that I wanted. To finally get an opportunity to skate the program to the way that I wanted, it feels really great. Means a lot.”


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Four years ago, Chen – who was a favorite – fell apart in the short programs of both the team and singles events. He fell on one jump and couldn’t execute a proper quad jump on another, leading to a stunning fifth in the short program for a skater who had not lost that year. In the years since, Chen has won the last three world championships.

Nathan Chen
Nathan Chen
Getty Images
Nathan Chen reacts after competing.
Nathan Chen reacts after competing.
AFP via Getty Images

If there were nerves in his Olympic debut, Chen has eliminated them for his encore. He was a big part of Team USA’s silver in the Team Event earlier – their best ever result – and now is in position for a individual gold.

And he probably does not have to worry about Hanyu, who is trying to become the first men’s skater to win three consecutive Olympic titles since 1928. Hanyu popped his first jump and said his skate got caught in a groove on the ice.

Chen conducted his interview after the performance wearing a mask, especially careful after teammate Vincent Zhou tested positive for COVID-10, Zhou said Monday, and he had to withdraw from the event.  

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