2018 Olympic Winter Games Men’s Preview

 In 2010, Evan Lysacek won Olympic gold without a single quad in his programs.  In Sochi, Yuzuru Hanyu landed a quad toe in his short program and a quad salchow and a quad toe in his free skate.  Only Kevin Reynolds attempted three quads, and no one tried anything more difficult than a salchow.  At this event, the top men will be going for two quads in their short program and as many as five quads in the free skate.  They’ll also be attempting the much more difficult quad lutzes and quad flips.  It was only a year ago that these jumps were landed for the first time and now several skaters are landing both.  The sport is changing quickly and it is impossible to keep up without the quads.

However, these are also high risk elements.  It is difficult to pack that many revolutions in a program and skate cleanly all the time, so it is likely that we might have an Olympic Champion without a clean program. This could vary from a fall to popped jumps.  There have been very few clean programs this season, and it is rare to see a program with all positive GOEs given the difficulty of landing so many clean quads in one program.  The early start time seemed to be a factor in the team event as several men had difficulty landing their jumps.  However, with more time to acclimate to the schedule and with the top competitors competing later in the event, and thus pushing their wake up call back, hopefully these kinks will be worked out for the main competition.

This is the only figure skating event where the reigning Olympic Champion is returning to defend their title.  Not only is Yuzuru Hanyu competing here, but the entire podium from Sochi (Hanyu, plus Patrick Chan and Denis Ten) is competing at this event.  However, only Hanyu is considered a medal contender this season.  Patrick Chan was once the technical leader and the only man completing two quads in a free skate, but the youngsters have passed him up faster than he could pick up new quads.

While the arms race of quads and the technical score are very important, because so many skaters have highly technical programs planned, the rest of the program cannot be ignored.  Level 4 spins and steps, positive GOEs, and a high level of performance to bring up the component scores are critical to winning a medal at this event.

Top 10 short program scores for the season are all over 90 points with the top six scoring over 100 points.  Yuzuru Hanyu holds the best short program mark of the season, scoring 112.72 points at the Autumn Classic International.  The highest score at a Grand Prix or ISU Championship was put up by Javier Fernandez, with a 107.86 at Internationaux de France.  For the free skate, top 10 scores are all over 170 points.  Shoma Uno set the highest mark at 214.97 points at Lombardia Trophy.  The highest Grand Prix or ISU Championship score is Boyang Jin’s 200.78 at the Four Continents Championships.

Top ten total scores are over 266 points.  Uno has the highest total score of 319.84 at Lombardia Trophy and the highest Grand Prix or ISU Championship score of 301.10 from Skate Canada.  Only Uno and Boyang Jin have scored over 300 points this season.

Eight of the top ten skaters from this season are at this event.  Sergei Voronov has the 8th best total score for the season, while Jason Brown has the 9th.  Both were left off their respective national teams due to the depth of the field at nationals.

Uno holds three of the top four total scores set this season and has four scores in the top 10.  Jin has one top ten score, Javier Fernandez has two, Nathan Chen has two, and Yuzuru Hanyu has one.

Shoma Uno is competing in his first Olympic Games.  He won a world medal for the first time last season, taking the silver.  In 2014, he was still competing at the junior level, and it wasn’t until 2015 that he won the Junior World title.  He has scored over 300 points twice this season, the only skater to do so.  However, he has lost three events in a row, and was beat by Javier Fernandez, Nathan Chen, and Boyang Jin.

His short program includes a quad flip and a quad toe + triple toe.  His quad flip has been about a 50/50 jump for him, scoring as high as 14.59 at Skate Canada, and as low as 4.60 at the Internationaux de France.  He scored 9.44 points for the jump in the team event.  The base value for the quad toe + triple toe is 14.6, and he bested that 3/5 times, scoring as high as 17.92 in the team event and as low as 13.76 at Skate Canada.  Overall, this is a much more consistent jump for him with less of a downside.

He has been playing with the layout of the jumps in his free skate.  He did quad loop, quad flip, quad toe, quad toe + double toe at his first two events, added a quad salchow for the Grand Prix Final, and went back to his original quads for Four Continents.  A quad loop has a base value of 12.0 points.  He has scored above that twice, reaching as high as 14.14 points at Skate Canada and scored as low as 4.40 points at the Grand Prix Final.  The quad flip has a base value of 12.30 points and he has only scored above that once, earning 14.10 points at the Grand Prix Final.  His worst attempt was at Four Continents when he moved the jump up in his program, and he only scored 4.60 points.  His quad toe has a base value of 10.3 but he does not have a good track record with it, only reaching that mark one time, earning 13.19 points at Four Continents.  He only earned 4.80 points at both Skate Canada and Internationaux de France.  His final quad is the quad toe + double toe with a base value of 11.60.  This has also been a 50/50 jump for him, earning 14.47 points for the combination at Four Continents, but only 1.21 points at the Grand Prix Final.  His highest point getting jump in the free skate is actually not a quad but a triple axel + single loop + triple flip.  Worth 14.30 points base value, he has scored in the 17 point range three out of the four times he has attempted it in competition.  He has the 3rd best short program, best free skate, and best total scores.

Boyang Jin is also competing in his first Olympic Games.  He has won the bronze medal at the last two World Championships and is the reigning Four Continents Champion.  He qualified for the Grand Prix Final this season but had to withdraw due to an ankle injury that he was competing with at Skate America.  He tends to get better as the season goes on, and this season is no exception, as he cleared 300 points for the first time this season at Four Continents where he defeated Shoma Uno.

His short program includes a quad lutz + triple toe and a quad toe.  He only had one quad at Skate America, but this is likely due to the ankle injury.  The quad lutz + triple toe has a base value of 17.90 points and this has been a very successful jump for him, scoring 17.04 points at Cup of China and 19.33 points at Four Continents.  The quad toe has a base value of 10.30, and he surpassed that mark 2/3 times earning a high of 11.44 at Skate America and a low of 9.27 at Cup of China.

His free skate has a quad lutz, quad salchow, quad toe + double toe, and quad toe (he attempted different content at Skate America so that is not included in this analysis, giving him two events).  The lutz has a base value of 13.6, and he earned 13.09 at Cup of China and 16.31 at Four Continents.  The salchow also got better, going from 7.87 to 11.79 points.  Both of his quad toes showed significant improvement, earning 14.19 for the combo and 13.19 for the solo quad toe at Four Continents.  The only total miss he’s had on a quad all season was the solo quad toe at Cup of China.  His highest scoring element in his free skate is a triple axel + single loop + triple salchow combination which has twice earned him over 14 points.  He has the 6th best short program, 2nd best free skate, and 2nd best total scores.

Javier Fernandez is competing in his 3rd Olympics after finishing 14th in 2010 and 4th in Sochi.  After winning two consecutive World titles, he dropped to 4th last season.  He is the reigning and 6 time European Champion.

His short program includes a quad toe + triple toe and a quad salchow.  He botched the combination at Cup of China, earning just 6.00 points, but scored 17.03 points at both Internationaux de France and Europeans.  His quad salchow has been a bit more consistent, scoring over 12 points twice, but he only earned 9.99 points on the jump at Europeans.

He has three quads planned in his free skate: a quad toe, quad salchow + triple toe, and a quad salchow.  The quad toe has been improving all season, going from 5.20 points at Cup of China to 12.73 points at Europeans.  He has only been successful at the quad salchow + triple toe one time, at Europeans, earning 17.09 points.  The quad salchow has a base value of 10.50 points, and he earned 7.55 points at Internationaux de France and tripled it to earn 3.34 points at Europeans.  It is definitely not a consistent jump for him and is not likely to earn him any extra points.  He has the 2nd best short program, 5th best free skate, and 3rd best total scores.

Nathan Chen is competing in his first Olympic Games at just 18 years old.  In 2014, he was still competing as a junior and placed 4th at Junior Worlds.  He finished 6th in his Worlds debut last season.  He is undefeated this season, defeating Yuzuru Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup, Boyang Jin at Skate America, and Shoma Uno at the Grand Prix Final.  Because of his undefeated record and arsenal of quads he enters this event as the favorite for the gold medal, despite the fact that he hasn’t scored over the low 290s this season.  He may have tarnished that feeling a bit in the team event when he struggled with his jumps, but could be found in the basement practice rink not long after reeling off jump after jump.  He has also been taping his boots together, an issue he had at Worlds last season.

One of the most puzzling things about Chen’s jump content is that he has been consistently hitting quad lutzes and quad flips for two seasons now, and his team is now saying those jumps are not consistent for him and are replacing them in his programs.  This does give him a lower base value and changes the program he has been practicing, but it could pay off.  He skated a “watered down” program at US nationals and was able to hit all five quads with all positive GOEs for the entire program.  Slightly less difficult quads with a clean program might be more important than the boost in base value.

Chen’s short program had a quad lutz + triple toe and a triple flip through the first half of the season.  His quad lutz + triple toe is one of the best in the world, and he earned a low of 18.01 points and a high of 19.47 points on the element this season.  In the team event here, he changed the combo to a quad flip + double toe (intended triple) and earned just 13.43 points.  The solo quad flip has a base value of 12.30 points, and he earned between 12.50 and 14.10 points on this jump.  He went for a quad toe in the team event, doubled it, and earned 0 points.  The triple axel is not a strong jump for him, and he only earned over the base value one time this season, at the Grand Prix Final.

He made an attempt at a six quad free skate at Skate America and the Grand Prix Final but was not successful.  His planned content was a quad lutz + triple toe, quad flip, quad salchow, quad lutz, quad toe + single loop + double salchow, and quad toe.  His quad lutz + triple toe was his most consistent and highest scoring element, earning between 19.90 and 20.04 points across three events.  His quad flip was also fairly successful, earning between 8.30 and 14.01 points.  The quad salchow was a weak point for him, only earning 1.3 points at two events.  He was 50/50 with the rest of his quads across his events.

While he didn’t compete the team event for the free skate, he went for a quad flip + triple toe, quad flip, quad toe + double toe, quad toe, and quad salchow at US Nationals, and this might be his planned jump content here.  The unanswered question is going to be is there a lingering issue, perhaps an injury or a boot problem that is causing the jump problems and the abandonment of the quad lutz, and if so, is it something that he can overcome in the individual event.  He has the 4th best short program, 4th best free skate, and 4th best total scores.

Yuzuru Hanyu is the reigning Olympic Champion.  Since the 2014 Games, he has won two World titles and two silver medals.  He hasn’t had the best season, however.  He was not skating at full capacity at Rostelecom Cup where he lost to Nathan Chen, and then had to withdraw from his second Grand Prix assignment and Japanese nationals due to an ankle injury.  He hasn’t competed since October and has said he wasn’t sure he would be able to skate again.  At his first official practice at the Olympics, the only jump he attempted was a triple axel and he left after landing that jump.

There is very little that is known about the programs that he will compete here as his only major competition this season was while he was injured, it’s unclear what he’s capable of skating now, and he hasn’t done a full run through.  At Rostelecom Cup, his short program layout included a quad loop and a quad toe + triple toe.  The quad toe is his signature jump but is also not his most reliable.  His combination also wasn’t the best, and only earned 12.52 points.  In the free skate, he landed a quad lutz and a quad salchow, went for a quad toe, and also had a quad toe + triple toe.  The combination was his best element, earning 17.77 points.  Despite the injury, he still managed to score over 100 points on the technical side in his free skate and his scores have held up in the top 5 from October until now.  He has the best short program, 3rd best free skate, and 5th best total scores.

Mikhail Kolyada is competing in his first Olympics.  He is the two time and reigning European Bronze Medalist, and his highest finish at Worlds was 4th back in 2016.

His short program includes a quad lutz and a quad toe + triple toe.  His quad lutz has been all over the board with a low of 6.90 points at Rostelecom Cup to a high of 15.17 points at Cup of China.  The jump has a base value of 13.6 and he has only hit that mark once all season.  His combination has been moderately more successful with a low of .70 at Europeans, but hitting over 16 points twice.

His free skate has been flip flopping between two jump layouts, but he did compete in the team event here, which is likely to be his final free skate jump content.  He has always started with his quad lutz, which was a bit more consistent in the free skate, earning 9.60 points at four events, although still well below the base value.  He was attempting a quad salchow as his second jump all season (and was not successful) and went to a quad toe in the team event, which was also not a successful jump for him, earning only 2.20 points.  His final quad is a quad toe, which also has never reached base value of him this season.  Despite having three quads, he is losing points on all of them with negative GOEs, under-rotations or downgrades, and/or falls.  His best and most consistent element has been his triple lutz + single loop + triple salchow combination which earned over 13 points at four of his five events.  He has the 5th best short program, 6th best free skate, and 6th best total scores.

Dmitri Aliev is competing in his first Olympics.  He was the World Junior Silver Medalist just last season, and recently won the silver medal at Europeans.  While he has come a long way this season, it has been a steep learning curve for him.  He finished 6th at Rostelecom Cup but his free skate didn’t place in the top six.  And he placed 8th at NHK Trophy.  He only has one quad, a quad toe planned for his short program, and two quads, a quad toe + triple toe and a quad toe in his free skate.  He has the 9th best short program, 7th best free skate, and 7th best total scores.

Adam Rippon (10th best total score) and Patrick Chan (7th best short program score and 9th best free skate score) are also in the hunt for places in the top 10.

Javier Fernandez has the highest short program technical score of 60.00 points, set at Internationaux de France.  Shoma Uno has the highest average score of 54.92, and he was the only man to successfully complete his jumps in the short program of the team event.  Nathan Chen would have the highest average technical score, with all three of his scores from earlier this season 57.57 points or higher, however, he had a disastrous short program here in the team event, bringing his average all the way down to 53.25.

It is so surprise that the top program components scores in the short program belong to Fernandez, Uno, Hanyu, and Chen.  Fernandez received five 10.00 marks from three judges for his short program at the Internationaux de France and two 10.00 marks from one judge at Europeans.  For those programs, he holds the top two PCS marks of the season at 47.86 and 47.82 respectively.  Uno and Hanyu share the next highest score of 46.61 points, and Uno has an average of 46.23 points across five events.  Chen manages to grab the last spot in the top 10, but his highest score of the season is lower than both Fernnadez and Uno’s lowest score.

It is very possible that Javier Fernandez could find himself in the top spot after the short program, as well as Yuzuru Hanyu.  With less jumps and all the top men completing two quads, it’s an easier program to complete and their artistic scores could really pull them up.

Boyang Jin blew away the field technically in the free skate at Four Continents, scoring a whopping 115.34 points.  The next highest mark this season was Shoma Uno’s Four Continents score, 106.67 points.  Nathan Chen (104.85), Yuzuru Hanyu (101.54), and Mikhail Kolyada (100.27) all have top technical scores over 100 points this season, the gold standard for the free skate.  Uno has an average technical score of 99.33 points over four events, while Chen comes in the second highest at 95.76.

Fernandez has the highest program component scores of the season for the free skate, earning 95.14 points at Europeans.  He is the only man to score a 10.00 in the free skate this season, earning three from two different judges at Europeans.  He also has the highest average with 93.02 points.  Hanyu has the second highest score with 94.38 points.  Uno’s four PCS marks are all in the 91 point range but have been steadily rising all season.  Kolyada has two PCS marks in the top ten, but his average is just slightly below that of Nathan Chen, who had no scores in the top ten.

What is most concerning for a skater like Fernandez is the free skate, where he has less quads, and the ones he has are a much lower value.  He has great program components, but they’re not worth enough without the technical elements to back it up.  Fernandez has a 10 point lead over Boyang Jin’s best program components score in the free skate this season, however Jin’s best technical score is a whopping 19 points better than Fernandez’s.  If they skated similar programs, Jin would have a 9 point lead in the free skate.  Even if you take their best short program scores into account, where Fernandez does better, he only has about an 8 point lead over Jin.  So it is entirely conceivable looking at best scores from this season, that Fernandez could win the short program, win both the technical score and the program components, win the program components in the free skate, and still lose the event.

My gut is that Boyang Jin will put out a solid free skate.  He has twice shown that he grows throughout the season and peaks at just the right moment.  His earlier skates this season were concerning, but his ankle injury was clearly affecting his ability to go for the harder jumps and land them successfully.  His performance at Four Continents shows that he is healed and ready to go.  The quad lutz is a great weapon in his arsenal, as it can be worth nearly 20 points in combination and none of the other truly top flight of men may attempt it.  His program components are his biggest hindrance, and he has been working to bring them up.  While it’s unlikely that he’ll have been able to make any significant changes in that department since Four Continents, if he skates cleanly, he might see an Olympic boost in those marks.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Boyang Jin

Silver: Shoma Uno

Bronze: Nathan Chen

 

Bios of the competitors:

Brendan Kerry, AUS: He placed 15th at Worlds last season and 13th at Four Continents.  He finished 11th at Skate Canada.  His personal best is 236.24.  He is 23 years old.

Jorik Hendrickx, BEL: He finished 21st at Worlds last season and 10th at Europeans.  He placed 5th at Skate Canada.  His personal best is 253.06.  He is 25 years old.

Patrick Chan, CAN: He placed 5th at Worlds last season.  He finished 4th at Skate Canada.  He is the 2014 Olympic Silver Medalist; 2011, 2012, and 2013 World Champion; 2009 and 2010 World Silver Medalist; 2009, 2012, and 2016 Four Continents Champion; and 2007 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 295.27.  He is 27 years old.

Keegan Messing, CAN: He finished 8th at Skate Canada and 5th at NHK Trophy.  His personal best is 248.30.  He is 26 years old.

Boyang Jin, CHN: He is the reigning World Bronze Medalist and Four Continents Champion.  He won silver at Cup of China and placed 4th at Skate America.  He is the 2016 World Bronze Medalist, 2016 Four Continents Silver Medalist, and 2015 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 303.58.  He is 20 years old.

Han Yan, CHN: He placed 10th at Four Continents.  He finished 5th at Cup of China and 5th at Skate America.  He is the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Four Continents Bronze Medalist, and 2012 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 271.55.  He is 21 years old.

Michal Brezina, CZE: He placed 17th at Worlds last season and 8th at Europeans.  He finished 6th at Skate Canada and 9th at NHK Trophy.  He is the 2013 European Bronze Medalist and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 243.52.  He is 27 years old.

Javier Fernandez, ESP: He finished 4th at Worlds last season and is the reigning European Champion.  He placed 6th at Cup of China and won gold at Internationaux de France.  He is the 2015 and 2016 World Champion; 2013 and 2014 World Bronze Medalist; and 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 European Champion.  His personal best is 314.93.  He is 26 years old.

Felipe Montoya, ESP: He placed 20th at Europeans.  His personal best is 193.09.  He is 27 years old.

Chafik Besseghier, FRA: He placed 17th at Worlds last season and 11th at Europeans.  His personal best is 239.39.  He is 28 years old.

Moris Kviletlashvili, GEO: He placed 13th at Worlds last season and 12th at Europeans.  He finished 5th at Rostelecom Cup and 6th at Internationaux de France.  His personal best is 250.26.  He is 22 years old.

Paul Fentz, GER: He finished 20th at Worlds last season and 16th at Europeans.  HE placed 10th at Skate Canada.  His personal best is 225.85.  He is 25 years old.

Alexei Bychenko, ISR: He finished 10th at Worlds last season and 5th at Europeans.  He won bronze at NHK Trophy and placed 5th at Internationaux de France.  He is the 2016 European Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 255.52.  He is 30 years old.

Daniel Samohin, ISR: He finished 33rd at Worlds and 6th at Junior Worlds last season.  He placed 12th at Rostelecom Cup.  He finished 26th at Europeans.  He is the 2016 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 236.65.  He is 19 years old.

Matteo Rizzo, ITA: He finished 30th at Worlds and 11th at Junior Worlds last season.  He placed 9th at Europeans.  He finished 6th at JGP Poland and won gold at JGP Italy.  His personal best is 232.98.  He is 19 years old.

Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN: He is the reigning World Champion.  He won silver at Rostelecom Cup.  He is the 2014 Olympic Champion; 2014 World Champion; 2015 and 2016 World Silver Medalist; 2012 World Bronze Medalist; 2011, 2013, and 2017 Four Continents Silver Medalist; and 2010 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 330.43.  He is 23 years old.

Keiji Tanaka, JPN: He placed 19th at Worlds last season and 4th at Four Continents.  He finished 7th at Cup of China.  He is the 2011 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 260.31.  He is 23 years old.

Shoma Uno, JPN: He is the reigning World Silver Medalist and reigning Four Continents Silver Medalist. He won gold at Skate Canada and silver at Internationaux de France to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won silver.  He is the 2017 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2015 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 319.84.  He is 20 years old.

Denis Ten, KAZ: He finished 16th at Worlds last season and 15th at Four Continents.  He placed 9th at Rostelecom Cup and 8th at Internationaux de France.  He is the 2014 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2013 World Silver Medalist, 2015 World Bronze Medalist, and 2015 Four Continents Champion.  His personal best is 289.46.  He is 24 years old.

Junhwan Cha, KOR: He finished 5th at Junior Worlds last season.  He placed 9th at Skate Canada.  His personal best is 242.45.  He is 18 years old.

Deniss Vasiljevs, LAT: He placed 14th at Worlds last season and 4th at Europeans.  He finished 8th at Rostelecom Cup and 6th at NHK Trophy.  His personal best is 243.52.  He is 18 years old.

Julian Zhi Jie Yee, MAS: He finished 22nd at Worlds last season and 16th at Four Continents.  His personal best is 220.67.  He is 20 years old.

Dmitri Aliev, RUS: He is the reigning European Silver Medalist and World Junior Silver Medalist.  He finished 6th at Rostelecom Cup and 8th at NHK Trophy.  His personal best is 274.06.  He is 18 years old.

Mikhail Kolyada, RUS: He placed 8th at Worlds last season and is the reigning European Bronze Medalist.  He won bronze at Rostelecom Cup and gold at Cup of China to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won bronze.  He is the 2017 European Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 282.00.  He is 23 years old.

Michael Christian Martinez, PHI: He finished 24th at Worlds last season.  His personal best is 220.36.  He is 21 years old.

Yaroslav Paniot, UKR: He placed 10th at Junior Worlds last season and 25th at Europeans.  His personal best is 233.16.  He is 20 years old.

Nathan Chen, USA: He finished 6th at Worlds last season.  He won gold at Rostelecom Cup and gold at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold.  He is the 2017 Four Continents Champion and 2014 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 307.46.  He is 18 years old.

Adam Rippon, USA: He won silver at NHK Trophy and silver at Skate America to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he placed 5th.  He is the 2010 Four Continents Champion and 2008 and 2009 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 267.53.  He is 28 years old.

Vincent Zhou, USA: He is the reigning World Junior Champion.  He placed 4th at Cup of China and 9th at Internationaux de France.  His personal best is 258.11.  He is 17 years old.

Misha Ge, UZB: He placed 12th at Worlds last season and 6th at Four Continents.  He finished 4th at Rostelecom Cup and won bronze at Internationaux de France.  His personal best is 258.34.  He is 26 years old.

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