Olympic Games Men’s Preview

Two of the 2010 Olympic medalists have returned but will face an uphill battle against several young skaters looking to claim their first Olympic medals.  While in 2010, Evan Lysacek was able to win Olympic gold without a single quad jump, most of these men will be attempting at least one quad in their short program and one in their free skate.

Patrick Chan was under immense pressure to win an Olympic medal on home turf in 2010 and finished just off the podium.  He has won almost everything since then including the 2011-2013 World titles and entered this season as a strong favorite for the Olympic gold medal.  He kept his short program from last season in which he set a World record and went on to set additional World records this season.  Both of his programs are considered to be choreographic masterpieces and his quad is one of the best in the world.  The triple axel can be a tricky element for him and he has been known to get into his programs and make little mistakes like falling on step sequences.  He has been showing indications that the pressure is getting to him as he admitted that he was flustered at the Grand Prix Final where he dropped to 2nd place and he finished just 3rd in the short program in the team event.

Yuzuru Hanyu has taken over as the top Japanese man and after struggling with nerves last season in the wake of his World bronze medal he seems to have found his stride and is more comfortable on the ice.  He currently holds the World record for a short program and his short program has all the characteristics that audiences have come to appreciate from the Japanese men, including solid jumps and a jazzy style that plays well to a crowd.  He won the Grand Prix Final ahead of Patrick Chan and beat him again in the short program in the team event.  He has continued to improve and get stronger as the season has gone on and has several unique elements in his programs including a layback spin.  He has the best shot of challenging Chan for the gold medal here.

Daisuke Takahashi has had an incredibly up and down season this year.  After finishing just 6th at Worlds, he started his season with a 4th place finish at Skate America with a disappointing score.  He rebounded at home at NHK Trophy to claim the gold medal with the 3rd best score of the season.  He also struggled at Japanese nationals and had to be nominated to the team after he finished just 5th.  The biggest indicator of how he will finish will be how the quads go at the beginning of his program.  This has long been an element that he has struggled with and if he misses it can affect the rest of his program.

Javier Fernandez is Hanyu’s training mate and had high expectations going into this season after his World bronze medal. He didn’t win a medal at either of his Grand Prix events this season and struggled with his free skate.  He has one of the most difficult programs planned including three quads planned with one in the second half.  If he nails it he has a huge technical advantage but there is also risk involved.  He had his best event of the season in January when he won the European Championships but he still scored nearly thirty points below Chan and Hanyu.  It might be enough to give him a bronze medal but he’ll need to significantly improve if he wants to challenge for the gold.

Evgeni Plushenko was all the rage in the Olympic team event but he had several problems with his free skate and his scores likely wouldn’t hold up in the individual competition.  His body has also taken a beating over the last several years and the team event was the first competition he had completed since 2012.  He admitted to being in pain by the end of his free skate and only has a few days off before having to compete again.  He originally planned to only compete in the team event, but can only withdraw in the event of injury.  In his free skate he removed one of the quads and doubled most of the jumps toward the end of the program and his PCS seemed to be unusually high given the content of his program.  He’ll need to find another 40 points if he wants to win the gold medal here.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if Maxim Kovtun is practicing nearby ready to take over in case Plushenko decides to withdraw.

Tatsuki Machida had a breakout season winning two gold medals on the Grand Prix and qualifying for the Final.  He has gained remarkable consistency on his quad this season and it has become one of his better elements.  He struggled a bit in the free skate in the team event, losing strength toward the end of his program.

Han Yan has had a strong but inconsistent season in his first year on the senior circuit.  He has the ability to win gold medals on the Grand Prix but then finished 6th in the Final.  He hasn’t been able to match his early season performance but could be a dark horse.

Kevin Reynolds landed three quads in his team event free skate and his jumps are so effortless that they look like triples and it’s easy to miss the accomplishment.  He’s also landed two quads in his short program and could be going for five total in Sochi.  He doesn’t have much else in terms of program components and spin and step levels so he’ll need all the points he can get if he wants to challenge for a spot on the podium.

Jeremy Abbott has all the qualities that should land him on international podiums but hasn’t been able to put two clean programs together when it counts.  He landed his first quad+triple in Boston at U.S. nationals in his short program but really struggled in the team event making errors on all of his jumps.  His biggest enemy is himself and it will be interesting to see if he can shake off the bad performance and skate clean in the individual event.  His free skate is a choreographic masterpiece but he tends to make mistakes toward the end of the program and with only one quad planned, he’ll need every point he can get if he hopes to challenge for an Olympic medal.

Jason Brown has the ability to break into the top 10 here especially on the strength of his Riverdance free skate.  He doesn’t have a quad and the triple axel can sometimes be a difficult element for him but he has been having increasing success with it this season.  The program components and choreography are what set him apart and keep him in the mix despite not having the more difficult technical elements.

 

My podium predictions:

Gold: Patrick Chan

Silver: Yuzuru Hanyu

Bronze: Javier Fernandez

 

Bios of the competitors:

Brendan Kerry, AUS: He placed 20th at Four Continents.  He placed 5th at JGP Latvia and JGP Estonia.  His personal best is 188.67.  He is 19 years old.

Viktor Pfeifer, AUT: He placed 20th at Worlds last season and 14th at Europeans.  His personal best is 194.77.  He is 26 years old.

Jorik Hendrickx, BEL: He finished 19th at Worlds last season and 9th at Europeans.  His personal best is 205.92.  He is 21 years old.

Patrick Chan, CAN: He is the reigning World Champion.  He won gold at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won silver.  He is the 2011 and 2012 World Champion, 2009 and 2010 World silver medalist, 2009 and 2012 Four Continents Champion and 2007 World Junior silver medalist.  His personal best is 295.27.  He is 23 years old.  He has the 2nd best short program, best free skate and best total scores.

Liam Firus, CAN: His personal best is 189.06.  He is 21 years old.

Kevin Reynolds, CAN: He placed 5th at Worlds.  He finished 5th at Cup of China and 6th at NHK Trophy.  He is the 2013 Four Continents Champion and 2010 Four Continents Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 250.55.  He is 23 years old.  He has the 8th best free skate.

Han Yan, CHN: He won gold at Cup of China and finished 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he finished 6th.  He is the 2013 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2012 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 245.62.  He is 17 years old.  He has the 8th best short program and total scores.

Michal Březina, CZE: He placed 10th at Worlds last season and 4th at Europeans.   He placed 4th at Skate Canada and 5th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  He is the 2013 European Bronze Medalist and 2009 World Junior Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 243.52.  He is 23 years old.

Tomáš Verner, CZE: He placed 21st at Worlds last season and 7th at Europeans.  He is the 2008 European Champion, 2007 European Silver Medalist and 2011 European Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 232.67.  He is 27.

Viktor Romanenkov, EST: He placed 22nd at Worlds last season and 24th at Europeans.  His personal best is 177.09.  He is 20 years old.

Florent Amodio, FRA: He placed 12th at Worlds last season and 13th at Europeans.  He placed 6th at Cup of China and 7th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  He is the 2011 European Champion, 2013 European Silver Medalist and 2012 European Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 250.53.  He is 23 years old.

Brian Joubert, FRA: He placed 9th at Worlds last season and 8th at Europeans.  He is the 2007 World Champion; 2004, 2006 and 2008 World Silver Medalist; 2009 and 2010 World Bronze Medalist; 2004, 2007 and 2009 European Champion; 2003, 2005 and 2011 European Silver Medalist; and 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2010 European Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 244.58.  He is 29.

Peter Liebers, GER: He placed 11th at Worlds last season and 6th at Europeans.   He finished 7th at Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup.  His personal best is 225.76.  He is 25 years old.

Alexei Bychenko, ISR: He placed 31st at Worlds last year and 10th at Europeans.  His personal best is 203.76.  He is 26 years old.

Paul Bonifacio Parkinson, ITA: He place 33rd at Worlds last year and 23rd at Europeans.  His personal best is 184.07.  He is 22 years old.

Yuzuru Hanyu, JPN: He placed 4th at Worlds.  He won silver at Skate Canada and Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he won gold.  He is the 2012 World Bronze Medalist, 2011 and 2013 Four Continents Silver Medalist and 2010 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 293.25.  He is 19 years old.  He has the best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores.

Tatsuki Machida, JPN: He won gold at Skate America and Rostelecom Cup to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where he placed 4th.  He is the 2010 Four Continents Silver Medalist.  His personal best is 265.38.  He is 23 years old.  He has the 7th best short program, 5th best free skate and 5th best total scores.

Daisuke Takahashi, JPN: He finished 6th at Worlds.  He placed 4th at Skate America and won gold at NHK Trophy.  He is the 2010 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2010 World Champion, 2007 and 2012 World Silver Medalist, 2008 and 2011 Four Continents Champion, 2012 Four Continents Silver Medalist, 2005 Four Continents Bronze Medalist and 2002 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 276.72.  He is 27 years old.  He has the 3rd best short program, 6th best free skate and 3rd best total scores.

Abzal Rakimgaliev, KAZ: He placed 28th at Worlds last season and 15th at Four Continents.  His personal best is 185.41.  He is 21 years old.

Denis Ten, KAZ: He is the reigning World Silver Medalist and placed 4th at Four Continents.  He placed 4th at Cup of China.  His personal best is 266.48.  He is 20 years old.

Michael Christian Martinez, PHI: He placed 5th at Junior Worlds.  He finished 4th at JGP Latvia and won bronze at JGP Estonia.  His personal best is 198.82.  He is 17 years old.  He has the 5th best free skate and 8th best total scores as a junior.

Zoltan Kelemen, ROU: He placed 29th at Worlds last season and 21st at Europeans.  His personal best is 194.08.  He is 27 years old.

Evgeni Plushenko, RUS: He is the 2006 Olympic Champion; 2002 and 2010 Olympic Silver Medalist; 2001, 2003 and 2004 World Champion; 1999 World Silver Medalist; 1998 World Bronze Medalist; 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2012 European Champion; 1998, 1999 and 2004 European Silver Medalist; and the 1997 World Junior Champion.  His personal best is 261.23.  He is 31 years old.  He has the 6th best short program and 7th best free skate.

Javier Fernández, ESP: He is the reigning World Bronze Medalist and European Champion.  He placed 5th at NHK Trophy and won bronze at Rostelecom Cup.  He is the 2013 European Champion.  His personal best is 274.87.  He is 22 years old.  He has the 5th best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total scores.

Javier Raya, ESP: He placed 18th at Europeans.  His personal best is 179.37.  He is 22 years old.

Alexander Majorov, SWE: He finished 18th at Worlds last season and 11th at Europeans.  He placed 7th at Skate America and 8th at Trophee Eric Bompard.  He is the 2011 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 211.88.  He is 22 years old.

Yakov Godorozha, UKR: He placed 23rd at Worlds last year and 22nd at Europeans.  His personal best is 188.26.  He is 20 years old.

Jeremy Abbott, USA: He placed 6th at Skate Canada and won bronze at NHK Trophy.  He is the 2007 and 2011 Four Continents Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 238.82.  He is 28 years old.

Jason Brown, USA: He is the reigning World Junior Silver Medalist.  He finished 5th at Skate America and won bronze at Trophee Eric Bompard.  He is the 2012 World Junior Bronze Medalist.  His personal best is 243.09.  He is 19 years old.  He has the 9th best total score.

Misha Ge, UZB: He placed 16th at Worlds last season and 13th at Four Continents.  He placed 8th at Rostelecom Cup.  His personal best is 207.50.  He is 22 years old.