Redemptive performance keeps demons at bay for Nathan Chen

Redemptive performance keeps demons at bay for Nathan Chen

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - It was the most significant performance to this point in Nathan Chen's competitive skating career.

And Chen's redemptive Olympic free skate Saturday may turn out to be the most significant in his entire career.

"I'm glad I was able to show myself, and everyone else, I can bounce back from a bad performance," Chen said.

To have finished his debut Olympics with nothing to temperhaving done so poorly in the team event and individual short programs would have been a burden Chen couldn't have shaken until 2022 -- if ever.

"These kind of things haunt you," 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie said.

Chen, 18, not only exorcised the demons-in-waiting -- he also wound up making Olympic history, winning the free skate by a whopping 8.91-point margin over repeat gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. His performance moved him from 17th after the short to fifth overall but, more important, allowed him to step into a future that again seems as bright as the one everyone has envisioned for him.

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No way to sugarcoat this: Nathan Chen has been awful in his first Olympics

No way to sugarcoat this:  Nathan Chen has been awful in his first Olympics

GANGNEUNG, South Korea - There is no way to sugarcoat this, to find a silver lining or a saving grace, or to think that the light at the end of the tunnel is anything but an oncoming train.

Nathan Chen has simply been awful in his first Olympics.

As poor as Chen was in the team event short program a week ago, he was significantly worse in the individual short program Friday.

"Honestly, it was bad," Chen said. "I made as many mistakes as I possibly could have."

The most gifted jumper in U.S. men's skating history did not have a clean jumping pass among the six he completed in the two short programs. The three in the individual short produced a fall, two step-out landings and failure to do a required combination.

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Jumping wizards make possibilities seem endless

Jumping wizards make possibilities seem endless

After winning the Grand Prix Final for the fourth straight year, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan was playing around during practice for the event's exhibition gala.

To a men's figure skater in 2016, this is what "playing around" means: He tried a quadruple salchow, followed by a half loop, followed by...another quad salchow.

Yes, he fell on the second salchow, but still: a quad-quad combination?

"He gets pretty excited/competitive on those practices," said Hanyu's coach, Brian Orser, in a text message. "I saw a quad axel once on one of those practices!"

Maybe the exclamation point is no longer even necessary in an era when the quad jumping progression has gone from arithmetic to exponential.

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