Yuzuru Hanyu Fought to the Finish in His First Short Program in Beijing

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu currently sits in second place in the men's singles short program.

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Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu arrived at the 2022 Olympics with the highest possible expectations, and in his short program, the two-time reigning Olympic champion fell a bit short of them. Hanyu downgraded his first jump, a planned quad salchow, to a single. This results in zero points for the element and gave him a huge hill to climb for the rest of the routine. In a post-skate interview with NBC, Hanyu explained that his skate got caught in a divot in the ice during his takeoff, throwing off the jump when he tried to jump in the air.

But Hanyu is nothing if not a fighter and an artist, and the rest of his program was the combination of elegance, musicality, and strength that figure skating fans have come to love. He nailed his next two jumps, a quad toe loop in combination and a triple axel, and came away with a score of 95.15. In his interview, Hanyu explained that he was able to move forward with the rest of his program by simply focusing on the music — a version of "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso," which he says he loves — and what he could control.

However, Hanyu's Olympics is far from over. The 27-year-old, who had hoped to become the first figure skater in 94 years to win three consecutive Olympic golds, has an ace up his sleeve for the free skate: the near-mythical quad axel, which has never been landed cleanly in competition. Hanyu has spoken about his ambition to be the first to land the quad axel, and to do it in the Olympics would leave an indelible mark on the sport, no matter his place on the podium. Of course, that's ignoring the fact that Hanyu is already a living icon: one of the only men figure skaters to win two consecutive Olympic golds and a true pioneer whose dazzling blend of grace and jumping ability has pushed the sport to new heights.