Yuzuru Hanyu, a 19-year-old jumping phenom from Japan, put his country in first place after the men’s short program at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace Thursday, earning 97.98 points for a brilliant performance that relegated Russian skating icon Evgeni Plushenko to second.
Plushenko (91.36 points), who was cheered wildly by the crowd, said afterward that he had already won, having earned the right to compete in his fourth Olympics.
Canada’s Patrick Chan (89.71) was third.
And a disastrous performance by four-time and defending U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott, who fell on his opening quadruple jump, dropped the U.S to seventh among the 10 countries vying for the inaugural Olympic team title in figure skating.
The opening day of the team competition concludes at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace with the pairs short programs. Then, after pausing for Friday’s Opening Ceremonies, it resumes Saturday, with the women’s and dance short programs.
Only the five top-scoring countries will advance to Sunday’s medal round.