A near perfect performance put U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen comfortably at the top of the Olympic podium, a hard-fought redemption after he faltered in his debut in the Games four years ago.
Defeating his chief rival, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Chen became the first American to take home the top prize in men’s figure skating since 2010.
Hanyu, the defending Olympic champion and two-time gold medalist, got fourth place in the Thursday event. For years, Hanyu has been chasing the elusive quadruple axel, a figure skating jump that has never been successfully landed in competition. The 27-year-old “Ice Prince” was the only figure skater to attempt the move at the Games this year, but he fell and failed to catch up to Chen, who scored a record 113.97 in men’s short program on Tuesday.
Chen was seen as a favorite for the Olympic gold since that event, where Hanyu came in eighth after failing to complete his first jump because he hit a hole in the ice.
22-year-old Chen’s flawless performance earlier this week set him up for first place, which he took with ease in the long program on Thursday with 20 points ahead of the silver medalist, Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama. Shoma Uno, also of Japan, won bronze.
The victory was a sweet redemption for Chen, who was seen as a favorite at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games and failed to medal when he crumbled under the pressure of the spotlight, repeatedly making mistakes in the short program. After that, the American athlete said he learned from his defeat and was no longer fixated on winning, and win he did.