The highly anticipated showdown between an upstart teenager and a highly decorated veteran in the men’s figure skating competition ended Friday with two flawed performances, and with youth winning the day.
Yuzuru Hanyu, 19, who three years ago barely escaped a massive earthquake in his native Japan, won gold in his first Olympic appearance, defeating three-time world champion Patrick Chan, 23, of Canada.
Hanyu, skating before Chan, took the ice for his long program having broken a world record the day before with a 101.45 in his short skate. But he fell twice in his technically ambitious long skate, scoring 178.64, for a total of 280.09.
That left the gold for Chan to seize.
Instead, Chan handed it back to Hanyu.
He got sloppy, slipping on several jumps and marring on a relatively cautious routine. Chan scored 178.10, falling to second with 275.62.
Chan, who’d lost to Hanyu in the Grand Prix final last month, failed to become the first Canadian to win gold in the men’s event.
And Hanyu became the first men’s skater to bring gold to his country.
He said afterward that he didn't expect to win, given his disappointing routine.
"I was so nervous and I was so tired," he said, according to the Associated Press. "But I was surprised (to win). I was not happy with my program."
The competition lacked commanding performances, and appeared at times as if no one wanted the medals badly enough. That accentuated the absence of Russian legend and four-time medalist Evgeni Plushenko, who pulled out of the competition seconds before his planned short skate on Thursday.
About 10 men entered Friday’s long program with bronze a possibility. But, as with Hanyu and Chan, all of them, most notably Javier Fernandez of Spain, stumbled.
Denis Ten of Kazakhstan, who placed 9th in Thursday's short skate, slipped into third for bronze with a surprising 171.04 in his long program, for a total of 255.10 points.
American Jason Brown, who skated last, had a shot at bronze. But the 19-year-old wobbled several times in a highly artistic and charismatic routine that depended on consistent landing of relatively unambitious jumps. He ended up in 9th place.
His teammate, Jeremy Abbott, the 28-year-old reigning national champion who fell twice in his first two appearances in Sochi, saved face on Friday, skating an uncharacteristically relaxed routine in which he appeared determined to prove he wasn’t a fragile skater who cracked under Olympic pressure.
He eschewed the big jumps, but he made no significant errors, and scored a 160.12, earning him a total of 232.70 points. He finished 12th.