Yuzuru Hanyu leads glorious Japanese Olympic skating finish

Defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu completed his stunning comeback from injury to win the men’s single skating event and claim Japan’s first gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The Japanese figure skater built on his stellar performance in the short program on Friday and got the second-highest score in the free skating event Saturday, despite missing two jumps.

Hanyu joins Sweden’s Gillis Grafstrom (1920, 1924, 1928), Austria’s Karl Schafer (1932 and 1936) and the USA’s Dick Button (1948 and 1952) as the only men to win successive Olympic gold medals in this event.

He also becomes the third Japanese athlete to win gold at two different Olympic Winter Games, after Kenji Ogiwara and Takanori Kono in the Nordic combined team event in 1992 and 1994.

Hanyu’s sensational performance in the short program, where he scored 111.68 points, meant he was favorite to win gold. His final point tally, after the free skating final, stood at 317.85 – almost 11 points more than his compatriot Shoma Uno, who won silver.

Hanyu’s win also made him the 1000th gold medalist in the history of the Winter Olympics, 94 years after the first Winter Olympics gold medal was awarded to US speed skater Charles Jewtraw.

The 23-year-old was in tears after his golden performance on Saturday, and said defending his Olympic title was the best day of his skating life.

“My tears were from my heart. I can find one word and that is happy.”

“I have no words right now. I am overwhelmed. I am just happy with my performance and my hard training and everything,” he said.

Asked how he coped with the battle to be fit, here’s what Hanyu, who hasn’t competed since October, said.

“I just thought, ‘skate’. Just think about skating all day, all week, every day. And I trusted.”

With Shoma Uno’s silver, Japan becomes the first country to win two medals in this event at a single Winter Games since 2002, when Russia’s Yagudin won and Plushenko finished second.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez, who also performed very well in the strong short program, won the bronze medal.

The performance of the night, however, belonged to American youngster Nathan Chen, who performed an astonishing 6 quads in a beautifully choreographed routine accompanied by music from 2009 movie, Mao’s Last Dancer.

Chen scored 215.08 points, allowing him leapfrog the rankings table, from 17th to fifth place. His countrymen Vincent Zhou and Adam Rippon finished sixth and tenth, respectively.

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