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Winter Olympics: Hanyu survives stumble, becomes first Asian to win men's figure skating gold


Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. David Gray / Reuters

SOCHI - With a Japanese flag draped on his slender shoulders, Yuzuru Hanyu whizzed round the ice for a victory lap resembling 'Superman' after becoming the first Asian to win the men's Olympic figure skating title.

The competition, however, was anything but super on Friday as Hanyu beat triple world champion Patrick Chan to triumph in a nerve-racking free skate littered with spills, slips and stumbles by the leading contenders.

"Oh my God, I'm so surprised, I am shocked," exclaimed Hanyu when he realzsed the howlers had not stopped him earning Japan their first gold at the Sochi Games.

"The Olympics is so wild and unpredictable. I've never been this nervous for a competition in my entire life. I'm upset with the performance I had but I left everything I had out there."

His coach Brian Orser celebrated back-to-back Olympic victories having guided South Korea's Kim Yuna to the women's gold four years ago.

He told Hanyu: "It's not over till it's over. A win is a win, is a win, is a win."

[Related: Filipino Olympian Michael Martinez finishes Sochi stint in 19th place]

Thirty years to the day after Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean captivated the world with their Bolero ice dance that drew a row of perfect 6.0s in the Sarajevo Olympics, fans in Sochi could only muster lukewarm applause as they witnessed error after error after error.

A day after smashing the 100-point barrier with a dazzling short program, the 19-year-old Hanyu drew gasps as he fell on his opening quad Salchow.

Stunned silence followed as he touched down with both hands after his triple flip but he survived both mishaps to win the gold with a total of 280.09 points.

The blunders opened the door for Chan to leapfrog him into first place but the Canadian failed to take advantage.

The triple world champion put his hands down following both his quadruple toeloop and triple Axel and also botched the landing on his double axel.

The axel jump has long been Chan's Achilles heel and so it proved again on Friday as he was given 178.10 points for his flawed performance, earning a total of 275.62 and squandering his chance to become the first Canadian to win the men's title.

Schoolboy error

"There was a lot of pressure to win the gold for Canada but I really wanted to do it for myself," said Chan who captured his second silver medal in Sochi following his country's second-place finish in the team competition.

"Feeling the medal slip away was definitely a lingering thought. I'm disappointed but life goes on."

Kazakhstan's Denis Ten proved to be the surprise package of the night as a clean program allowed him to storm from ninth place to collect bronze with 255.10.

He was the only man among the top 10 to produce an error-free skate and nailed a quadruple toeloop and seven triple jumps to scoop his country's first ever Olympic figure skating medal.

Two-time European champion Javier Fernandez lost his chance of becoming the first Spaniard on blades to win an Olympic medal after a schoolboy error dropped him out of contention.

He was the only medal contender who planned to execute three quadruple jumps but when he downgraded the Salchow by completing only three revolutions, he got zero points for performing it a second time as the rules state you cannot carry out the same jump twice.

That left him fifth in the free skate and fourth overall, missing out on a bronze by just 1.18 points.

"I made that stupid mistake [on the quad] and lost a few points that could have helped me to get on to the podium. But I won't focus on it, I need to move on," said Fernandez who is also trained by Orser.

"I'm disappointed. I was just one step off the podium. I would love to have seen the Spanish flag up there but it didn't happen. Now I have to wait for the [2018] Olympics in [South] Korea to climb that step."

For figure skating purists it was a disappointing evening all round.

Twenty-four hours after Yevgeny Plushenko abruptly pulled out of the competition at the 11th hour, the familiar chants of 'Ro-ss-ia, Ro-ss-ia, Ro-ss-ia' were absent as the showman's exit left the event without a home representative.

If the atmosphere was already rather muted at the start, it had an air of anti-climax at the end as fans who had paid up to $500 for their tickets left feeling short-changed after a stellar field failed to produce stellar performances.

The only man who was shown any love on Valentine's Day was Japan's former world champion Daisuke Takahashi.

The moment he finished his final competitive skate he was bombarded with dozens of bouquets, teddy bears and stuffed red hearts.

Takahashi left the arena without any precious metal after finishing sixth but he will need a convoy of cars to escort him to the airport if he plans to take his huge haul of gifts home. - Reuters
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