February 14, 2014 in Sports

Drama heats up on ice

Barry Wilner Associated Press
 

Plushenko
(Full-size photo)

SOCHI, Russia – Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu made figure skating history, and now can chase even more of it.

He’ll do so without having to fend off a challenge from another record-setter, Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko.

Hanyu, 19, became the first figure skater to break the 100-point mark with a spectacular performance in the men’s short program on Thursday night. He earned 101.45 points with a playful, almost seductive routine in which he seemed to flow above the ice. He nailed his two biggest jumps, including a huge a quadruple toe loop to open the program, and his triple lutz-triple toe combination was exquisite.

“I was so surprised with my score,” Hanyu said. “I didn’t know I got over 100.”

While Hanyu was soaring to a nearly four-point lead over three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada, Plushenko finished his stellar career with another injury.

The only figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four games, including gold in the new team event last weekend, Plushenko hurt his back in training Wednesday. He gave it a go in warmups before the short program, but after falling on a triple axel, he knew he was done.

“I said to myself, ‘Evgeni, you must skate. It’s two more days, short and long program,’ ” the 31-year-old 2006 Olympic gold medalist said.

But he could not.

“I think it’s God saying, ‘Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,’ ” added Plushenko, who said he’s had 12 surgeries.

No man from an Asian nation or Canada has even won Olympic gold in figure skating. Chan, who was fifth in Vancouver, put on his best Olympic routine to stay within sight of Hanyu.

“Four points in singles men’s is not much,” Chan said. “I like being in second. I like being in the chase. It’s exciting to me.”

Javier Fernandez of Spain, a country that’s never won an Olympic figure skating medal, was third with 86.98.

American Jason Brown put on the performance his young skating career to finish sixth.

Brown will be the final skater in tonight’s final. Fernandez leads off the last group of six, with Takahashi second, Hanyu third and Chan fourth. Peter Liebers of Germany is the other skater in the final group.

The night began with wild swings, from Plushenko falling in warmups to U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott crashing. Abbott stayed down for a lengthy period after his fall, and just when coach Yuka Sato was about to open the entry door to help him, he struggled to his feet and continued his program.

The four-time U.S. champ nailed every subsequent element to wind up 15th.

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