GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 17, (AFP): Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu disclosed he had never “fully healed” from the serious injury that almost scuppered his Olympics after clinching the first back-to-back men’s figure skating title in more than six decades on Saturday.
The 23-year-old cemented his status as the modern day ‘Ice Prince’ when overcoming a three-month injury hiatus to add Pyeongchang gold to his Sochi 2014 success and emulate American Dick Button, Olympic champion in 1948 and 1952.
The charismatic skating icon had promised to reward his army of ardent supporters with “a dream performance” and he didn’t let them down as he led a Japanese one-two with Shoma Uno taking silver, ahead of Spain’s Javier Fernandez with bronze.
Hanyu’s Sochi triumph had elevated him to cult status in Japan, and his exploits in South Korea will only serve to propel his standing even further.
After his not-quite-spotless free skate, which opened with a quickfire quad salchow and quad toeloop, he bowed to his fans as they in turn tossed his Winnie The Pooh stuffed toys, his mascot, onto the Gangneung Arena ice.
But this was no teddy bear’s picnic for the two-time world champion, that was evident from his tears of relief after his score of 206.17 points came over the tannoy.
He then had to sit and suffer as first six-time European champion Fernandez, and then Uno, attempted valiantly but in vain to topple the rink king.
He took the Pyeongchang plaudits with a combined score of 317.85 to give him a cushion of almost 11 points over 19-year-old Uno (306.90), with Fernandez (305.24) just behind.
For Fernandez, it was the perfect way to end his last Olympics, claiming Spain’s first ever figure skating medal.
Hanyu was visibly moved by his latest triumph in a remarkable journey from the day in 2011 he had to flee a Sendai ice rink when a devastating earthquake hit Japan.
As well as claiming only the third ever skating title for Japan, his gold medal was also the 1,000th awarded in Winter Games history.
Aside from Hanyu’s heroics, the free skate was marked by the first ever routine featuring six quads from American teenager Nathan Chen, who scored an Olympic record of 215.08.
It was enough for fifth place for the 18-year-old, whose bid to upstage Hanyu had come unstuck when he flopped in the short programme on Friday to leave him trailing in 17th.
Hanyu meanwhile, pushed by the likes of his training partner Fernandez, Uno, Chen and company, has pushed figure skating to new limits.
The number of quads, skating’s most difficult jump, executed in the free skate final topped the 50-mark – something that would have astounded Button.
For back at the ‘52 Games in Oslo, Button had shaken up skating when he landed the Olympics’ first ever triple jump of any kind, a triple loop.
Czech snowboarder Ester Ledecka sprang one of the biggest shocks in Winter Games history when she won the super-G on Saturday with US star Lindsey Vonn finishing sixth.
Ledecka, favourite in the snowboard parallel slalom in a week’s time, clocked 1min 21.11sec down the polished 2km-long Jeongseon course to edge defending champion Anna Veith of Austria by one-hundredth of a second. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather took bronze.
Not only did Ledecka deprive Veith of what looked like a rare double, she pushed Vonn back into sixth spot, the American star paying the price for a massive error that saw her lose valuable time at the bottom of the course.
A shell-shocked Ledecka, said: “All the other girls didn’t risk a lot. There must be a lot of pressure on them. I was just trying to do my best run.
After newly-crowned giant slalom gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin’s disappointing fourth place in Friday’s slalom, all eyes were on Vonn for a US medal comeback as she opened her Pyeongchang campaign in brilliant sunshine.
On a technically testing super-G on hard-packed, artificial snow, an almost capacity crowd of 4,000 roared as the American was shown getting ready to move into the start gate.
Dressed in a figure-hugging white catsuit with red and blue stripes, and blonde hair tied tight back into a pony tail tucked into a white helmet, the American shot out and skied the top two-thirds of the course well, reaching speeds of 100 kmh and flying more than 30 metres off the jumps.
Pushing herself to the max, she overcooked it coming into the bottom third, however, and just four gates from the finish went wide on a turn.
Be-gloved left hand desperately driven into the snow to regain her line, she managed to correct herself and scrape inside the next gate.
As the 33-year-old, who had warned she was coming into the Games on a “hot streak” in a bid to repeat her Vancouver downhill gold, came across the line, she knew that that mistake had cost her dearly.
Shaking her head, hands to her face, she edged over to her coach, who consoled the weeping racer, one of the most recognisable faces at the Olympics.
Also on Saturday, Marit Bjoergen equalled her compatriot Ole Einar Bjoerndalen as the most decorated athlete in Winter Games history as she anchored Norway to victory in the 4x5km cross country relay, claiming her 13th medal.
Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina won the women’s biathlon 12.5km mass start, while Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin won the women’s ski slopestyle.
South Korea’s world record-holder Choi Min-jeong seized a convincing victory in the women’s 1,500m short track, and Canada’s Sam Girard won the men’s 1,000m after a mid-race pile-up cost home hope Lim Hyo-jun a shot at a second gold.
And Lizzy Yarnold won Britain’s first gold medal of the Games as she retained her women’s skeleton title, with team-mate Laura Deas taking bronze.
Winter Olympics Medals Table/Medalists
PYEONGCHANG, Feb 17, (Agencies): Olympic Games complete medals table on day eight.
G S B T
Germany 9 4 4 17
Norway 7 8 7 22
Netherlands 6 5 2 13
Canada 5 5 5 15
US 5 2 2 9
Sweden 4 3 0 7
Austria 3 2 4 9
France 3 2 2 7
South Korea 3 0 2 5
Switzerland 2 4 1 7
Italy 2 1 3 6
Japan 1 5 3 9
Czech Republic 1 2 2 5
Slovakia 1 2 0 3
Belarus 1 1 0 2
Britain 1 0 3 4
Poland 1 0 0 1
China 0 4 1 5
Olympic Athletes from Russia 0 2 7 9
Australia 0 2 1 3
Slovenia 0 1 0 1
Finland 0 0 3 3
Spain 0 0 2 2
Liechtenstein 0 0 1 1
Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1
Total 55 55 56 166
G = Gold; S = Silver; B = Bronze; T = Total.
Alpine Skiing Women’s Super G
Gold: Ester Ledecka, Czech Republic
Silver: Anna Veith, Austria
Bronze: Tina Weirather, Liechtenstein
Biathlon Women’s 12.5km Mass Start
Gold: Anastasiya Kuzmina, Slovakia
Silver: Darya Domracheva, Belarus
Bronze: Tiril Eckhoff, Norway
Cross-Country Skiing Women’s 4x5km Relay
Gold: Norway (Marit Bjorgen, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, Ingvild Flugstad Ostberg, Ragnhild Haga)
Silver: Sweden (Charlotte Kalla, Anna Haag, Stina Nilsson, Ebba Andersson)
Bronze: OA Russia (Anna Nechaevskaya, Yulia Belorukova, Natalia Nepryaeva, Anastasia Sedova)
Figure Skating Men
Gold: Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Silver: Shoma Uno, Japan
Bronze: Javier Fernandez, Spain
Freestyle Skiing Women’s Slopestyle
Gold: Sarah Hoefflin, Switzerland
Silver: Mathilde Gremaud, Switzerland
Bronze: Isabel Atkin, Britain
Short Track Speedskating Men’s 1,000
Gold: Samuel Girard, Canada
Silver: John-Henry Krueger, United States
Bronze: Seo Yira, South Korea
Gold: Choi Minjeong, South Korea
Silver: Li Jinyu, China
Bronze: Kim Boutin, Canada
Gold: Elizabeth Yarnold, Britain
Silver: Jacqueline Loelling, Germany
Bronze: Laura Deas, Britain
Ski Jumping Men’s Large Hill
Gold: Kamil Stoch, Poland
Silver: Andreas Wellinger, Germany
Bronze: Robert Johansson, Norway