One of the more open competitions in recent memory, the men’s division has gone through a major transition. Many skaters have either retired, gone through injuries, or have suffered through inconsistencies. This Olympic is is no exception. 2010 Olympic champ, Evan Lysacek will be viewing the action from the stands, as he suffered a possible career ending injury and was unable to participate at Nationals and defend his Gold medal. That leaves a host of contenders to make the podium.
Analysis: The big story of these games should be Canada’s Patrick Chan, who despite having big marks at nationals, hasn’t skated the way he’s done in recent competitions. He struggled at the Grand Prix Final in December, losing to Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, whose victory in the GP Final moved him into the current #1 spot. Chan will have to continue to kick it up a notch.
His 3rd place finish in the World Team short program didn’t do him any favors with the judges. Hanyu enlisted the help of Brian Orser as his coach in 2012. Orser’s other pupil, Yu-Na Kim elevated herself to Gold in Vancouver 2010. If there’s any indications, Orser may have his second Gold medalist in waiting.
Meanwhile, many were questioning whether Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko had anything left after he was forced to withdraw from the 2013 European Championships due to a back injury and underwent back surgery to replace a disc. He put all doubters to rest after his successful return in the World Team competition, helping Russia win Gold. Despite being ranked 3rd, Spain’s Javier Hernandez has struggled in Grand Prix competition this season. He recovered from his poor start to win his second European title last month.
The United States is in a precarious position. With Lysacek gone, the men find themselves without a proven winner with international experience. None of the Jeremy Abbott has struggled in Grand Prix competition this season, but fought back after a disappointing 3rd place finish in 2013 to win his 2nd National title last month. That leaves the unproven Jason Brown to try and contend. He’s shown promise, finishing 3rd at Trophee Bompard and a 2nd place finish at Nationals.
Skaters to Watch: China’s Han Yan has come on strong this season, winning at Cup of China in November giving him lots of confidence going into Sochi. Any place on the podium will be momentous occasion for a country accustomed to pairs greatness. Last year’s World’s runner-up, Denis Ten of Kazakhstan is back from illness. It will be a question mark to how his recovery has affected his skating. Also in question is Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi, who had a disastrous Nationals performance, finishing 5th. The Japanese skating body gave Takahashi the nod, sending him to Sochi. Other skaters that will contend are France Florent Amodio and Brian Joubert, Czech Republic’s Michal Brezina, Japan’s Tatsuki Machida and Canada’s Kevin Reynolds.
Prediction: It’s hard to figure out who has the edge here. Both Chan and Hanyu have had their issues with inconsistency this season. It’s gonna take a flawless free skate by Chan with no room for error to win this competition. His personal best was 295.27 at Trophee Bompard this season. Hanyu ‘s best was 293.25 at the Grand Prix final in December. That 2.02 points margin could mean the difference between Gold and Silver. If either skaters suffer a major collapse in any of their programs, look for Plushenko to grab his 2nd Gold.
Gold – Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)
Silver – Patrick Chan (CAN)
Bronze – Evgeni Plushenko (RUS)
Next Up: Pairs