Olympics men’s figure skating

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Olympic figure skating results 2018: Nathan Chen brilliant, but Yuzuru Hanyu takes gold

Nathan Chen of the United States put together the most impressive free skate of the day at the 2018 Winter Olympics, with several brilliant quad jumps in his routine. He was in first place for a long time, but ultimately was pushed out of the podium spots by Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Shoma Uno of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain, who took gold, silver and bronze, respectively.

Chen struggled in the short program previously, which hurt his potential to finish with a medal. His free skate was incredible, but it just wasn’t enough to give him the win.

Below, you can find the full play-by-play from our live results of the free skate, and below that, a full list of results.

Free skate results, fourth group of six

The fourth group started with a very strong run from Dmitri Aliev of the Olympic Athletes from Russia. His score of 267.51 moved him high up the leaderboard. Then it was onto Jin Boyang of China, who managed a 194.45, for a total score of 297.77, unseating Chen for the lead!

Patrick Chan of Canada, one of the most decorated figure skaters of all time, had a very nice final run, including a quad toeloop into a double toeloop to start his routine. His total score of 263.43 placed him in sixth overall.

Yuzuru Hanyu, defending his gold medal from Sochi and clear winner in the short program, started with a perfect quad salchow and then a quad toeloop that was equally perfect. A quad salchow into a triple toe was his sixth move of the program. He stumbled on his next quad toeloop, and his final jump, a triple lutz, he barely managed to stay on his feet.

Hanyu’s free skate score of 206.17 put him in first with a total of 317.85, pushing Boyang to second and Chen, the American, to third.

Javier Fernandez of Spain was next, going for his country’s fourth ever medal at the Winter Olympics, and its first in figure skating. He had a beautiful run, finishing with a free skate score of 197.66, and a total score of 305.24. That pushed Chen off the podium.

Shoma Uno of Japan was last to go, with a decent chance at making the podium. his score of 202.73 gave him a 306.90, giving him the silver medal.

Free skate results, third group of six

Vincent Zhou of the United States started his routine with a perfect quadruple lux into a triple toeloop. He then attempted a quad flip, but came up short on sticking the landing, drawing just 9.90 points for it. He did nail the quad Salchow right after that, however.

Zhou finished his run with a score of 192.16, with an 84.53 in the short program the previous day, for a total of 276.69, good for second place behind Chen.

Adam Rippon, also of the United States, put together a triple axel into a pair of double toeloops. Another triple axel followed, then a triple flip into a triple toeloop, and a triple salchow, then a triple lux to end the jumps. His spins at the end of the routine were very good. His total score was a 259.36, good for fourth place at the time.

Mikhail Kolyada, an Olympic Athlete of Russia, scored a total of 264.25, which put him in third going into the final group of six.

Free skate results, second group of six

The next group of six got underway with Oleksii Bychenko of Israel, and he unseated Tanaka for first. His countryman, Danel Samohin, posted a 251.44 total to take over second place. Then it was Nathan Chen of the United States.

Chen started with a quadruple lutz, then a quad flip double toeloop, a very strong start to his routine. A quad flip and a pair of quad toeloops gave way to the quad salchow, giving him all five of his of quad jumps. Chen’s short program was a disappointment, but his free skate was beautiful. He posted a free skate score of 215.08, giving him a 297.35 overall, easily in first place for the time being.

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 17, 2018

After Chen, the best run of the second group came from Cha Jun-hwan, who posted a 248.59.

Free skate results, first group of six

Dennis Vasiljevs of Latvia will be in first place to start, but he had two falls, so he will be bumped fairly quickly. Matteo Rizzo of Italy was up next, and it was a strong Olympic debut, with a free skate score of 156.78, but a total of 232.41 that put him in second place overall. Paul Fentz of Germany came out and skated to Game of Thrones, but placed in third. Vasiljevs wasn’t displaced until Keiji Tanaka of Japan, who posted a total score of 244.83 with a free skate run of 164.78. Finally, Moris Kvitelashvili of Georgia posted a score of 204.57 to end the first group.

Men’s Figure Skating Final Scores

Athlete Country Total Score
Athlete Country Total Score
Yuzuru Hanyu Japan 317.85
Shoma Uno Japan 306.90
Javier Fernández Spain 305.24
Jin Boyang China 297.77
Nathan Chen United States 297.35
Vincent Zhou United States 276.69
Dmitri Aliev Olympic Athletes from Russia 267.51
Mikhail Kolyada Olympic Athletes from Russia 264.25
Patrick Chan Canada 263.43
Adam Rippon United States 259.36
Oleksii Bychenko Israel 257.01
Keegan Messing Canada 255.43
Daniel Samohin Israel 251.44
Jorik Hendrickx Belgium 248.95
Cha Jun-hwan South Korea 248.59
Michal Březina Czech Republic 246.07
Misha Ge Uzbekistan 244.94
Keiji Tanaka Japan 244.83
Deniss Vasiļjevs Latvia 234.58
Brendan Kerry Australia 233.81
Matteo Rizzo Italy 232.41
Paul Fentz Germany 214.55
Yan Han China 213.01
Moris Kvitelashvili Georgia 204.57

Before Saturday’s free skate

On Friday evening, the gold, silver and bronze medals in men’s figure skating will be won and lost at the 2018 Winter Olympics. The free skate, known by many as the long program, is the second part of the competition following the short program held on Friday.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, Javier Fernandez of Spain and Shoma Uno of Japan are the leaders after the short program, while three Americans did well enough to qualify for the free skate. The competition begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, with live streaming via NBC Olympics and FuboTV.

We’re going to have live coverage of the event, which will feature 24 skaters, including Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou and Adam Rippon of the United States. Earning a medal is going to be tough, though, as the highest-rated of the group is Rippon at No. 7 overall following the short program.

The free skate is called the “long program” because it lasts four minutes, 30 seconds, and is very taxing on the body. The men’s event is now generally focused on one thing, primarily: quadruple jumps. The quad jump is exactly what it sounds like — four rotations in the air, landing on one foot. It’s the skating or snowboarding equivalent of a 1440.

The way the judging has been going at these Olympics, pulling off multiple quad jumps, especially late in the program, is the way to go. Chen is a master of multiple quad jumps, but fell on a quad lutz, and nearly fell on a triple axel in his short program. He is in 17th place with no hope for a medal, lest the rest of the field is stricken with the flu.

Chen was a gold medal favorite, so that hurts the United States quite a bit. Rippon had a brilliant performance with no mistakes in the short program, but he did not attempt any quad jumps, so even though people ahead of him actually fell down and had sloppy runs, the difficulty modifier in the scoring have them ahead of him. Rippon is going to need some help to make it onto the podium.

How to watch figure skating on Friday

Date: Feb. 16, 2018

Event: Men’s free skate


Time: 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET (primetime coverage)

Online Streaming: NBC Olympics | FuboTV

Men’s short program results

Rank Nation Skater Score Result
Rank Nation Skater Score Result
1 Japan Yuzuru Hanyu 111.68 Q
2 Spain Javier Fernandez 107.58 Q
3 Japan Shoma Uno 104.17 Q
4 China Jin Boyang 103.32 Q
5 Olympic Athletes of Russia Dmitri Aliev 98.98 Q
6 Canada Patrick Chan 90.01 Q
7 United States Adam Rippon 87.95 Q
8 Olympic Athletes of Russia Mikhail Kolyada 86.69 Q
9 Czech Republic Michal Brezina 85.15 Q
10 Canada Keegan Messing 85.11 Q
11 Belgium Jorik Hendrickx 84.74 Q
12 United States Vincent Zhou 84.53 Q
13 Israel Alexei Bychenko 84.13 Q
14 Uzbekistan Misha Ge 83.90 Q
15 South Korea Jun-hwan Cha 83.43 Q
16 Australia Brendan Kerry 83.06 Q
17 United States Nathan Chen 82.27 Q
18 Israel Daniel Samohin 80.69 Q
19 China Yan Han 80.63 Q
20 Japan Keiji Tanaka 80.05 Q
21 Latvia Deniss Vasiljevs 79.52 Q
22 Georgia Morisi Kvitelashvili 76.56 Q
23 Italy Matteo Rizzo 75.63 Q
24 Germany Paul Fentz 74.73 Q
25 Malaysia Julian Zhi Jie Yee 73.58
26 France Chafik Besseghier 72.10
27 Kazakhstan Denis Ten 70.12
28 Philippines Michael Christian Martinez 55.56
29 Spain Felipe Montoya 52.41
30 Ukraine Yaroslav Paniot 46.58

Throw your Pooh bears in the air, and hurl ’em like you just don’t care!

The Olympic men’s free skate competition took place Friday night at Gangeung Ice Arena in PyeongChang, a rink that had been littered with plush Winnie the Pooh toys after Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu (the 2014 gold medalist with a thing for the honey fiend) completed his performance in Thursday’s short program. Indeed, Hanyu was in the lead going into the free skate, followed by Spain’s Javier Fernanzdez in second and Japan’s Shoma Uno in third.

But the evening quickly became about who could land the most quad jumps, and when American Nathan Chen completed six of ’em — five in gorgeous fashion — he rebounded from his disastrous short program the night before and racked up a technical score that suddenly made him a medal contender.

But a solid performance from Spain’s Javier Fernandez ultimately knocked Chen out of the running for a podium spot. When everything was done, Hanyu won gold (again), with teammate Shoma Uno of Japan taking silver and Fernandez earning bronze.

At the end of the four-hour-plus competition, here are a few other (unofficial) prizes we’d like to give out:

MUSIC WE ENJOYED THE MOST | A tie between the Star Wars score (including “The Cantina Song”), skated to by China’s Jin Boyang, and Pink Floyd’s “Money,” skated to by Australia’s Brendan Kerry

BEST JOHNNY WEIR BURN, VOL. I | Germany’s Paul Fentz, who skated to music from Game of Thrones and dressed in a costume to match, had a less-than-desirable outing featuring several stumbles, prompting Weir to observe that the rest of his program “just sort of flitted away, flew away on a dragon’s eyelash.”

BEST JOHNNY WEIR BURN, VOL. II | “He did his job, and he had his Olympic moment,” Weir said, damning Belgium’s Jorik Hendrickx with faint praise

BEST JOHNNY WEIR ACCOLADE | “It’s like his knees are made out of whipped cream, they’re so fluffy and white,” Weir said of Olympic Athlete from Russia Mikhail Kolyada. 1) The comment was so odd, we’re not 100 percent sure we got it down correctly. 2) But we are fairly certain Weir pronounced “whipped” like Family Guy‘s Stewie does.

BEST RECOVERY | After a hard fall at the beginning of his skate, China’s Han Yan pulled it together and finished strong with a fancy, well-executed step sequence.

MOST FUN | The Charlie Chaplin-inspired routine skated by Canada’s Keegan Messing may not have been the most technically challenging number we saw all night, but man, what an engaging performance!

MOST MOVING RESPONSE TO A SUCCESSFUL SKATE | USA’s 17-year-old competitor Vincent Zhou fell to his knees, pumped his fist and seemed ready to burst into relieved sobs at the end of his elegantly performed number.

BEST USE OF A BEDAZZLER | We have a feeling that the International Space Station was probably able to see light reflected off the jeweled shirt worn by America’s Adam Rippon. (P.S. And that’s not a bad thing. Dude’s got style.)

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Winter Olympics 2018: figure skating scoring explained for people who don’t follow figure skating

The only predictable thing about figure skating is that the sport is unpredictable. Every time a skater steps onto the ice, there’s always a sense that something could go splendidly right or disastrously wrong — and we, as viewers, never know what we’re going to get.

But it’s not just skaters’ performances that can leave our jaws on the floor; sometimes it’s the judges’ decisions too.

The scoring system that’s currently used for all competitive figure skating — including at the Olympics — isn’t easy to crack. A skater’s final marks can somehow add up to a seemingly random number like 150.49, and that figure includes both component scores for artistry and presentation, and more technical scores like the esoteric “grades of execution,” which measure how well a skater performs individual “elements” of a program. And that’s before you count any deductions or bonuses. Consequently, figure skating can feel inaccessible to casual fans, especially to those who tend to only tune in once every four years during the Olympics.

That feeling of inaccessibility can be exacerbated in cases where the scoring system yields a counterintuitive outcome — like in the recent Olympic team event that saw Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada fall but still score higher than America’s Adam Rippon, who gave what looked to be a nearly flawless performance.

Understanding how the figure skating scoring system works can help explain how that outcome unfolded — so we’ve put together a brief guide to its most confusing aspects. It may not change your mind about any given skater’s results, but it will give you a better idea of how those results came to be.

The current figure skating scoring system assigns each “element” an individual score

Those of us old enough to remember names like Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano probably remember the old 6.0 system, in which programs were judged in two parts: presentation (artistry) and technical merit (the jumps) on a scale of 0.0 to 6.0, with 6.0 meaning perfection.

That’s gone now.

Because of a 2002 Winter Olympics scandal involving fixed scores and corrupt judging, the International Skating Union — the governing body for competitive skating disciplines — adopted a new set of codes in 2004 (which was fully implemented in 2006). The “new” system assigns numeric base values to jumps, spins, and other technical elements in a skater’s program, in an attempt to standardize the potential scores for those elements and reduce the possibility of corruption (though, as BuzzFeed points out, favoritism and inflated scores still exist).

In addition to those base values, there’s a “grade of execution,” or GOE, for each element, as well as a component score that takes into account the artistic merit of a skater’s program.

Skaters are also expected to meet a specific set of criteria. The requirements in the women’s short program include a double axel or triple axel, a triple jump, a combination jumping pass, a flying spin, a combination spin, a layback or sideways-leaning spin, and a step sequence. The men’s short program has the same requirements, but with a camel or sit spin instead of instead of the layback spin.

Meanwhile, the US Figure Skating Association’s guidelines for the men’s free skate (which has a maximum time limit of four minutes and 30 seconds) and women’s free skate (four minutes and 10 seconds) include:

Jumps: There is a maximum of eight jump elements for men and seven jump elements for ladies. One must be an Axel-type jump. Only two triple or quad jumps can be repeated and they must be a part of a jump combination or jump sequence. There may be up to three jump combinations or sequences. Jump combinations may not contain more than two jumps, however one jump combination may consist of three jumps.

Spins: A maximum of three spins of a different nature – one must be a spin combination, one a flying spin and one spin with only one position.

Steps: One step sequence and one choreographic sequence, which must occur after the step sequence.

The grade of execution for each element is crucial

Judges use the GOE to score how well a skater performs — or fails to perform — each element in their program (jumps, spins, footwork sequences, etc.) It follows a scale of +3 to -3, which is added to or subtracted from an element’s base value.

For a good example of how the GOE can affect a skater’s overall score, let’s look at Canadian skater Patrick Chan’s excellent quadruple toe loop from his free skate during the team event in Pyeongchang:

Patrick Chan performs a quadruple toe loop at the Pyeongchang Olympics. NBC

The base value of a quadruple toe loop is 10.30 points. But Chan’s jump is more than just serviceable — note how he goes into the jump with a ton of effortless speed (the GIF above is slowed down by 50 percent), and how his position in the air is tight. He also gets good height, and the overall jump is very pleasing to the eye. The judges awarded him a positive GOE of 2.57 points, bringing the total number of points he earned for the jump to 12.87.

Here’s Chan’s scoresheet from his free skate, which lists his quadruple toe loop (“4T”):

Patrick Chan’s scores ISU/Olympics

Jumps performed in the second half of a program are worth more than jumps performed in the first half

Another thing you might notice from Chan’s scoresheet is several small X’s. These X’s indicate the jumps that Chan performed in the second half of his program, and they’re important because jumps that a skater performs in the second half of a program are awarded a 10 percent bonus, on top of their base value (on the sheet, the base value score already reflects the 10 percent bonus).

The idea behind the bonus is simple: The longer a skater’s program goes on — and free skates usually run four to four and a half minutes — the more tired a skater gets. So performing difficult jumps in the second half requires more strength, endurance, and skill, and the 10 percent bonus is meant to acknowledge that.

One skater who takes advantage of this rule is Russian skater Alina Zagitova. During her free skate program, she performs all her jumps in the second half to take advantage of all of the bonus points, as seen on her scoresheet from the team event in Pyeongchang:

Alina Zagitova’s scoresheet from her free skate during the team event. ISU/Olympics

In plain English, a higher number of difficult jumps landed cleanly (unsurprisingly) leads to higher scores. And ideally, you want all those jumps to happen in the back half of the program.

But there’s still a lot more to a high-scoring program than just gaming the point system.

Strategy is important, but there are limits to how many points a skater can earn by padding their program with difficulty

In the Olympic free skate, men are allowed a maximum of eight jumping passes and women are allowed seven, which restricts how much difficulty any one skater can pack in.

Skaters are also not allowed to repeat their quadruple and triple jumps more than twice per jump, unless the repeated jump is part of a combination. If they repeat a jump even once (e.g., they perform two quadruple toe loops in one program), they can only receive 70 percent of the base value of the jump on the second time around.

In Mikhail Kolyada’s free skate during the team event, for example, he repeated his quad toe loop, which gave it a base value of 7.93 instead of 10.30. You can see this on his scoresheet, where the second “4T” is followed by “+REP” (his first jump was downgraded). Because he repeated a single quad jump not in combination, he only received 70 percent of its base value, plus a 10 percent bonus for performing it in the second half of his program:

Mikhail Kolyada’s scoresheet. ISU

If these rules didn’t exist, a skater could ostensibly build a program in which they simply repeat one high-value jump they’ve mastered, over and over again.

There are deductions for everything from falling to under-rotating a jump

Under the older 6.0 system, falling during a program typically spelled doom for a skater. A fall was considered a huge mistake because programs were judged as a whole, with less attention paid to the minutiae of individual elements. But falls weren’t ever given a base numerical value, since that system wasn’t really mathematical; it was much more relative than that, a way to rank skaters against one another.

But because elements now have base values and can each account for a certain number of points, flaws in the way a skater executes them — and any resulting point deductions for mistakes — are now tabulated on an element-by-element basis. Naturally, the easiest mistake for casual viewers to spot is a fall, and each time a skater hits the ice, they’re penalized with a 1-point deduction from their total score. They’ll also see that fall reflected in a lower GOE score for the element they were performing when they fell.

Another instance where a skater might be penalized with a deduction is if they under-rotate a jump. Every triple jump that isn’t the triple axel requires three revolutions, with the axel requiring three and a half. But there are cases where a skater may complete the jump yet still fall short of performing three full revolutions.

When a skater performs a jump and misses more than quarter of a revolution but less than half of one, they are docked points for under-rotation. This is marked by a < symbol on their scoresheet:

The “<“ on this skater’s scoresheet shows that their triple loop (“3Lo”) was under-rotated. ISU/Olympics

A skater who under-rotates a jump will only receive 70 percent of the base value of the intended jump. If a skater performs a jump and misses by more than a half revolution, their jump will be “downgraded” by a full revolution — say, from a triple lutz to a double lutz. That’s indicated by a “<<“ symbol on their scoresheet, and the skater will only receive credit for the downgraded, less difficult version of the jump.

Here’s the scoresheet for a skater who had their triple lutz downgraded:

This skater executed a triple lutz but failed to complete more than two and a half revolutions, so the jump was downgraded to a double lutz. ISU/Olympics

That’s a major loss of points. The skater above was trying to go for 6.0 points — the base value of a triple lutz — but was only credited with a double lutz, which carries a base value of 2.1 points (the 2.31 above reflects the 10 percent second-half-of-program bonus). On top of that, their GOE scores reflected how poorly they executed the attempted triple jump, and their score suffered even more.

Essentially, the jumps a skater performs will always have a base value. But how they execute those jumps determines whether that base value stays the same, or whether it’s downgraded due to under-rotation (or, for that matter, raised because it was performed in the second half of a skater’s program).

Judges can also ding a skater for mistakes on other technical elements like spins, or for not performing required program elements. Skaters can even be penalized for things like costume violations. But the clearest place to see deductions is in how the judges score jumps.

Difficulty level isn’t everything. The component score — or “artistic” score — matters too.

In addition to the points a skater earns from the difficulty level and execution of the technical elements of their program, there’s also the component score — formerly known as the measure of a skater’s “presentation” or “artistry.”

The component score is composed of how well a skater does in five categories: “skating skills,” “transitions,” “performance,” “composition,” and “interpretation of music.”

Each of these five categories is graded on a scale of 1 to 10.

The latter three categories — performance, composition, and interpretation of music — are subjective judgments on the aesthetics of the skater’s performance. “Composition” refers to how the program is crafted and how the elements of the program are arranged in a sequence. “Performance” refers to the overall quality of a skater’s movements, like the extension of their arms and legs during spins, jumps, landings, and footwork sequences, as well as their posture and alignment. And “interpretation of the music,” as defined by the US Figure Skating Association, is intended to “reward the skater who through movement creates a personal and creative translation of the music.”

“Skating skills” and “transitions” refer to how a skater moves across the ice — judges look for and reward speed and effortless-seeming power. They usually award lower scores to skaters who make figure skating look like the hard work that it is. And with transitions, judges are looking for intricate, varied footwork in the pockets of time between jumps and spins.

How a skater’s final score is tallied

To determine a skater’s final score, judges throw out the single highest and lowest scores in each of the five component categories and in the GOE for each individual element. Then the remaining scores get averaged out.

For example, on the first line of the scoresheet below, you can see that the highest GOE score the skater received was a 2 and the lowest was a 1, so one of the 2s and one of the 1s will be discarded, and then the remaining seven scores will be averaged.

An example of how judges average out a GOE score. ISU

To factor a skater’s final GOE scores into their overall score, judges add or deduct standard point values that correspond to the skater’s GOE for each element of their program. For example, a triple lutz has a base value of 6.0, and if a skater achieves a +2 GOE average, they receive an extra 1.4 points. If the skater’s GOE on the triple lutz is -2, they will have 1.4 points deducted from the jump’s 6.0 base value.

A skater’s component scores are averaged in the same way as their GOE scores. The highs and lows in each category are thrown out, and the remaining scores are averaged.

In this skater’s “skating skills” category, the high (8.00) and low (7.25) will be thrown out and the remaining scores will be averaged. ISU/Olympics

The resulting total component score is then multiplied by a factor of 0.8, 1.0, 1.6., or 2.0, depending on the event — free skate versus short program, and men’s versus women’s versus pairs’. Men’s free skates are multiplied by 2.0, while women’s and pairs’ free skates are multiplied by 1.6. According to NBC, the weight of the component score goes up in the free skate to match the technical score, and so the overall score comes from both equally.

Finally, a skater’s weighted component score is added to the base values of all their elements, as well as those elements’ respective GOE scores (both positive and negative). Then any overall deductions for falls are subtracted. And that’s how the judges arrive at their total score.

It’s a little easier to make sense of this complicated process if you look at a scoresheet. Here’s Chan’s full scorecard from his free skate during the team figuring skating event in Pyeongchang:

Patrick Chan’s scoresheet from his free skate during the team figure skating event in Pyeongchang.

The numbers enclosed in the red box are the base values of Chan’s individual program elements, some of which reflect a bonus for Chan performing them in the second half of his program.

In the GOE column to the right of the red box, you can see his averaged GOE scores for each element (which, again, can be as high as 3 or as low as -3).

The numbers enclosed in the blue box are the judges’ individual GOE scores for each element, which were averaged after the high and low scores were dropped to arrive at a final GOE score for each element.

And the “Scores of Panel” column shows the total number of points Chan earned for each element — i.e., the base value of the element, plus the final GOE score.

The numbers enclosed in the yellow box pertain to Chan’s component score and display the judges’ individual marks for his performance in the component categories. Just like with his GOE scores, the high and low numbers for each of the five categories were thrown out, and then the remaining numbers were averaged together.

Finally, his total component score was multiplied by 2.0, since this scorecard is for a men’s free skate event. (Remember, the component score multiplier changes depending on the event, as described above.)

So Chan’s total score for his free skate was 179.75 (as seen in the purple box), which is his element score of 87.67 plus his multiplied component score of 93.08, minus an overall 1-point deduction for falling while performing his triple axel (which you can also see reflected in his GOE of -3 for that specific jump, which is marked on the scoresheet as “3A”).

Chan’s scoresheet also shows how his component score turned out to be really important in the end; it’s basically what helped him land at the top of the men’s free skate event in the team competition even though other skaters performed more difficult — and thus higher-scoring — programs.

How Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada beat America’s Adam Rippon despite having a sloppier skate during the team event in Pyeongchang

One of the biggest questions during the team event in Pyeongchang was how OAR (Olympic Athlete from Russia) skater Mikhail Kolyada ended up with a higher score for his messy free skate than Adam Rippon, whose free skate seemed near flawless. Kolyada finished with a total free skate score of 173.57, while Rippon earned a 172.98.


— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) February 12, 2018

This outcome stems from the fact that a messier program with a higher level of difficulty can score higher than a clean program with a lower level of difficulty. The base values of Kolyada’s jumps and other components were higher than Rippon’s — which meant that even though Rippon skated a cleaner program and earned higher GOEs and component scores (Rippon had an 86.78 on his components, while Kolyada had an 86.22), Rippon couldn’t make up the difference between the two programs in their level of difficulty.

The difference in the two skaters’ base values is pretty striking if you look at their scoresheets side by side:

Rippon and Kolyada’s scoresheets. ISU/Olympics

Kolyada’s executed elements had a base value of 81.41 versus Rippon’s 74.3. And what you’ll notice, as evidenced by the 4s in the “Executed Elements” column on Kolyada’s scoresheet, is that Kolyada attempted a total of three quadruple jumps. Those quads are what helped him achieve the higher base value.

Anyone who watched the live broadcast of the two men’s free skates could tell you that Kolyada didn’t land those quads cleanly, and his scoresheet reflects as much. For his first jump, he fell on a quadruple lutz (denoted on his scoresheet as “4Lz”) and earned a negative GOE, meaning he executed the jump poorly. The same goes for his quadruple toe loop (“4T”), which was downgraded (marked “<<“ on the sheet) to a triple toe loop. But no matter how sloppy those jumps were, merely doing them earned Kolyada a higher base value score.

Rippon, meanwhile, opened his free skate with two double axels (“2A”) and a triple flip and triple loop combination (“3F+3Lo”). He performed the four jumps cleanly and earned positive GOEs for all of them but earned a lower base value than Kolyada because the jumps weren’t as difficult overall as Kolyada’s quads.

The result was something of a seesaw battle between Rippon’s positive GOEs on easier jumps and Kolyada’s negative GOEs on more difficult ones. In the end, Rippon’s higher GOEs weren’t enough to make up the ground he lost to Kolyada’s higher base values.

Before 2006, under the older 6.0-based scoring system, a fall like Kolyada’s would have spelled doom for his chances at a medal because of how programs were judged as a whole. But under the current system, where a skater can still earn a pretty high number of points for falling on a quadruple jump, there are a lot more scenarios where seemingly any outcome is possible.

The bottom line: Taking the risk of attempting quadruple jumps is handsomely rewarded. And that’s a controversial detail.

“I don’t even enjoy watching skating today because it’s all about quadruple jumps,” skating legend Dick Button told the New York Times last month. “If you’re a pole vault jumper and you knock the pole off its supports, do you get points for it?”

The other determining factor in the Kolyada-versus-Rippon result was that Rippon under-rotated his triple lutz, the last jump in his program (it’s the “3Lz” on his scoresheet, marked by a “<“ symbol). As far as mistakes go, under-rotation isn’t as easily spotted as a fall, but it can be just as costly.

Adam Rippon’s triple lutz, which was under-rotated. NBC

Because the judges said Rippon under-rotated his lutz, he only received 70 percent of the base value of the jump, or 4.62 points instead of 6.6. He also lost 0.6 points on his GOE. It’s hard for casual viewers to see the mistake, even in the slowed-down GIF above, but the judges caught the under-rotation, and Rippon’s score reflected that.

Had Rippon not under-rotated his lutz, his total score would have ultimately surpassed Kolyada’s, as only 0.59 points separated the two skaters in the end. And the -0.6 GOE that Rippon received for his under-rotated lutz essentially accounted for the difference. It just goes to show how if you opt for Rippon’s strategy of performing a simpler but cleaner program instead of a messier but more difficult one, mistakes are even more costly.

Despite placing third and the ensuing outcry that he was robbed, Rippon seems to have accepted the result with good spirits and a sense of humor.

“I think we need to get those people who think that I was ripped off on a judging panel immediately, maybe before the individual competition,” he told Good Morning America.

Rippon — along with the top men’s skaters in the world — will next compete at the Pyeongchang Olympics during the men’s figure skating individual event, which begins with the short program on February 16, 2018, and concludes with the free skate on February 18.


Getty Images

Russia’s 17-year-old prodigy, Adelina Sotnikova, topped favorite Yuna Kim and won gold for the Olympic hosts in Thursday’s marquee women’s figure-skating competition, sending the crowd inside Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace into a frenzy.

While Sotnikova’s first-place finish was decisive in the eyes of the judges (over a five point margin of victory), her 224.59 final score left many shaking their heads. There was plenty of praise for the teenager’s monumental achievement, but majority opinion seemed to favor other top competitors:

South Korea’s Kim, the reigning gold medalist in the event, finished second to secure silver. Despite a dominant short program, the 23-year-old came up short in the free skate, finishing with a combined score of 219.11.

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Italy’s Carolina Kostner took home the bronze with a combined score of 216.73.

Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia fell on her triple Salchow attempt, but was still able to earn a 135.34 for the free skate. The impressive score wasn’t enough to propel the Russian phenom onto the podium, though, as she finished fifth.

Meanwhile, American hopefuls Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds each came up short, skating well but failing to wow the judges. Gold would finish fourth, just off the podium, while Wagner and Edmunds both finished inside the top 10.

Let’s take a look at the final results and how the top-10 finishers stacked up.

* complete results via Sochi2014.com.

Sotnikova spot atop the podium was obviously controversial, but it doesn’t take away from an action-packed and well-executed routine that included seven triple jumps. After her upset win, the Russian talked about how not being selected to compete in the team competition fueled her individual performance (via Nancy Armour of USA Today):

“I really wanted to participate in the team competition because I understood that we would win a medal because our team is so strong,” Sotnikova said. “When I found out I was not in the team, I felt so sorry and I felt offended. I felt so cheated in a way. Anyway, I still had my goal to show this skating, the one that I did today.”

The defeat will certainly be tough to swallow for Kim, who was exceptional in both programs.

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Following her lights-out performance in the ladies’ short program on Wednesday, Kim had to remind everyone that she is, in fact, human, per The Guardian: “I am a human being. I get nervous all the time. It just doesn’t show on my face.”

The Korean star certainly didn’t appear nervous on Thursday, executing her routine in near-flawless fashion. Had she taken home the gold, Kim would have joined Norway’s Sonja Henie and Germany’s Katarina Witt as only the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic golds in ladies’ singles figure skating.

Bernat Armangue/Associated Press/Associated Press

Gold, the favorite for Team USA, was forced to battle with crowd noise after following Sotnikova. The 18-year-old would fall on her triple flip attempt, but recovered nicely to record a score of 136.90—the fifth-best mark in the free skate.

The result wasn’t what Gold was hoping for, but she can hold her head up high knowing she was among the four best in the world on Thursday, per The Guardian: “To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I’m all about now.”

It’s worth noting that there were no American judges on the panel for Thursday’s free skate, per USA Today’s Christine Brennan:

Another medal hopeful, Japan’s Mao Asada, turned in a spectacular routine on Thursday. Unfortunately, a score of 55.51 on Wednesday in the short program crushed the 2010 Olympic silver medalist’s chances of finishing on the podium.

Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press

Lipnitskaia, who impressed during the team competition to start the Games, appeared to finally be swallowed up by the immense pressure of skating on home ice.

With Sotnikova just 17, and Lipnitskaia only 15, Russia will be a force in women’s skating for years to come—not to mention Thursday’s triumph is likely to inspire an entire generation of Russians to pursue the sport, and ultimately, Olympic gold.

For Team USA, it’s unfortunate none of its star skaters could secure any hardware in this individual event. However, the future is still bright after these promising performances, and each skater is sure to seek redemption in 2018.

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.

Lessons from The Team Event: Why It’s Tough to Be a Skater If You’re Not From Russia

It’s only day two of competition in Sochi, and already there are rumblings of a fix in skating judging involving — once again — the Russians. According to French paper l’Equipe, an unnamed Russian coach said the U.S. and Russians have a deal to give the gold in ice dance to Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in exchange for the Russians getting gold in the inaugural team event. The last big skating scandal, at the 2002 Olympics, also involved Russian skaters when a French judge allegedly voted for the Russian pair to win gold over the Canadians in exchange for Russian votes for a French dance win.

U.S. Figure skating officials immediately denied the latest report, stating “Comments made in a L’Equipe story are categorically false. There is no ‘help’ between countries.”

But if the team event, which gave Russia its first gold of the Games, is any indication, such talk may only flare up again over the next two weeks as the skaters shed their team mantles and return to their individual events. Figure skating in Russia is almost like the World Series or Super Bowl in the United States. Skaters are revered heroes, and with their rich history in dance and ballet, Russian skaters have graced the podium in every discipline — ladies, men, pairs and ice dance — at nearly every Winter Olympics. (Vladimir Putin, the face of the Sochi Games, was in attendance at the Iceberg Palace to witness Russia’s first gold medal win.) Vancouver was an exception; the Russians only managed to win two figure skating medals, neither of them gold, in the men’s and dance events in what they considered their most disappointing Olympic showing in the sport.

MORE: Team Figure Skating at the Winter Olympics: What You Need to Know

Now, however, they have home field advantage, which always tends to elevate athletes’ performance. But as the rumors already suggest, in skating does that inevitably involve suspicious judging? While new rules, put in place for the first time at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, make it harder to push less technical skaters up, it’s still possible to play around with the presentation scores among the top competitors.

Here’s what we know from the team event. When reigning Olympic champion Yuna Kim from South Korea won her gold in 2010, she did so with a Guinness book of world records-setting score of 228.56. Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaia came awfully close to that, with a personal best of 214.41. Kim, who has been recovering from a foot injury but is back to defend her title, earned 204.02 at her only international competition this season. And Lipnitskaia has only been skating at the elite senior level for two years. With Lipnitskaia’s tight jumps and preternatural maturity, it won’t be hard to keep her up in golden podium territory, but other skaters are equally technically proficient. Japan’s Mao Asada, the 2010 silver medalist, is the only one competing with a triple axel, the highest scoring jump a female skater can do. The U.S.’ Gracie Gold, who, like Lipnitskaia also executed seven clean triples in an elegantly skated program set to Sleeping Beauty, earned a personal best of 129.38 to Lipnitkskaia’s 141.51 (Ashley Wagner skated the short program portion of the competition for the U.S.) However, the Russian teen outscored Gold in the ‘program components’ — the more subjective measure — that reward skaters for their skating skills, presentation and execution of moves.

MORE: Turning Individual Athletes Into Team Players

In the men’s portion of the team event, Russia’s beloved Evgeny Plushenko battled back from retirement, knee injuries, and a couple of back surgeries to finish second behind Japan’s spectacular Yuzuru Hanyu in the short program and to win the free skate with a total of 259.59, just under two points shy of his most recent personal best, two years ago in 2012. Plushenko managed to pull off a quad jump in both his short and free programs, but many of the elite skaters in the upcoming men’s event have at least two quad jumps planned in each routine. Canada’s Kevin Reynolds, in fact, met Plushenko’s quad with three total in his free skate, with a program that began with 13.61 more points built in, thanks to more difficult elements. While Reynolds easily out scored the Russian on technical elements — 89 points to Plushenko’s 81.48, Plushenko make up the difference in the program components mark, soaring ahead of Reynolds with 86.72 points vs.78.92.

Figure skating will never be an objectively contested sport like speed skating or skiing. And as long as there are judges, there will be judges’ opinions and as long as there are opinions, there is the possibility of shenanigans. But that’s what makes skating such an intriguing sport. There’s beauty, sacrifice and talent that create unforgettable athletic moments. And then there are the back-room controversies that make the sport so hard to forget.

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Ashley Wagner makes Olympic figure skating team despite finish at U.S. championships

BOSTON — It never unfolded this way in Ashley Wagner’s dreams, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team on the heels of her most error-strewn performance in years, the tears fresh in her memory if not on her face.

But U.S. Figure Skating officials chose to look beyond Wagner’s two falls amid a nerve-seized free skate at the U.S. championships Saturday, in which she finished fourth, and named the West Potomac High School graduate to one of the three women’s spots on the Sochi-bound team.

The decision was made by a selection committee behind closed doors Sunday morning, announced at a noon news conference at Boston’s TD Garden and fell most bitterly on Mirai Nagasu, who had exulted just 12 hours earlier in a bronze-medal performance that under normal circumstances would have guaranteed her a spot on the Olympic team.

But in choosing its Olympic delegation, U.S. Figure Skating differs from the national governing bodies of many other sports, factoring in its athletes’ entire body of work over the previous year rather relying on than a single qualifying event. And it saved Wagner, 22, who has been the sport’s most reliable competitor since narrowly missing the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Having spent a sleepless night anguishing over the prospect of missing the Olympics by one spot for a second consecutive time, Wagner was sitting in the stands at TD Garden on Sunday morning, waiting to watch her best friend warm up for the men’s competition, when she got the text message alerting her she had been named to the Olympic team roughly 30 minutes before the news was made public.

1 of 45 Full Screen Autoplay Close Skip Ad × U.S. Figure Skating ChampionshipsView Photos An eye is on next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston. Among the skaters is Ashley Wagner, a West Potomac graduate. Caption An eye is on next month’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston. Among the skaters is Ashley Wagner, a West Potomac graduate. Jason Brown competes during the men’s free skate on Sunday. Brown finished second behind Jeremy Abbott. Steven Senne/AP Buy Photo Wait 1 second to continue.

She wept anew. And because she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone before the official announcement, she retreated to an obscure corner of the arena, dropped to her knees and sobbed without stinting.

“When I look back on my career, this one horrible performance isn’t what makes me the skater I am. That doesn’t define me,” Wagner said Sunday. U.S. Figure Skating “has given me the opportunity to go into the Olympics and make everybody forget about this performance, which I am fully prepared and very excited to do.”

In a statement released Sunday night, Nagasu voiced her disappointment in the decision but made clear she would not appeal. “Though I may not agree with it, I have to respect the decision the federation made,” she said. “And I’m grateful to everyone who has supported me and look forward to what comes next in my skating career.”

She returned to the ice at 8 p.m. for the post-competition exhibition that’s traditionally staged as the skaters’ gift to fans. Showered with applause and given two standing ovations, Nagasu wept at the start and finish of a lovely performance.

Explaining Sunday’s decision to legions of TV viewers who watched Nagasu outperform Wagner won’t be easy. But after shattering Nagasu’s dream of competing in Sochi while resurrecting Wagner’s, U.S. Figure Skating President Patricia St. Peter set about trying.

Officials look through a broader lens, St. Peter said, considering who has distinguished themselves in international competitions, who has developed a reputation among judges and who can withstand pressure. Past Olympic experience, which Nagasu boasts (she finished fourth in Vancouver), isn’t among the criteria.

Based on those factors, U.S. Figure Skating tapped 18-year-old Gracie Gold, who was as brilliant as her name in winning the 2014 U.S. championship; 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, a reed-like, triple-jumping phenom; and Wagner, a two-time U.S. champion (2012-13) who has won a medal in her last six international competitions.

“If you look at Ashley Wagner’s record and performance, she has got the top credentials of any of our female athletes,” St. Peter told a packed room of journalists. “She has delivered consistently over the past year.”

St. Peter’s point was unassailable, as is the fact Wagner is ranked fifth in the world — higher than any of her compatriots.

But the decision to skip over a freshly minted U.S. national medalist in naming the Olympic team was a departure from past practice, occurring just three times in the sport’s history.

Following the conclusion of the men’s championships, U.S. Figure Skating officials also named Jeremy Abbott, 28, who won his fourth U.S. national title Sunday, and 19-year-old Jason Brown, the U.S. silver medalist, to the Sochi Olympic team.

The decision on the women’s delegation left plenty of figure skating insiders grateful they hadn’t been placed on the selection committee. Kimmie Meissner●, the 2006 world champion●and 2007 U.S. champion, was among them.

“It’s so hard,” said Meissner, who watched with tremendous joy as Nagasu, her close friend, staged one of the most electric performances of her career Saturday, fighting for a place in Sochi.

“If you’re taking into account everything the skater has done, you’d want to send somebody like Ashley,” Meissner said. “I think they made the right decision, but it’s tough. I’ve kind of gone back and forth with it myself. I feel very sad for Mirai. She has worked so hard to get back to the top. I think we all thought she had that spot yesterday, but in this sport nothing is for sure.”

Wagner knew that as well, which is why she couldn’t stop her mind from lurching from one extreme to the other after twice falling on her rear during her performance Saturday, omitting one jump and two-footing the landing on others.

“There was so much on the line,” Wagner said. “I admit it: I didn’t pull through at national championships when I felt pressure.”

But she insisted her nerves would hold up in Sochi, freed from the dread of never qualifying for the Olympics.

“I can really let myself skate,” she said, “instead of having to worry about whether or not I’m literally going to watch my dreams fall apart, which last night I got a pretty good preview of.”

After leaving the arena, she joined her mother and brother at their hotel for a large glass of wine, and they stayed in the lobby well past midnight talking it over, a giant plastic bag beside her stuffed with the teddy bears and bouquets fans had tossed her in tribute and empathy. Then she retreated to her room, talked on FaceTime with her closest friends and watched “The Seven Year Itch” as her thoughts and emotions swirled.

“I danced with danger last night,” Wagner said Sunday. “I never want to feel that uncomfortable again.”

More on U.S. figure skating championships

Gold takes Gold; Wagner finishes fourth

Edmunds makes immediate impression on national stage

Live Results

2019 GEICO U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Part of the Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity

Figure skating fans from across the country and around the world will descend upon Detroit this January to witness the brilliance, power and breathtaking beauty of a LIVE figure skating competition. Known as a major ice dance hub in the United States, Detroit’s revitalized and thriving downtown is an excellent city to welcome the top American figure skaters as they compete for the crown of U.S. champion in the ladies, men’s, pairs and ice dance disciplines. The 2019 GEICO U.S. Figure Skating Championships is the perfect event for the figure skating fanatic and the casual skating fan to join together in celebrating this incredible sport and cheering on Team USA figure skaters.

The U.S. Championships, held since 1914, is the nation’s most prestigious figure skating event in the United States. U.S. champions will be crowned in ladies, men’s, pairs and ice dance at the senior, junior, novice, intermediate and juvenile levels of the U.S. Figure Skating competitive structure. The event serves as the final qualifying event to make the U.S. World Figure Skating Team every year and the U.S. Olympic Team every four years. The 2019 GEICO U.S. Figure Skating Championships is part of the 2019 Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity. The champions series showcases numerous Olympic sports throughout the season, highlighting the year-round quest of Team USA athletes to compete at the Olympic Games.

Past champions include 2018 Olympians Nathan Chen, Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani and Mirai Nagasu and skating legends Meryl Davis & Charlie White, Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi and Scott Hamilton.

The first event of the men’s figure skating competition wrapped up with the men’s short program. Here are the final standings after the short program.

The men’s figure skating short program kicked off on Thursday night with a field of 30 men. The lead changed hands throughout the competition. Team USA’s Adam Rippon and Vincent Zhou had very strong showings in the men’s short program, and all three team members made it into the free skate.

Nathan Chen ended up in 17th place after falling on the same quad element that plagued him in the men’s team short program. His score of 82.27 reflects the struggles he faced after that first fall. Chen’s confidence fell apart after the fall and affected the rest of his routine.

Adam Rippon’s routine lacked the quad jumps the other skaters packed into their programs, but his performance was flawless and it earned him an 87.95, good for 7th place.

The battle for the top three spots in the short program came down to the final group of skaters. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, who skipped the team event to buy more time to recover from an injury, came out and skated an amazing routine that gave him a 111.68, the second highest score ever. He was followed by Spain’s Javier Fernandez in 2nd place (107.58) and Japan’s Shoma Uno (104.17).

Here is the full list of standings at the end of the men’s short program:

  1. Japan – Yuzuru Hanyu – 111.68
  2. Spain – Javier Fernandez – 107.58
  3. Japan – Shoma Uno – 104.17
  4. China – Boyang Jin – 103.32
  5. Olympic Athlete from Russia – Dmitry Aliev – 98.98
  6. Canada – Patrick Chan – 90.01
  7. United States – Adam Rippon – 87.95
  8. Olympic Athlete from Russia – Mikhail Kolyada – 86.69
  9. Czech Republic – Michal Brezina – 85.15
  10. Canada – Keegan Messing – 85.11
  11. Belgium – Jorik Hendrickx – 84.74
  12. United States – Vincent Zhou – 84.53
  13. Israel – Alexei Bychencko – 84.13
  14. Uzbekistan – Misha Ge – 83.90
  15. Korea – Junhwan Cha – 83.43
  16. Australia – Brendan Kerry – 83.06
  17. United States – Nathan Chen – 82.27
  18. Israel – Daniel Samohin – 80.69
  19. China – Han Yan – 80.63
  20. Japan – Keiji Tanaka – 80.05
  21. Latvia – Deniss Vasiljevs – 79.52
  22. Olympic Athlete from Russia – Morisi Kvitelashvili – 76.56
  23. Italy – Matteo Rizzo – 75.63
  24. Germany – Paul Fentz – 74.73
  25. Malaysia – Julian Zhi Jie Yee – 73.58
  26. France – Chafik Besseghier – 72.10
  27. Kazakhstan – Denis Ten – 70.12
  28. Philippines – Michael Christian Martinez – 55.56
  29. Spain – Felipe Montoya – 52.41
  30. Ukraine – Yaroslav Paniot – 46.58

Only the top 24 skaters will advance to the free skate on Friday.

The men’s figure skating competition comes to an end on Friday, Feb. 16, with the men’s free skate, after which the medals for the men’s figure skating event will be awarded. After a day off on Saturday, figure skating returns on Sunday with the ice dance competition.

Some figure skaters, like Nathan Chen and ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, have already clinched spots to the prestigious Grand Prix Final. But the December competition allows for an exclusive six-skater field, which will finalize this weekend after NHK Trophy in Japan (live, on-demand and commercial-free for NBC Sports Gold Pass subscribers).

Let’s examine what scenarios need to play out at NHK Trophy in order for skaters like Olympic champions Alina Zagitova and Yuzuru Hanyu to clinch spots at the event. The Final is Dec. 5-8 in Torino, Italy, site of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.


Two skaters have clinched spots prior to NHK Trophy:

  • Alexandra Trusova (won Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup), 15, from Russia
  • Anna Shcherbakova (won Skate America and Cup of China), 15, from Russia

They train together in Moscow under coach Eteri Tutberidze and are both in their first season on the senior Grand Prix circuit. Along with Alena Kostornaia, this young trio are capable of some of the most difficult jumps being performed in women’s skating today. The ladies’ standings can be found here.

American Bradie Tennell currently sits third in the standings. She is as close to clinching a berth as one can get without technically doing so. Forcing Tennell out of the Grand Prix Final at this point would require a series of unlikely scenarios to take place this weekend at NHK Trophy.

Tennell would be the first American woman in a Grand Prix Final since Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold competed in the 2015 Grand Prix Final.

American Mariah Bell ended up with the same number of points in the standings as Tennell. However, Tennell wins over Bell on a tiebreak due to her second and fourth place Grand Prix series finishes, compared to Bell’s two bronze medals this season. The first tiebreak procedure is based on highest placement on the Grand Prix series.

Tennell also beats Satoko Miyahara of Japan on a tiebreak, because Tennell’s total combined score is higher than Miyahara’s. They both have a silver medal and a fourth place finish on the series, so the next criteria looks at total scores from both Grand Prix events. Miyahara had appeared in every Grand Prix Final since 2015 and this would’ve been her fifth straight appearance.

The remainder of the six-skater field should be decided at NHK Trophy, where reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova is skating, as is Japan’s Rika Kihira and Grand Prix France champion Kostornaia (16, and also in her first senior Grand Prix season).

Kostornaia will make the Grand Prix Final with a fifth-place finish or higher, while Zagitova and Kihira just need to land on the podium to earn a spot in Torino.

Another note: Four out of the six women’s skaters in the Grand Prix Final field are Russian. Last year, three Russians and three Japanese skaters made up the field. This year, there is likely a little more variety with as many as four Russians, a Japanese skater and an American.

READ MORE: Bradie Tennell’s personality shines through at Skate America


Two skaters have clinched spots before NHK Trophy:

  • Nathan Chen (won Skate America and Grand Prix France) from the U.S.
  • Alexander Samarin (silver at Grand Prix France and won Rostelecom Cup) from Russia

Chen has appeared in the last three consecutive Finals, earning a silver in 2016 followed by winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018. The men’s standings can be found here.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu skates this weekend at home in Japan and needs to place inside the top four to clinch a spot in the Grand Prix Final. Hanyu won the Grand Prix Final four straight times in 2013, ’14, ’15 and ’16, but withdrew last year from the Final after qualifying due to injury. In 2017, he couldn’t qualify for the Final due to his withdrawal from NHK Trophy. This will be the first Hanyu-Chen head-to-head since the world championships in March, where Chen earned gold to Hanyu’s silver.

American Jason Brown needs to place second at NHK Trophy to clinch a Grand Prix Final berth, but is very likely qualified even if he places third.

France’s Kevin Aymoz and Russia’s Makar Ignatov would need to win NHK Trophy to clinch a Grand Prix Final berth, and if they earn silver medals they’ll end up in a tie-break scenario with Russian Dmitri Aliev (currently third in the standings; almost certainly guaranteed a Grand Prix Final spot at this point with a bronze at Skate America and a silver at Rostelecom Cup).

Other notes: France’s last men’s representative in a Grand Prix Final was Florent Amodio, who finished sixth in 2010.

This is the first time in Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno‘s senior career that he will miss the Grand Prix Final (eighth at Grand Prix France, fourth at Rostelecom Cup). Uno was on the Grand Prix Final podium four times in four previous appearances.

READ MORE: Will Nathan Chen return to six quad jumps in his free skate?


Three pairs have so far clinched spots for the GPF:

  • Aleksandra Boikova/ Dmitry Kozlovskiy (won Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup) from Russia
  • Peng Cheng/ Jin Yang (won Skate America, silver at Cup of China) from China
  • Daria Pavliuchenko/ Denis Khodykin (silvers at Skate Canada and Grand Prix France), from Russia

Pairs’ standings can be found here.

Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China compete at NHK Trophy this weekend and can clinch a berth to the Final with a podium finish. The two-time world champions own three previous Grand Prix Final medals, but none are gold.

Anastasia Mishina and Alexandr Galliamov from Russia also compete this weekend and need to finish on the podium to clinch a spot in Torino. They already won Grand Prix France earlier this season.

For Canada’s Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro to make the Grand Prix Final, they need to earn gold or silver at NHK Trophy. If they finish with bronze medals, they’ll enter a tiebreak scenario with Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov of Russia. That tiebreak will be determined by total cumulative score from both teams’ two Grand Prix events this fall, with the higher score getting the spot at the Final.

Two-time U.S. national pair champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim skate in Japan this weekend, too, but they need help in the standings from other teams in order to earn a spot in the Final. They skated in the Grand Prix Final in 2015, finishing seventh (under a rare circumstance where the Final allowed for seven, instead of the usual six, slots). 2017 U.S. national champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier are fifth in the standings for the Final before NHK Trophy, but the three-year long streak of a Grand Prix Final without an American team is likely to continue.

Ice dance

Three teams have so far clinched spots for the Grand Prix Final:

  • Viktoria Sinitsina/ Nikita Katsalapov (won Cup of China and Rostelecom Cup), from Russia
  • Piper Gilles/ Paul Poirier (won Skate Canada, silver at Rostelecom Cup), from Canada
  • Madison Hubbell/ Zach Donohue (won Skate America, silver at Skate Canada), from U.S.

Hubbell and Donohue are last year’s Grand Prix Final champions. Ice dance standings can be found here.

Four-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France skate at NHK Trophy and clinch a berth to the Grand Prix Final with a podium finish.

Russia’s Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin also skate at NHK Trophy, and can only clinch a spot in the Final with a win. However, if they finish second to the French team, both will make the Final.

Currently fourth in the standings are U.S. duo Madison Chock and Evan Bates. They earned silver medals at both Grand Prix France and Cup of China, and are as close to certainly getting a spot at the Final as can be without technically clinching a spot. The most likely NHK Trophy scenario is that Papadakis and Cizeron win NHK Trophy, and Stepanova and Bukin finish second – and if that happens, Papadakis and Cizeron, Stepanova and Bukin and Chock and Bates all make the Final.

Other notes: Gilles’ and Poirier’s first and only trip to the Grand Prix Final came in the post-Sochi 2014 season, when they finished fifth.

Prior to Chock’s ankle injury, which kept the duo out of the Grand Prix series and Final last season, they appeared in four straight Finals from 2014-17, earning two silver medals.

The last appearance in the Grand Prix Final by Papadakis and Cizeron was in 2017 – prior to PyeongChang – when they beat eventual Olympic gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada. The French couple missed the Grand Prix Final last year because they withdrew from a regular-series event and could not qualify.

READ MORE: Gabriella Papadakis, Guillaume Cizeron on ‘Fame,’ chasing history

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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MORE: 10 things we’ve learned halfway through the Grand Prix figure skating season

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Winter Olympics 2018: what makes US figure skater Nathan Chen so dominant

Figure skating is a sport that exists in small margins. Skaters spend around seven minutes on the ice over two nights of events. The difference between silver and gold can come down to decimal points. When they jump, they cram three to four revolutions into less than two-thirds of a second.

It’s in these small spaces that American skater Nathan Chen has blown up the sport over the past couple of years.

At the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships, where Chen easily won gold, the second-place skater was a previously unheard-of 55 points behind him. Chen successfully landed five quadruple jumps during his free skate and set the skating world ablaze; no one had even been able to hit five quads in one program before.

That night, his fellow American skaters gave him standing ovations for his performance. But beneath this history-making, speech-stopping moment was something even more impressive: This unrivaled skate, as astounding as it was, offered just a glimpse of Chen’s potential.

Just over a year has passed since that jolting performance, and Chen’s career is no longer in the phase where he shocks or surprises with his brilliance. Now brilliance and dominance are expected.

In a sport that’s known for unpredictability, Chen has become a chilling constant. Here’s what makes the quad king so special.

Nathan Chen can utterly demolish his competition when he skates well. But he can often win even when he skates poorly.

To fully comprehend what makes Nathan Chen so good, you have to take a step back and look at the mildly boring side of figure skating — the numbers and the scoring.

The current figure skating scoring system is highly dependent on counting each and every technical element. For a thorough explanation of how it works, check out Vox’s explainer and video on all the nitty-gritty details. But essentially, what it comes down to is that the difficulty level of quadruple jumps makes them worth a whole lot of points, even if a skater doesn’t perform them that well. And that sometimes leads to situations where a skater who falls while performing a quadruple jump still outscores a skater who lands a perfect triple.

In plain English, quads landed cleanly can lead to super-high technical scores — especially if they’re performed during the second half of a free skate, when they’re eligible for a 10 percent bonus.

But what helps set Chen apart is not only his ability to successfully land quads in the first place, but his ability to successfully land several different types of quads.

That’s because of rules that not only limit the number of jumps a skater can do in a single program, but also prevent skaters from performing the same jumps over and over. In the free skate, for example, men are allowed a maximum of eight jumping passes (women are allowed seven), and skaters are not allowed to repeat a standalone triple or quadruple jump more than twice (more repetition is okay if the jumps are performed as part of a combination with other jumps).

Chen is the only skater competing today who can land five different types of quads. And since there are only six types, and no one has yet landed the quad axel, this is a major advantage. His variety and consistency of execution give him greater potential than almost any other skater to achieve a higher technical score than his competitors.

For example, Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu, one of Chen’s rivals and the reigning Olympic gold medalist in men’s figure skating, can also land several different quads — but so far, he’s maxed out at performing four of them. Which means Chen’s young history of packing five quads into one program is now the standard to beat (and going into the free skate in Pyeongchang, there were rumors that he was toying with putting a sixth quad into his program — a rumor he ultimately made good on in spectacular fashion).

Chen is also able to consistently land the highest-scoring quad of the moment, the quadruple lutz, a feat that not all of his rivals can claim. Chen usually places his quad lutz at the beginning of his programs, then tacks on a triple toe loop, as he did during the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final in December:

Nathan Chen performs a quadruple lutz and triple toe loop combination at the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final in Nagoya, Japan. Olympic Channel

When assessing any jump, figuring skating judges look for full rotations, good height, a tight air position, and a clean entry and landing, among other details — and as seen in the GIF above, Chen’s quadruple lutz seems to check all those boxes. The judges at the Grand Prix agreed: A quad lutz–triple toe loop combination has a base value of 17.90 points, and in this particular instance, Chen’s execution of the combo earned him a grade of execution (GOE) score of 2.0 points (out of a high of 3.0), for a total of 19.90 points.

For context, a standalone triple axel where a skater earns a perfect 3.0 GOE is worth 11.5 points, and even difficult combinations where a triple axel is paired with another triple or double jump tend to top out around 16.5 points (including a 10 percent bonus) — so 19.90 points for a single jumping pass is astronomically high. But astronomically high base values are pretty routine for Chen, as he regularly crafts his programs in a way that maximizes his scoring potential. This strategy usually means that if he lands every jump cleanly, he’s essentially unbeatable. It also means that his base scores are often high enough that he still has a good chance of winning even when he doesn’t skate his best.

To better illustrate that, here are Chen and Hanyu’s scoresheets for their respective free skates during the 2017 International Skating Union Four Continents Championships, with the total base value of their respective technical elements circled in red. Chen’s elements boast a combined base value of 106.48 — more than 13 points higher than Hanyu’s 93.20:

Nathan Chen’s scoresheet from the International Skating Union Four Continents Championships in February 2017. International Skating UnionYuzuru Hanyu’s scoresheet from the International Skating Union Four Continents Championships in February 2017. International Skating Union

And if you look at the two skaters’ GOE columns, you’ll see a few negative scores that add up to about 3.66 points in GOE deductions for Chen, compared to Hanyu’s total of 0.06 points in GOE deductions.

The differences in Chen and Hanyu’s GOE scores indicate that Hanyu skated a cleaner program overall and Chen skated pretty poorly. That’s what allowed Hanyu to beat Chen’s free skate score by just over 2 points — note Hanyu’s “Total Segment Score” of 204.34, compared to Chan’s 206.67. But Chen ended up winning the overall competition because he beat Hanyu in the short program by about 6 points. His final score for the short program and free skate combined was 307.46, almost a full 4 points higher than Hanyu’s 303.71.

Essentially, because Chen is capable of landing so many quads in one routine, he’s really only beatable if his competitors skate at the absolute top of their game and he skates poorly in both his short program and his free skate.

How Nathan Chen became a frontrunner for winning gold in Pyeongchang

Chen has improved in two major ways since he burst onto the figure skating scene in 2016, with most of his progress taking place over the past year.

His first improvement was a strategic one, in that he started regularly clustering the jumps in his free skate so that they would largely fall within the second half of the program. This approach allows him to increase the base value of each “back half of the program” jump by 10 percent, because it takes advantage of a bonus that rewards skaters for continuing to complete difficult skills even as they grow more tired.

If you look at a typical figure skating scoresheet, jumps placed in the second half of a skater’s program are typically marked with an X. Here’s Chen’s scoresheet from the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships, which took place in January of that year:

Nathan Chen’s scoresheet from the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships. International Skating Union

Note the four X’s to the right of the “Base Value” column, which show that Chen earned the 10 percent bonus for four different elements: his triple axel (“3A”), quadruple salchow (“4S”), triple lutz (“3Lz”), and triple flip–triple toe loop combination (“3F+3T”).

Now here’s his scoresheet from the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final, which took place at the end of the year, in December:

Nathan Chen’s scoresheet from the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final. International Skating Union

Though a few negative GOE scores reveal that Chen didn’t skate particularly well, this time there are five X’s instead of just four; he earned the 10 percent bonus on a quadruple lutz (“4Lz”), a quadruple lutz–toe loop–double salchow combination sequence (“4T+1Lo+2S”), a quadruple toe loop (“4T”), a triple axel (“3A”), and a triple lutz (“3Lz”). Additionally, those five elements are more difficult — and thus have higher base values to begin with — than the four elements he earned the bonus on earlier in the year.

The result was that his December program was worth a lot more points from the get-go, no matter how well he skated.

The second improvement Chen has made to his skating over the past year concerns his “component” scores, which essentially measure a skater’s presentation and artistry.

By default, component scores are more subjective and arbitrary than technical scores. If a skater’s program looks “pretty,” they tend to earn higher component scores. That’s in contrast to technical scores, where elements are easier to assess more quantitatively because the number of revolutions in a jump, or a clean landing versus a messy one, is easier for judges to agree on.

In “component” categories like “interpretation of the music” and “performance,” the skaters who tend to score the highest are generally older, have been around a while, and/or are considered more seasoned. (With that said, they sometimes yield baffling results; at the 2014 Olympics, gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova earned a higher component score for a program in which she pantomimed pulling an imaginary rope and performed an Ice Capades-esque wave to the crowd than the program of a skater who more subtly and gracefully interpreted the rhythm and nuances of “Bolero.”)

But even though Chen is a relative newcomer, his component scores have been increasing. And he does appear more graceful on the ice than he used to be.

Here’s one of his footwork sequences from January 2017, at the US Figure Skating Championships:

Nathan Chen performs during the 2017 US Championships. NBC

And here he is performing a different footwork sequence at the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final this past December:

Nathan Chen performs at the 2017 International Skating Union Grand Prix Final. Olympic Channel

In the second performance, Chen’s face shows more expression. He extends his arms more emphatically, and he seems to be committed to smaller, slighter movements in a way that he previously wasn’t. Overall, he appears to be infusing his skating with more purpose and thoughtfulness. And his component scores for this performance reflected as much, coming in higher than his scores from earlier in the year.

That’s important because Chen’s component scores are where he’s most vulnerable. Though his high-scoring jumps and other technical elements have usually given him enough of a cushion that lower component scores don’t matter too much, if he continues to improve in the component categories, he could become an even more dominant skater.

Though winning gold in Pyeongchang didn’t happen for Chen, he has undeniably changed figure skating

The biggest testament to Nathan Chen’s extraordinary skating ability is that when he turns in a bad skate, it’s a complete shock. Skating rarely looks as easy as Chen makes it look; the sport is full of unpredictability, with the potential for a catastrophic fall always looming. The ease with which Chen typically lands his quads isn’t normal, but after watching him skate even a few times, it’s easy to take for granted.

His disaster of a short program during the team figure skating event in Pyeongchang — and even worse short program during the men’s individual event — are stark reminders that even the best skaters can have off days. Watching him flop through those routines was like watching Superman try to fly while carrying a suitcase full of kryptonite.

But that’s not because Chen is known for performing exceptionally flawless programs; as the New York Times points out, the fact that more and more skaters are now attempting quads has made clean programs a rarity. Rather, Chen is typically more consistent at landing his difficult jumps than his peers.

And given what he’s done over the past year, it was tough to bet on the gold medal in Pyeongchang ultimately going to anyone except Chen and his pocket full of quads. But even though he didn’t win, it’s impossible to deny that through his strategy and skill, he has lifted up the sport of figure skating.

U.S. Figure Skating announces men’s roster for Winter Olympics: Chen, Zhou and Rippon

Adam Rippon won a reprieve after his subpar, fourth-place performance at the U.S. figure skating championships when a selection committee awarded him a berth on the Pyeongchang Olympic team over second-place finisher Ross Miner.

The announcement, made Sunday morning, was based on the superiority of Rippon’s body of work over the last year when compared with that of Miner, said Samuel Auxier, president of U.S Figure Skating. Jason Brown, who was a 2014 Olympian but finished sixth here, was named the first alternate to the Pyeongchang Olympic team. Miner was designated the second alternate.

As expected, two-time U.S. champion Nathan Chen — who performed five quadruple jumps in his long program Saturday night to become the runaway winner — was chosen for the team, as was third-place finisher Vincent Zhou, 17, who was the 2017 world junior champion.

Zhou also reels off quadruple jumps with apparent ease. Rippon is considered more of an artist than a jumper and is popular among skating fans for his musicality and performance skills.


“We feel we have a very strong team, the right team, based on the selection criteria,” Auxier said, noting that the selection process had been complicated by the “somewhat flawed” performances Saturday night from some of the top men.

Rippon, 28, trains at Lakewood Ice, as does Chen, who is 18.

“I’m really glad the selection committee looked at my body of work over the last two seasons,” said Rippon, who was the 2016 U.S. men’s champion but missed the national and world championships last year because of a broken leg.

He qualified for the Grand Prix Final in 2016 and again this season, which carried great weight with the selection committee.


“I feel like I have a really great resume. I’m really proud of the work that I’ve done over the past four years,” Rippon said. “Four years ago I didn’t know if I wanted to continue skating. And a year ago I was sitting in a cast, so I’ve had my share of ups and downs but I’ve been very consistent and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. And I feel that my experience will help me have my best performances at the Olympic Games, and it feels amazing to say that.”

Auxier said the committee found Miner’s resume to be weaker than Rippon’s over the designated competitions (U.S. and world championships as well as Grand Prix events) over the last year.

“We are looking for the athletes that consistently performed across the Grand Prixes, internationally, who can get the scores and who are most likely to perform well at the Olympics,” Auxier said. “Ross had an amazing, lights-out performance. He’s a great example for our young skaters. He’s been a tremendous athlete over the years in terms of giving some great performances and being a great example for our association. And congratulations to him for really putting it out night.

“However, we had to look at the body of work, and Ross does amazing at U.S. championships but frankly he has struggled at some of the international competitions. We looked at all sorts of statistics: head-to-head competition, average scores and momentum within the scores leading up to the Olympics, and that’s where we really had a challenge with Ross. His average score was the lowest among the pool that would be considered for the Olympics. He had some really challenging skates, which led us to the conclusion that we weren’t sure if we put him out at the Olympics he would perform to the extent that he was a possibility for a medal.”

Zhou said he was overwhelmed to have been chosen for the Olympic team.

“There’ a certain feeling that comes with the word ‘Olympian,’ and it’s really hard to describe, but to have that attached to my name is more than I can ever ask for in my entire life,” he said. “I’m so grateful to everyone who’s been a part of my process. My two teammates are very deserving as well of these Olympic spots.”

Chen echoed those sentiments.

“It’s been a dream of mine to be selected for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I think all three of us really deserve to be on this team.”


As expected, U.S. pair champions Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim were designated as the lone U.S. pairs entry for the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The husband-and-wife team’s medal chances are virtually nonexistent: Their top finish at the world championships was seventh, in 2015. Although they perform intricate and difficult throws and twists, they often stumble on side-by-side jumps and can’t match the top pairs in the world in that area.