Winter Games Athletes
The youngest of the top medal contenders in men’s figure skating, Hanyu also will head to Sochi off one of the best performances in the history of the sport. The 19-year-old set a world record with his short program at the 2013 Grand Prix Final, then came in first again in the free skate to win gold and topple three-time defending world champion Patrick Chan of Canada. Later in December, Hanyu won gold at the Japanese championships for the second straight year, finishing well ahead of fellow Olympians Tatsuki Machida and Daisuke Takahashi. It’s easy to see why he’ll be one of the favorites to win gold in Sochi despite a lack of Olympic experience. Hanyu’s long program tends to be a home run in the grade of execution and program component scores, as the number of elements is often an extraordinarily high 12 or 13. The two highlights are the back-to-back quads to open that free skate, and he landed both at the Grand Prix event. Hanyu follows with two triple-axel combinations in the latter half of the program, elements that score higher in the second part than they would in the first. While these jumps are very high-reward, they’re also very high-risk. Hanyu could certainly win gold in Sochi, but a few slip-ups could keep him off the podium entirely.