GANGNEUNG – Shoma Uno proved he will be a major threat to compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu for the men’s Olympic title by firing Japan into a commanding lead in the team event Friday.
Hanyu is skipping the second edition of this competition at a Winter Games as he gives his body every chance of being at its best in Pyeongchang after suffering a serious ankle injury in the run-up to the defence of his Sochi 2014 crown next week.
Uno, runner-up to the Japanese ice idol at last year’s world championships, produced a near blemish-free short program to put Japan top of the pile, outscoring his rivals by almost 15 points.
Alexei Bychenko put Israel in surprise second place with Canada third after Sochi double silver medallist Patrick Chan hit the ice twice.
The 27-year-old tumbled on his opening quad toe loop and again on a triple axel.
The three-time former world champion was in good company, as American gold medal hope Nathan Chen also slipped up.
The 18-year-old from Salt Lake City had both hands on the floor after missing a quad toeloop, bringing gasps from the crowd at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
That left the Americans in fourth, Chen’s total over 22 points adrift with the pair’s short program to follow before the skaters pack up their sequins to wrap up warm for Friday evening’s opening ceremony.