GANGNEUNG, South Korea: Favorites Canada led the United States in the Olympic figure skating team event on Friday as Japan’s Shoma Uno proved he could be a major threat to compatriot Yuzuru Hanyu for the men’s title.
Hanyu is skipping the team competition to gives his body every chance of being at its best in Pyeongchang after suffering a serious ankle injury in the run-up to the defense 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.
“It is my first time coming to the Olympics but I wasn’t as anxious as I thought.” said the 21-year-old from Nagoya.
With Israel a surprise second after the first leg Canada had work to do in third with Sochi 2014 double silver medallist Patrick Chan hitting the ice twice.
The 27-year-old tumbled on his opening quad toe loop and again on a triple axel.
“I am the type of skater that takes time, since I’ve gotten older, to warm up and to get up to the quads and get comfortable in competition,” he said.
“This is a long two weeks and I am not going to look back too much and it’s a good opportunity to get the early jitters out.”
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.
Chen was kicking himself for his error-strewn showing.
“Definitely not a representation of who I am and what I can do. Definitely need to work harder for the next couple of days,” he said.
The man they call the quad king added: “I definitely let the rest of the team down, so I feel bad in that regard. But I think that it was a good opportunity for me to put myself out there and make silly mistakes.
“In the individual I’ll be more ready.”
In the pairs short program Canadian duo Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford took second behind European champions Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov to take the overall lead.
American couple Alexa and Chris Knierim produced a season’s best in fourth to lift the USA up into the silver medal position with Japan ceding ground in third.
The team event continues on Sunday and concludes Monday.