GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Canada led after the first round of figure skating’s team competition in the Pyeongchang Olympics on Friday, with a dazzling performance by pair Megan Duhamel and Eric Radford overcoming stumbles by Patrick Chan in the men’s singles.
Duhamel and Radford claimed a season’s best 76.57 with their flowing routine to “With or Without You”, but Chan, in his third Olympics, struggled with his jumps and fell on his opening quad toeloop and his triple Axel.
“Today was a good example of good skates and bad skates, but I think that’s the whole premise of the team event,” Chan told reporters. “In my case I’m so thankful I had the support of my team mates on and off the ice.
“Eric had a great skate, I had a so-so skate, but the reactions off the ice when we got to the kiss and cry made my experience go from possibly being poor to being fun.”
A strong performance by American husband and wife Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim, who scored 69.75, helped the United States take second place overall despite a rocky performance by 18-year-old Nathan Chen in his Olympic debut.
Chen made an uncharacteristic fall on his triple axel after doubling his quad toeloop, although he hung on to land his opening quad flip but went on to double his quad toeloop and make an uncharacteristic fall on his triple Axel, earning him 80.61 points and leaving him in fourth.
“I just wasn’t thinking about the right thing technically. I was ahead of myself in terms of how to land a jump, how to get out,” he said.
“I think that it was a good opportunity for me to put myself out there and make silly mistakes like this. In individual, I’ll be more ready.”
Canada had 17 points to 14 for the United States. Japan was in third place with 13 points, while Olympic Athletes from Russia, bouyed by Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov’s top score of 80.92 in the pairs, were in fourth also on 13 points.
The Russian skaters were cheered on by a vociferous group of fans waving Russian flags and holding up signs spelling out “Russia in My Heart.”
Japan had taken the early lead when Shoma Uno dazzled with a series of clean quad jumps and fluid step sequences in the men’s short program.
Skating to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” the 20-year-old was nearly flawless, snapping out a clean set of jumps including a quad toeloop and triple toeloop sequence that drew cheers from the crowd for a whopping 103.25 points.
He wobbled on his initial quad flip but was able to hold on, which he said was “a relief.”
“It wasn’t a perfect performance, but I thought it was pretty good overall,” he said. “I thought I might fall on the flip, but I managed not to, so that gave me confidence.”
Uno said he was surprised by the number of mistakes by the others and said the early start time might have contributed. Skating events normally take place in the afternoon or evening.
“Skaters who are usually so stable really fell a lot,” he said. “I thought it was because it was early morning and there were nerves because of the Olympics.
“I also thought I’d mess up, I was worried, and just thought that I’d fail too. I was really relieved after the first jump.”
The short programs for the women’s singles and ice dancers take place at the weekend.
Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Elaine Lies; Editing by Greg Stutchbury