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BEIJING — Nathan Chen skated his best short program of the season to give the United States the early lead in the team event as the figure skating competitions kicked off at the Beijing Olympics on Friday.
Chen, who took a tumble in the team event at the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, scored 111.71 points in front of a couple of hundred spectators at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
His main rival for the individual title, Yuzuru Hanyu, was not on the ice for Japan, but Shoma Uno duly delivered by also achieving his season's best with 105.46 points thanks to controlled and well-checked landings.
"I was able to perform as I always do in practice. I couldn't have asked for more," Uno said, adding that he felt the absence of his coach, Stephane Lambiel, who is being delayed with an initial positive COVID-19 test.
The Russian Olympic Committee athletes, who have been tipped to win the title, sit third after 18-year-old Mark Kondratiuk scored 95.81.
It was Chen's performance that was widely awaited, however, and the American did not disappoint, doing nicely on his quadruple Lutz-triple toeloop combination.
Hanyu could still take part in the event by entering the men's free skate as teams are allowed up to two changes.
Hosts China, represented by Jin Boyang, are sixth.
"Here's the easiest of @nathanwchen's jumping passes..." 😳 #WinterOlympicspic.twitter.com/G8Zr44J2Pt— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 4, 2022
Defending champions Canada substituted Roman Sadovsky for veteran Keegan Messing, who has yet to arrive due to a positive COVID-19 test, and the 22-year-old struggled, finishing eighth.
Ukraine and Germany have also had their plans derailed by COVID-19.
The Germans will score no points in the pairs short programme after Nolan Seegert, Minerva Fabienne Hase's partner, tested positive.
For Ukraine, Ivan Shmuratko's positive test meant they ended the men's short programme without a point.