|Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan competes during the men’s single skating free skating of figure skating at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, in Gangneung Ice Arena, South Korea, on February 17. Yuzuru Hanyu won the gold medal in the men’s single skating event with 317.85 points in total. - XINHUA Photo|
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea - "Ice Prince" Yuzuru Hanyu clinched the first back-to-back men’s Olympic figure skating titles in 66 years on Saturday as snowboarder Ester Ledecka pulled off an unbelievable shock by skiing to women’s super-G gold.
Hanyu, back from injury, lost his balance twice in his free skate but a total score of 317.85 gave the peerless Japanese gold with room to spare over compatriot Shoma Uno and Spain’s Javier Fernandez.
America’s Nathan Chen had earlier become the first skater to land six quads in competition but despite his Olympic free-skate record of 215.08, it was only enough for fifth.
Hanyu, greeted by a shower of Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys, his mascot, air-kissed Uno and theatrically leapt onto the podium at the award ceremony.
The 23-year-old becomes the first man since America’s Dick Button in 1952 to take the title twice in a row -- and into the bargain, wins the landmark 1,000th gold medal in Winter Olympics history.
"I’m not fully healed, I really pushed it hard and there were some jumps
and elements that I could not perform, but I forced myself to do so," said Hanyu, who damaged ankle ligaments in November.
"My injuries were more severe than I thought, but I’ve been fortunate to make it to the Olympics, and that I’m able to smile now explains what I’m feeling."
While Hanyu was favourite for gold, Ledecka produced one of the great Winter Games shocks when she won the super-G, with American star Lindsey Vonn sixth.
The Czech, favourite in the snowboard parallel giant slalom in a week’s time, clocked 1min 21.11sec to edge defending champion Anna Veith of Austria by one-hundredth of a second. Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather took bronze.
Not only did Ledecka deprive Veith of what looked like a rare double, she pushed Vonn further down the leaderboard as the American paid the price for an error at the bottom of the course.
"All the other girls didn’t risk a lot. There must be a lot of pressure on them. I was just trying to do my best run," said Ledecka, who appeared stunned by her achievement.
"I am so surprised about all of it. I’m really trying to win and do a good run every time, but I didn’t really realise that this really can happen."
Vonn said the outcome was "definitely shocking".
"I feel like in the Olympics a lot of things can happen, it’s not that she didn’t deserve it, but there’s a lot of pressure on the favourites," Vonn said.
Also on Saturday, Marit Bjoergen equalled her compatriot Ole Einar Bjoerndalen as the most decorated athlete in Winter Games history as she anchored Norway to victory in the 4x5km cross country relay, claiming her 13th medal.
Slovakia’s Anastasiya Kuzmina won the women’s biathlon 12.5km mass start, while Switzerland’s Sarah Hoefflin won the women’s ski slopestyle.
South Korea’s world record-holder Choi Min-jeong seized a convincing victory in the women’s 1,500m short track, and Canada’s Sam Girard won the men’s 1,000m after a mid-race pile-up cost home hope Lim Hyo-jun a shot at a second gold.
Lizzy Yarnold became the first two-time Olympic skeleton champion when she successfully defended her women’s title, securing Britain’s first gold of the Games.
And Poland’s Kamil Stoch produced a mighty leap under pressure to win his second straight gold medal in the men’s large hill ski jumping. - AFP