Patrick Chan will need a near-flawless free skate to finish on the podium after a highly competitive short program has left a large group of men in medal contention at the Olympic Games.
Canada’s best shot at a medal in men’s figure skating sits in seventh place following his performance at the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday, 9.73 points behind leader Evengi Plushenko of Russia.
The defending Olympic gold medallist, who just returned to figure skating this season after three years off, set a new Olympic record of 90.85.
Plushenko is not alone at the top as reigning world champion Evan Lysacek, of the United States, and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi both sit less than a point behind him.
While Plushenko successfully pulled off a quadruple toe loop-triple toe loop combination, neither Lysacek nor Takahashi chose to perform a quad.
Lysacek finished fourth at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, while Takahashi settled for eighth.
Chan sits in the back of a cluster of skaters with scores in the early 80s, among them American Johnny Weir and 2006 Olympic silver medallist Stephane Lambiel of Switzerland.
Nobunari Oda of Japan is the closest to the top three with a score of 84.85.
Finishing his skate just a moment after the music stopped, Chan was deducted a point due to the time violation. A step-out on his triple axel as well as a stumble during his footwork also cost the Toronto resident a higher point total.
“I really don’t know what to say, I was ready, I was more prepared, more trained, and I felt better than ever,” Chan told CTV. “I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for it.”
With the bottom six skaters eliminated from the competition, Vaughn Chipeur of Lloydminster, Sask. just eked his way into the free skate, finishing 24th out of 30.
A few top-ranked men surprisingly are out of contention after making costly mistakes during their performances.
Both Brian Joubert of France and Tomas Verner of the Czech Republic fell to the ice after jumps, an automatic one point deduction. They both also did not finish their combination jumps.
Jeremy Abbott, who beat Lysacek in the United States championships last month, did not complete the rotations on either his triple axel or triple lutz.
It will be a tough task for Chan to finish with a medal, but it is not impossible. At the 2006 Olympics, Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle was not expected to win a medal after finishing the short program in sixth place.
He ended up winning the bronze medal after a second-place free skate.
Medal winners will be decided on Feb. 18.