Le Pays De France - Hanyu makes shaky start at Beijing Olympics as Gu wins thrilling gold

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Hanyu makes shaky start at Beijing Olympics as Gu wins thrilling gold
Hanyu makes shaky start at Beijing Olympics as Gu wins thrilling gold

Hanyu makes shaky start at Beijing Olympics as Gu wins thrilling gold

Japanese figure skating icon Yuzuru Hanyu was "shocked" after making a shaky start to the defence of his Olympic crown on Tuesday while Californian-born teenage freestyle skier Eileen Gu won a thrilling gold for China on her Games debut.

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Reigning champion Hanyu has won the last two Olympic titles and his showdown with American triple world champion Nathan Chen is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in Beijing.

But Hanyu has a fight on his hands to win a third gold medal after Chen smashed his Japanese rival's world record in the opening programme, scoring 113.97 to comfortably beat Hanyu's previous short programme best of 111.82.

The all-important free skate is on Thursday.

Chen, 22, performed a fist pump after his skate and said afterwards of his reaction: "I have no idea what came over me.

"I don’t generally do stuff like that but it just felt right... I was just really happy and I guess that just came out."

Hanyu, 27, made a mistake on his first jump and told reporters he thought the error might have been caused by a hole in the ice made by another skater.

"Actually, I feel really shocked today," he said. "But I have one more chance in the free programme."

- Believe the Gu hype -

Ten gold medals were up for grabs on the fourth full day of competition in the Chinese capital, in sports including curling, luge, snowboarding and speed skating.

But the day belonged to 18-year-old Gu, who justified all the pre-Games hype by nailing her third and final run in the Big Air to snatch gold from Tess Ledeux and force the French competitor into the silver medal position.

Gu -- known in China as Gu Ailing -- collapsed to her knees on the snow and screamed in delight at the Big Air Shougang, where enormous industrial cooling towers provide a stunning backdrop.

"That was the best moment of my life. The happiest moment, day, whatever... of my life. I just cannot believe what just happened."

The grade-A student and part-time model, who switched allegiance from the US to China in 2019, had been touted as one of the faces of the Beijing Olympics -- and she did not disappoint despite the huge pressure on her young shoulders.

Needing something special for gold, Gu nailed a left double cork 1620 --- four and a half rotations in the air -- before landing backwards.

"I have never done the 'left 16 before', I hadn’t prepared much for it apart from two days on the air bag," Gu said.

"My mum called me before my last jump and told me not to, but I was adamant I wanted to do the 'left 16'."

Gu, born to an American father and Chinese mother, has captivated China and could yet win more gold. She is also competing in the freeski halfpipe and slopestyle.

She won her gold in front of several hundred spectators including Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis player who on Monday claimed there had been a "huge misunderstanding" over an online post in which she alleged that she was sexually assaulted by a senior Chinese politician.

Peng, who sparked international concern when she disappeared for weeks after making the post, was seen sitting next to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach at the event.

- Mayer makes ski history -

In the mountains of Yanqing, north of Beijing, Matthias Mayer successfully defended his super-G title to become the first men's alpine skier to win gold medals in three consecutive Olympics.

It was a remarkable result for the Austrian, who had won this title four years ago at the Pyeongchang Games but has had little World Cup success in the discipline since.

American Ryan Cochran-Siegle took a surprise silver just 0.04sec behind, with Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde claiming bronze.

Mayer, who also won a bronze medal in Monday's downhill, said: "I saw Kilde's run on TV at the start and it was really good so I knew that I had to go all in."

Dual winter sports champion Ester Ledecka successfully defended her snowboard parallel giant slalom title.

Czech Ledecka made history four years ago when she became the first woman to win gold in two different sports at a Winter Olympics, taking skiing and snowboarding titles.

She will again switch from snowboard to skis on Thursday as she goes in the super-G, attempting to win the fourth gold of her career.

The Beijing Games are taking place inside a Covid-secure "closed loop" bubble to thwart the virus.

According to latest official figures, there were six positive cases in the bubble, five of them competitors.

There have been 393 cases since January 23.