Patrick Chan performs in the free skate on Friday. (Jung Yeon-Je / Getty Images)
Sochi, Russia — The leader for the gold medal, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, opened the door for Patrick Chan, falling twice in his free program.
Chan, who sought the solace of the Detroit Skating Club last year in his effort to become the first Canadian in history to win a gold medal in men’s figure skating, failed to walk through.
He fell twice, too.
And so the gold eluded him, and his country again.
“My plan was to take all of the element one thing at time,” Chan said, immediately after the skate and before he went back out to the ice to receive the silver medal.
“I wanted to focus on myself, but I made several little mistakes. Figure skating is hard.”
Hanyu discovered that too, in a men’s competition that from the short program through the best free skaters, yielded many errors and some catastrophe.
The great Russian skater Evgeny Plushenko withdrew from the competition with a back injury before his short program, depriving the contest of the sizzle that was expected before his countrymen.
“It was such a difficult program for me, and I felt rough, physically,” said Hanyu, who seemed stunned to have won the gold after his spills.
“I’m just shocked.”
Hanyu had a lead of nearly five points over Chan coming into the final night of the competition. And through their combined four falls, it remained about the same.
“I was beyond nervous,” he said. “I couldn’t sleep at all and I didn’t feel well physically. I was not trying to think about winning the gold medal, but I couldn’t deflect the pressure, which was massive.”
The highest-finishing American skater, 19-year-old Jason Brown of California, finished ninth. Brown style shows enormous enthusiasm and great lines. The greater discipline he requires, reflected by the lack of quadruple jumps in his program, could come for the next Games in South Korea, when he will be only 23.
“I want to be in the sport for another eight years, so to start off my first senior season at the Olympics was huge,” Brown said. “I’m so excited that I was able to start my senior year here and make such a big splash.”
Indeed, a top-10 finish at the Games in one’s rookie campaign is a considerable feat. But will promise turn into accomplishment in the years to come?
Jeremy Abbott, of Bloomfield Hills and Aspen, may have skated his last non-professional performance here, in a once-promising career that fell victim to too many mistakes when the pressure was on.
He did not fall Friday, and his program seemed otherwise fairly clean. But Abbott also discounted a few jumps, making quads triples and triples doubles, in finishing a disappointing 12th.
“I was proud of my effort. Today, I literally wrote down my goal and then Yuka erased them,” he said of his coach, Yuka Sato.
“She said, ‘You’re here to skate.’”
Asked about his future, Abbott made clear he is not continuing to train during the Games for future competitions.
“I’m going to take the rest of the Games off and then we’ll discuss our plan of action after that,” he said.
“I’ve been so blessed here,” Abbott continued, reflecting on the near ovation he received as he lay on the ice Thursday, as the fans urged him to get up and keep skating.
“The international audience — I felt so embraced here. I feel a lot of love and support here.”