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Hanyu’s great skate

 Yuzuru Hanya executing a Biellmann spin – named for Swiss skater Denise Biellmann, who popularized it – at the 2011 Cup of China. Photograph by David W. Carmichael.

Yuzuru Hanya executing a Biellmann spin – named for Swiss skater Denise Biellmann, who popularized it – at the 2011 Cup of China. Photograph by David W. Carmichael.

Well, it didn’t take long for the theme of rising to the occasion – or not – to emerge at the Sochi Games with the new team figure skating event. American Jeremy Abbott, whom I’ve rarely seen skate well, turned in a disastrous performance. Canada’s elegant Patrick Chan, the three-time world champion who acknowledged that hometown nerves got to him at the Vancouver Games, skated well but tight. Evgeni Plushenko was, well, Evgeni Plushenko. He’s a big-game skater but loses points in my book for arrogance. (We all remember how he dissed gold medalist Evan Lysacek in Vancouver when Plushenko stepped up to the top of the podium before taking his silver medal place.)

No matter. For me the performance of the first night of team competition belonged to Japan’s Yuzura Hanyu. Is there anything quite so attractive as the confidence of youth? Hanyu ran his fingers through his hair and snapped his fingers while delivering seamless jumps, spins and footwork. He was James Dean cool. And yet there was a humility in the way he brought his hands together and bowed to the crowd after his thrilling routine.

Most important, he skated footloose and fancy free. My money’s on him for gold in the men’s singles event.