Quad jumps. Quad twists. Multi-position death spirals.
This year’s Olympic skaters are taking the sport to astonishing heights. Here’s a guide on which skaters to watch, and what makes each so extraordinary:
NATHAN CHEN, USA
Why he’s phenomenal: He’s the first skater in the world to land five quadruple jumps in one program. What’s a quad jump? It’s when you hurl your body into the air, make four revolutions in less than a second and land on a 1/4-inch (4-millimeter) thin blade.
Interesting factoid: Chen, who originally wanted to play hockey, was landing triple jumps when he was 10. That year, when asked which Olympics we would see him in, the young boy predicted: “2018.”
YUZURU HANYU, JAPAN
Why he’s phenomenal: He’s the reigning Olympic champ and holds the world record for the highest total score in a competition – 330.43. That’s like a basketball team scoring 150 points. Or a football team scoring 11 touchdowns in a game. It’s kinda obscene.
Interesting factoid: Hanyu’s scrambling to recover from a nasty injury in November, when he wiped out on a quad lutz (the most difficult quad jump in history) and damaged a ligament in his right ankle – the same ankle he lands on.
ADAM RIPPON, USA
Why he’s phenomenal: There’s toughness, and then there’s Adam Rippon. After a bad fall on a quad jump this season, he grotesquely dislocated his right shoulder. But instead of stopping, he popped his shoulder back into place, kept skating like a boss and landed all his jumps. He ended up with the silver medal.
Interesting factoid: At 28, Rippon is a decade older than his two US men’s teammates. He explained his longevity after he won the 2016 US championships: “I’m like a witch, and you can’t kill me. I keep coming back every year, and every year I get better.”
JAVIER FERNANDEZ, SPAIN
Why he’s phenomenal: Fernandez has won two world championships, most recently while portraying Frank Sinatra.
Interesting factoid: If Fernandez wins an Olympic medal, it would be the first ever for Spain in figure skating.
ALIONA SAVCHENKO AND BRUNO MASSOT, GERMANY
Why they’re phenomenal: She’s 34 and a five-time world champ (with a different partner). He’s 29 and has only been with Savchenko for 3 1/2 years. But together they’re magical, performing daring tricks and bringing a new level of artistry to pairs skating.
Interesting factoid: Neither of them are actually from Germany. Savchenko is from Ukraine and got German citizenship so she could compete with her ex-partner. But after he retired, Savchenko searched for a new partner and found a perfect match in Massot – a Frenchman who, in turn, had to get German citizenship to go to the Olympics with her.
EVGENIA TARASOVA AND VLADIMIR MOROZOV, RUSSIA
Why they’re phenomenal: Tarasova and Morozov are fearless. They’re planning a quadruple twist, which is basically when the guy hurls the woman so high up in the air, she spins around four times before he catches her around the waist.
Interesting factoid: Talk about versatility. Their short program is Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and their free skate is Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman.”
VANESSA JAMES AND MORGAN CIPRES, FRANCE
Why they’re phenomenal: The reigning World Team Trophy champions are among the most popular, with their modern, edgy style and gutsy moves. They’re planning a dangerous throw quad salchow, the most difficult throw in pairs skating history.
Interesting factoid: James and Cipres became an internet sensation after skating a “Fifty Shades of Grey” program.
SUI WENJING AND HAN CONG, CHINA
Why they’re phenomenal: Sui and Han have nailed both a quad twist and a throw quad salchow. And just one year after Sui had surgery on both feet, she and her partner won the world championships, skating to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Interesting factoid: They were coached by Yao Bin, who basically pioneered skating in China. But Yao and his partner were so bad, they were laughed at by audience members and often finished dead-last. Three decades later, Coach Yao’s enjoying the last laugh – his pairs teams have won five Olympic medals. Sui and Han could be next.
TESSA VIRTUE AND SCOTT MOIR, CANADA