Yuzuru Hanyu hit an early hurdle in his bid for a third straight Olympic figure skating gold medal on Tuesday, as American Nathan Chen underscored his status as the Beijing Games men's singles favorite with a world record short program.
Three-time world champion Chen leads the competition, with Japanese skaters Yuma Kagiyama and Shoma Uno second and third, respectively, and Hanyu eighth following the opening day of the competition at the Capital Indoor Stadium.
The 22-year-old Chen amassed 113.97 points for his dazzling short program, breaking the previous world record of 111.82 for the segment set by Hanyu at the 2020 Four Continents.
Hanyu appeared to catch his skate on the ice before bailing out on his first planned jump, a quadruple salchow, on his way to a score of 95.15, well below his personal best.
"When I was about to go for the salchow, there was a hole in the ice as I came around the curve, so I couldn't jump," said Hanyu, who nailed a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and a triple axel in an otherwise clean routine.
"Honestly, I don't have any sense of having made a mistake. Did I do something wrong? Maybe I felt the ice had it in for me. That's how I feel," he said.
Chen said Tuesday's performance, including a quad flip and a quad lutz-triple toe loop combo, was "pretty close" to the best of his career.
"There are always things you can do a little bit better, but overall I'm very happy," said Chen, whose outstanding short program in the just-wrapped team competition helped the United States take silver.
The 27-year-old Hanyu is aiming to become the first men's figure skater to win gold at three consecutive Olympics since Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom in 1928.
While he has been expected to battle for the title with Chen, his countrymen Uno and Kagiyama must also be considered serious contenders.
Kagiyama became just the third person to break the 200-point barrier for the free skate during the team competition, joining Hanyu and Chen as the only skaters to achieve the milestone.
The 18-year-old 2021 world championship runner-up continued his strong form with a personal-best 108.12 in Tuesday's short program, opening his mistake-free routine with a quad salchow followed by a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination jump.
"I've worked long and hard with the Olympics as my goal and it seems to be paying off," Kagiyama said. "I feel like I should try to enjoy every moment, and I am really am enjoying it."
Pyeongchang Olympic silver medalist Uno skated with authority for a personal best 105.90, leading the competition with four of the five groups completed.
"I was surprised at the personal best as I made a mistake on one jump, but I was satisfied with all of my successful jumps," said the 24-year-old, whose routine included two quad jumps and a triple axel.
Vincent Zhou, who helped the U.S. win team silver, was forced to withdraw from the men's singles competition after testing positive for COVID-19.
Hanyu is expected to attempt the elusive quadruple axel, which has never been landed in competition, in Thursday's free skate.
Accorded almost mythical status, the jump could provide his best hope of coming back to beat Chen, who has dominated international competition in the wake of his disappointing fifth-place finish in Pyeongchang.
Still to reach an Olympic podium in singles competition, Chen said he is not discounting the chances of Hanyu or any of his other opponents.
"You can never really count out any of these athletes. The competition's not one program," he said.
"Whatever happens in the short program is not indicative of what will happen in the free program."