Shoma Uno took advantage of inconsistent performances by his main rivals to take the lead in the men's short program Friday, helping Japan finish third on the opening day of the figure skating team competition at the Pyeongchang Games.
With Miu Suzaki and Ryuichi Kihara placing eighth in the pairs short skate, Japan collected 13 points through the first two disciplines, equal with the Olympic Athletes from Russia team. Canada took the lead with 17 points and the United States followed with 14.
The top five teams from the 10-team competition after the men's and women's, pairs and ice dance short programs advance to the free skates. The team event is held over three days.
Uno, the world silver medalist, was himself not perfect at Gangneung Ice Arena. But after falling on his opening quadruple flip, he recovered nicely and was error-free the rest of the way, landing a quad toeloop-triple toeloop en route to scoring 103.25 points.
"This is my first Olympics, so I wondered what kind of intensity I would skate with, but I was not especially nervous," the 20-year-old Uno said.
"This season I have messed up the quad toe-triple toe a lot so the best thing about today's performance was that I was able to nail it."
Uno, who finished nearly 15 points ahead of Israel's Alexei Bychenko, took to the ice last after watching American quad king Nathan Chen and Canada's three-time world champion Patrick Chan both stutter and fall.
Chan was third with 81.66 and U.S. champion and Grand Prix Final winner Chen fourth with 80.61.
"I just wasn't thinking of the right technical things before the jumps," said Chen.
"I was a bit ahead of myself, obviously not what I want to do on my first Olympic run. Also, I am upset that I let the rest of the team down but I am confident that they will be able to pull through with good skates."
"I am glad that I got the opportunity to at least come out here and put the programs down and learn from it. But right now all I can do is try to analyze what I did wrong and then just let it go and move on."
Skating in his third Olympics, Chan was equally disappointed with his performance.
"Obviously, I am not super happy with the skate. I am going to be here a while and there are a lot of programs to be completed," Chan said.
"It's not the best start I wanted, but I have the support of my teammates. They make me feel so much better even when it's not the best skate, they are holding me up and making me feel like I belong here. That's the best thing about the team event."
He added, "I think I was nervous, obviously, we're at the Olympics. I was a little tight in the upper body. I am a little bigger than the other skaters in the upper body, and when I get really tight it really affects the jumps. It makes the jumps move into the air as opposed to staying straight."
Suzaki and Kihara scored a season-best 57.42 points in the pairs short program won by Olympic Athletes from Russia Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who scored 80.92.
"At the Four Continents championships (in Taipei last month) we were able to perform what we have been putting together for the first time. We had that image in our minds today and that led to a good result," said Suzaki.
"It's great that we were able to get a personal best on the big stage that we had been targeting."
Kihara said, "We had a good image in our minds from training and it is great to get a personal best score in the most important competition. But I was a bit wobbly on the first jump so I am a little disappointed about that."
Japan is looking for a big improvement in the team event after placing fifth in the inaugural competition in Sochi four years ago, when Russia won the gold, Canada silver and the United States bronze.
The Japanese team is without its star skater, reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu. Hanyu, who is coming back from an ankle injury, is skipping the team event in order to be fully fit to defend his men's singles title.
Satoko Miyahara is expected to start for Japan in the women's short program as is Keiji Tanaka in the men's free skate. Kaori Sakamoto is set to skate in the women's long program.