In a reversal of fortunes from the last Olympic Games, American Nathan Chen scored a world record in the figure skating short program in Beijing on Tuesday, giving him a massive lead over a shocked Yuzuru Hanyu in their quest for the gold medal.
At the Pyeongchang Games in 2018, Chen – also a gold-medal favorite then – had finished the short program in 17th after a disastrous, error-strewn performance, while Japan's Hanyu went on to win his second consecutive Olympic gold.
"I feel really shocked," Hanyu said, appearing lost for words after a short program in which he failed to jump his opening quadruple Salchow – a rare trip-up that he attributed to a divot in the ice.
"It was an unlucky way to make a mistake, but it can't be helped and I need to be okay with this (going into the free skate final)," he said. "I'll do my best... the rest, God only knows."
Hanyu scored 95.15 – far from the previous world record that he held of 111.82 – and miles away from Chen's fresh record of 113.97. He goes into the free skate on Thursday in eighth place.
In contrast, Chen, skating to Charles Aznavour's La Boheme in a tuxedo costume, landed all of his elements, including two quadruple jumps, flawlessly, leaving the triple world champion celebrating with fist pumps at its conclusion.
"I would say it was pretty close to my best," said the 22-year-old, who had also marked a personal best last week in the team event.
Asked if he felt it was redemption for 2018, Chen said: "Certainly. It definitely means a lot to be able to have another opportunity to do the short program, and with two short programs that I am very satisfied with compared to the last time."
He said he had been aware of Hanyu's performance before his turn.
"You can never really count out any of these athletes," Chen told reporters.
"The competition is not one program. Whatever happened in the short program is not indicative of what will happen in the free program."
Japan's rising star, 18-year-old Yuma Kagiyama, was in second place after setting a new personal best of 108.12, followed by compatriot Shoma Uno with 105.90.