These Olympic figure skaters will blow your mind

Quad jumps. Quad twists. Multi-position death spirals.This year's Olympic skaters are taking the sport to asto...

Posted: Feb 9, 2018 8:59 AM
Updated: Feb 9, 2018 8:59 AM

Quad jumps. Quad twists. Multi-position death spirals.

This year's Olympic skaters are taking the sport to astonishing heights. They'll fight for medals in the men's, ladies', pairs and ice-dancing events, and the 10 strongest countries will also compete in the team event.

Here's a guide on which skaters to watch, and what makes each so extraordinary:

MEN

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.

PAIRS

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."

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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.

ICE DANCING

TESSA VIRTUE AND SCOTT MOIR, CANADA

Why they're phenomenal: They already have three Olympic medals and three world titles. Their programs this year -- with music from Santana, the Eagles' "Hotel California" and "Moulin Rouge" -- will keep your eyes glued to the TV.

Interesting factoid: Virtue and Moir have been skating together for 20 years, since they were little kids.

GABRIELLA PAPADAKIS AND GUILLAUME CIZERON, FRANCE

Why they're phenomenal: Not everyone can dance to a sultry, Latin version of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" followed by Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" with the same ease. But that's exactly what these two-time world champs will do at the Olympics.

Interesting factoid: They share the same coaches and training ice as their biggest rivals, Virtue and Moir of Canada. That should make for some interesting practice sessions.

MAIA SHIBUTANI AND ALEX SHIBUTANI, USA

Why they're phenomenal: This brother-and-sister team pulls off super-complex dance moves with extreme precision. They're known for their insane "twizzles," when both skaters speed across the ice while rapidly spinning on one foot.

Interesting factoid: Their famous hip-hop routine, set to a Jay-Z/Sinatra mashup, got the "Shib Sibs" a lot more fans.

MADISON HUBBELL AND ZACHARY DONOHUE, USA

Why they're phenomenal: They won their first US title last month with a bluesy, smoldering free dance has been described as hot enough to melt the ice.

Interesting factoid: Their sizzling on-ice chemistry led to an off-ice relationship, too. But now they're dating two members of the same ice dance team from Spain.

LADIES

ALINA ZAGITOVA, RUSSIA

Why she's phenomenal: This 15-year-old prodigy has been undefeated this season, even toppling two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva.

Interesting factoid: Zagitova is known for "backloading" her programs, or putting virtually all her jumps in the second half to get 10% bonuses. It's a controversial technique -- critics say it makes programs woefully unbalanced. But the results speak for themselves.

EVGENIA MEDVEDEVA, RUSSIA

Why she's phenomenal: She went undefeated for two years -- until Zagitova showed up. But Medvedeva, 18, still holds the world records for most points in both the short and long programs.

Interesting factoid: Medvedeva also has a signature strategy to ramp up her scores. She often jumps with one or both arms over her head, which typically gets more points because it's more difficult.

BRADIE TENNELL, USA

Why she's phenomenal: Tennell apparently has a special contract with gravity, as it seems impossible for her to fall down. While she doesn't have the artistry of some of her competitors, her reliable jumping makes her Team USA's best answer to the Russian teenage super jumpers.

Interesting factoid: Tennell shattered everyone's expectations by winning last month's US championships (after finishing ninth last year). She may have sent a message with her music choices: her short program is set to South Korean music, and her long program is "Cinderella."

KAETLYN OSMOND, CANADA

Why she's phenomenal: Osmond may have the best combination of athleticism and artistry in the entire field. She can launch some of the biggest triples you've ever seen. But at 22, she has more maturity and charisma than most of her teenage counterparts.

Interesting factoid: Osmond is so beloved, her hometown in Newfoundland renamed its ice-skating arena the Kaetlyn Osmond Arena.

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