Figure skating - Skaters given the slip by early starts

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Figure Skating – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics – Team Event Men Single Skating short program – Gangneung Ice Arena - Gangneung, South Korea – February 9, 2018 - Patrick Chan of Canada falls. REUTERS/John Sibley
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By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Elaine Lies

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - When a string of the world's top male figure skaters fell on the jumps they usually land at the Olympic team event on Friday, competitors identified a possible culprit: the early start time.

Traditionally an afternoon or evening event, figure skating has been moved to the morning with a majority of 10 a.m. (0300 GMT) starts accommodating prime-time North American television broadcasts at the risk of disrupting skaters' routines.

Veteran Canadian skater Patrick Chan, a two-time Olympic silver medallist, tumbled on his opening jump and struggled to retrieve his composure for the rest of the short programme.

Nathan Chen, the 18-year-old American quadruple jump specialist, hung on to land his opening quad flip but cut his quad toeloop to a double and made an uncharacteristic fall on his triple Axel, leaving him in fourth.

Skating after the men in the pairs, Germany's Bruno Massot lashed out at the competition schedule after his partner Aljona Savchenko took a hard fall on their throw triple flip.

"It's always more difficult for sure if we have a practice very early and a competition two hours after," he told reporters.

"It's very hard for the athletes and we all feel that it's not very cool for the athletes do to that. It's only always just for the TV. It's good for the people but it's more difficult for us."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was not immediately available for comment.

Chan said the early start times were not compatible with the finesse needed to execute quality jumps, adding that it could be particularly difficult for Chen, who is known for his numerous quads.

"There's a lot of finesse that needs to happen and the morning isn't the best time for finesse, at least for me," Chan told a news conference.


Ravi Walia, Chan's coach, told Reuters after a practice earlier this week that they had taken special steps because the skater was not that accustomed to early starts.

"Patrick, he's actually not as used to it, so we actually had to train in the morning for a while now. He did it for the last three weeks," Walla said.

"It's okay. I think he found it not as hard as he thought it would be."

Japan's Shoma Uno said he woke at 5 a.m. to get ready, but dozed on and off for an hour after that. He finished first in the men's event but only after a wobble on a quad flip.

Ahead of the Games, some skaters were philosophical.

Italy's Carolina Kostner, who took bronze in Sochi four years ago, told reporters after the European championships in Moscow that she trained early in the morning and liked it but needed about an hour to do her hair and makeup.

French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron, a two-time world champion and four-time European champion, told a news conference at the European championships that the Olympics were not the "most usual" schedule.

"I hope jet-lag will help a bit. We'll train for it, we'll start practicing maybe more often in the morning," he said.

"We don't really have a choice. We can't really ask to move it. Someone has to compete in the morning. And this time it's our turn."

Then there are those like Adam Rippon of the United States, who said just being at the Olympics was worth the sacrifice.

"If they had the Olympics at 6 a.m. I would still do it," he told reporters after a practice. "I'm a bit of a night owl but I'll just wake up a little bit early and adjust my schedule."

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Elaine Lies; Editing by John O'Brien)