"So close," Keegan Messing told his coach after making his Olympic debut Friday in South Korea.
So close. But for a fall on the triple axel in his short program Friday in Pyeongchang, the Girdwood figure skater might have put himself in the medal hunt in men's figure skating.
It was nonetheless an outstanding performance that left Messing, 26, in 10th place heading into the long program, which begins Friday at 4 p.m. AST.
"I'm feeling pretty good," Messing told reporters after he skated.
Messing impressed with a perfectly executed quadruple toe-triple toe combination jump, fast spins and intricate footwork. He took a one-point deduction for falling on his triple axel, a required element in the short program, but bounced back with a clean triple lutz.
The enormity of the night was not lost on Messing, who began skating at age 3.
"About 30 seconds before I got on the ice, it was just, 'Oh my gosh, I'm at the Olympics,' and I almost wanted to cry and I had to bring it back to myself," he said.
Messing finished with 85.11 points (a 45.5-point technical score and a 40.61-point component score). The top four skaters all finished with more than 100 points.
Defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan turned in a commanding performance to take the lead with 111.68 points, followed by two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain with 107.58. Japan's Shoma Uno is third (104.17) and China's Jin Boyang is fourth (103.32).
Messing finished ahead of U.S. national champion Nathan Chen and was right on the heels of Canadian champion Patrick Chan (90.01 points) and U.S. runner-up Adam Rippon (87.95).
Performing to "Singin' in the Rain," Messing skated a lively short program. His usual unruly hair was shiny and slick and his showmanship was undeniable as he channeled Gene Kelly dancing with a pantomime umbrella.
The quad-triple jump combination was his first big element, and it couldn't have gone any better. Then came the triple axel, which he had been landing all week in practice.
"The axel is actually one of the stronger jumps I have," Messing said. "I go into it with a lot of speed and power and I just missed my takeoff.
"… It shouldn't happen again. I'm very confident in it."
Messing's program drew plenty of raves on Twitter. "Really (deserved) being rewarded on components there," figure skating analyst Jackie Wong tweeted during the competition. Chimed in Canadian figure skating TV commentator Sandra Bezik: "Keegan Messing was GREAT. Amazing spins too. Just a little impatient on the T axel. Charming."