Reaching Beijing just in time, Keegan Messing delivers strong performance in short program

If figure skater Keegan Messing was jet-lagged or rattled by COVID-19 protocols that made him a last-second arrival at the Winter Olympics, it didn’t show Monday in Beijing.

Messing, a lifelong Alaskan who competes for Canada, nailed all three of his jumps to skate into ninth place in the men’s short program at Capital Indoor Arena.

He opened with a textbook combination jump and finished with a fist pump. After joining his coach in the kiss-and-cry area to await his scores, a beaming Messing held out his phone to a television camera to share a photo of his infant son, Wyatt, with the world.

Messing, 30, will skate in the free skate Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. Alaska time.

His presence in Beijing was in jeopardy all of last week as he isolated in a Vancouver hotel after a positive COVID-19 test. He missed Team Canada’s charter flight to China and didn’t leave Canada until Saturday, after getting the necessary four consecutive negative test results.

He arrived in Beijing on Sunday, about 24 hours before he skated.

Messing was on fire for most of his program, executing to near-perfection a quadruple toe-triple toe combination jump, a triple axel and a triple lutz.


His only missteps came late in the 2-minute, 40-second program, when perhaps fatigue contributed to a couple of wobbles in his step sequence.

He scored 93.24 points, his second-best short program score this season (Messing tallied 93.28 points in October at Skate Canada, where he finished fifth overall). He was less than two points behind Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time reigning gold medalist from Japan who missed his first jump, a quad salchow.

[Q&A: Anchorage figure skater Keegan Messing heads to the Olympics at the top of his game]

Hanyu’s mistake could cost him an unprecedented third straight gold medal. His score of 95.15 leaves him nearly 20 points behind Nathan Chen of the United States, who delivered an eye-popping score of 113.97.

[With a cathartic performance, U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen exorcises 4-year-old demons]

It was an impressive show of skating for much of the night at the nearly empty arena, where spectators are limited because of COVID-19. The top three skaters — Chen and the Japan duo of Yuma Kagiyama (108.12) and Shoma Uno (105.90) — all landed quads that looked effortless and all scored more than 105 points.

This is Messing’s second Winter Olympics. He placed 12th in the 2018 Olympics, and since then he’s gone through a series of life-changing moments. He got married, his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, and he and wife Lane Hodson welcomed their first child, Wyatt, who was born last summer.

As Messing prepared to skate Monday, a shout of encouragement came from the sparse crowd.

“Do it for Wyatt,” someone cried, and Messing obliged.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.