Golden Skate

Chen leads U.S. men in Detroit

Nathan Chen

Nathan Chen performs his Short Program at the 2019 Geico U.S. National Figure Skating Championships.

2019 Geico U.S. National Figure Skating Championships

Men’s Short Program

Two-time reigning U.S. champion Nathan Chen began defense of his title with 113.42 points to lead the men’s short program at the 2019 Geico U.S. National Figure Skating Championships on Saturday in Detroit, Mich.

Skating to “Caravan” by Boston Brass, the world champion opened with a strong triple Axel followed by a solid quad flip. He later earned a whopping 15.07 points alone for a quad toe-triple toe that was executed in the second half of the program. The 19-year-old also received level 4s on all three of his spins and step sequence, as well as high grades of execution (GOE).

“Everything that I’ve done, good and bad in the past, stays in the past, said Chen, who was fifth in the Olympics. “I learned quite a lot from the Olympics, and I think I learned more from my mistakes than from when I skated really well. Those are things I try to carry with me. I definitely don’t want to jinx my head, I want to stay in the moment with what I’m doing. Every nationals is a challenge, so I’m glad I skated the way that I did.”

Chen won both Skate America and the Internationaux de France en route to the 2018-19 Grand Prix Final gold medal this autumn, all while juggling his freshman year at Yale University.

“From a schedule perspective, it fit in really well with my semester,” said Chen about Nationals. “It was nice for me to have a little bit of a break from school. Currently, I am not missing out too much. Worlds will be during spring break. I am getting used to training by myself and putting school together with training.”

In second after the short program is Jason Brown with 100.52 points. Returning from a disappointing sixth at Nationals in 2018, the 2015 champion delivered a triple flip, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple to in his routine to  “Love Is A B…” The skater posted four level 4s with high GOEs, mostly +4 and +5, on all elements.

“I was more nervous than I thought I would be,” said Brown, “which is not what I expected, because I am extremely ready. I stayed calm and got the job done. I came up with this program with my choreographer after my season ended last year. When I am competing, I need to calm the adrenaline. I need to get my body back when I am in a competition setting. I just want to get back to what I am capable of, and I want to get on that Olympic stage again. Last year’s nationals are still in my head, and those thoughts of those skates.””

Vincent Zhou is right on the heels of Brown with 100.25 points. The 18-year-old current bronze medalist skated to “Exogenesis Symphony Part III” by Muse, and despite under-rotating his opening quad Lutz on his first combination jump (with a triple toe), rallied back with a strong quad Salchow and triple Axel. He also was awarded level 4 on all spins and footwork.

“I don’t think I’ve done better in a competition,” said Zhou, who was sixth at the 2018 Olympics. “This is more than I could have asked for. Each season, it feels like it gets harder and harder. I can’t count the number of times where I felt like I can’t push through, and then I pull out of my biggest obstacle, which is myself. I don’t care about placements really, and thinking about other people takes me out of the zone athletes need to be in.”

Tomoki Hiwatashi is fourth after an 84.05-point short program to “Cry Me The River.” While he fought for the landing of a triple Axel, he cleanly landed a triple flip and triple Lutz-triple toeloop combination.The the 2016 U.S. junior champion also executed two level 4 spins and step sequence.

“Unlike last year, I’m not 11th, 12th, 13th,” noted Hiwatashi. “I’m more at the top and was able to stay in the last group. That’s my motivation, to be able to skate with Jason, Vincent and Nathan, those who are above me.”

Aleksei Krasnozhan is in fifth with 82.53 points, while Timothy Dolensky is sixth with 81.10.

“It took me a while getting into my knees, but I flipped a switch,” said Dolensky. “I missed a grab leg on my camel spin. I went the wrong way out of my camel spin, and I didn’t notice until the end.”