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Nathan Chen Isn’t Perfect but Wins U.S. Skating Championship

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NASHVILLE — Nathan Chen, one of the crucial profitable determine skaters in U.S. historical past, skated in his personal stratosphere on Sunday on the U.S. nationwide championships.

Five highly effective quadruple jumps that launched him excessive above the ice. Spins as exact as a gyroscope’s. Footwork that flowed like a fast-moving river.

He fell twice — as soon as on a quad soar early in his free skate and once more throughout a foot-tapping choreographed sequence to an Elton John medley — but it didn’t matter a bit. After his second fall, Chen playfully threw his arms into the air as if to say, aah, no matter.

“Am I to expect that?” Chen stated of his mistake in his footwork. “That was just a dumb little moment.”

Who cares that his efficiency wasn’t excellent. Chen, who has misplaced solely as soon as in additional than three seasons, nonetheless gained his sixth consecutive nationwide title to turn out to be the primary American man to take action in 70 years. He completed with 328.01 factors, 25.53 forward of second-place Ilia Malinin, the son of two Olympic determine skaters who represented Uzbekistan. Vincent Zhou, the 2019 bronze medalist on the world championships, was third and Jason Brown, a 2014 Olympian, was fourth.

Chen may have completed final at nationals, frankly, and nonetheless have been named to the Olympic workforce for his second Winter Games. He is just that invaluable to the United States as a possible Olympic gold medal winner, and he might be one of the crucial outstanding American names at subsequent month’s Beijing Winter Games.

Hours after nationals ended, Chen, 22, who’s from Salt Lake City, was named to the Olympic workforce. Zhou, 21, and Brown, 27, will be a part of him. It would be the second Olympics for all three males. The squad was chosen on the skaters’ physique of labor for the previous yr or so.

Chen would be the gold medal favourite. He was fifth on the 2018 Olympics after getting back from a disastrous brief program to rock the free skate with an incredible six quadruple jumps, including that sixth quad on the final second simply because he may.

Zhou, a 2018 Olympian, is the skater who broke Chen’s successful streak in October when he gained Skate America for his largest worldwide victory but. At nationals, he carried out a spectacular brief program for a private greatest rating, but made a number of massive errors in his free skate.

“I was so nervous that my body froze up on me, I couldn’t get things to respond,” Zhou stated about his free skate, including that he and his coaches will return to Colorado, the place he trains, to guage what occurred and the right way to repair it earlier than the Olympics. He added that the three American males going to Beijing would give the United States maybe the strongest male contingent of singles skaters on the Olympics.

Of the boys’s workforce, Brown stated, “I’m so incredibly proud of how dense the U.S. field has become.”

Malinin, 17, may have been a shock choose for the third Olympic spot, but he was named first alternate after his sensible efficiency at nationals, the place he nailed 4 quadruple jumps in his free skate and confirmed the aptitude and confidence of a veteran.

“I was surprised at how this came together,” Malinin, of Vienna, Va., stated of his efficiency at nationals. His Instagram deal with is @quadg0d, and he has vowed to dwell as much as that Quad God nickname.

On Sunday, U.S. Figure Skating additionally introduced the three ice dance groups and two pairs groups that can go to the Beijing Games.

The U.S. Olympic ice dance groups are: Madison Chock and Evan Bates; Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker; and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue.

The pairs groups are Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t compete at nationals as a result of Frazier examined optimistic for the coronavirus final week and remained in his lodge room in isolation.

Of all of the American skaters and groups, although, Chen is the perfect hope for an Olympic gold medal. He is a three-time world champion and a drive on the worldwide stage. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, is anticipated to be his largest rival.

But at these Olympics, with the final a number of years of dominance in thoughts, Chen is poised to beat him.

His efficiency at nationals made that clear.

Under the strain of attempting to keep away from the extremely contagious Omicron variant because it surges around the globe, and after no less than six skaters examined optimistic for the virus at nationals, Chen remained calm and targeted.

In the brief program on Saturday, he broke his personal occasion file by scoring 115.39 factors to place himself ready to win yet one more title. And his fellow high Americans delivered personal-best outcomes. Zhou and Malinin scored greater than 100 factors, hinting that the U.S. males’s workforce might be formidable in Beijing.

“There have been many amazing performances that have been done over the history of figure skating, so I can’t say definitively that this is for sure the best, but in my career this is definitely one of the standout few,” Chen stated in regards to the brief program.

Here at nationals, Chen determined to revert to his 2019-20 applications as a result of, he stated, he feels linked and comfy with them. After shedding at Skate America in October with new applications, the transfer to the previous standbys appeared to make sense.

He skated his brief program to “La Bohème” and his free skate to snippets of reworked Elton John songs, with the group at Bridgestone Arena giving him a standing ovation each occasions. On Sunday, it seemed as if Chen was genuinely having a superb time — regardless of the 2 falls. When the final beat of music echoed all through the sector, he laughed and smiled all the best way to the kiss-and-cry space to attend for his scores.

I have these opportunities and I want to make the best of them,” Chen stated. “I want to be able to look back on my career some 10, 20 years from now and be like, you know, I really enjoyed the time that I was there. I had a lot of fun on the ice.”