At just eleven years old, Nathan Chen has accomplished something that no other US men’s figure skater has ever done: won two U.S. men’s novice titles.
Last season, Chen arrived at the U.S. Championships as an unknown, and stole the show with enchanting performances that placed him at the top of the podium rather unexpectedly. This year, he arrived in Greensboro as the overwhelming favorite, and skated away with the title by more than thirty-five points.
“I’m really happy about (the performance),” said the pocket-sized Chen. “After the warm-up I was a bit scared, but during the performance I was pretty confident.”
Chen demonstrated that he has the complete package in his Hungarian Rhapsody program, landing six triples and displaying rubber band-like flexibility in his spins to earn a whopping 163.40 points the competition. His total makes Chen the highest scoring novice men’s champion in U.S. history.
“I didn’t really focus on that,” Chen said of attempting to defend his title. “I just paid attention to what I needed to do in my programs, and how much effort I need to put into my programs.”
Representing Salt Lake Figure Skating, Chen nailed both of his triple Lutz attempts, and also completed a triple flip, loop, Salchow, and toe loop.
“I told myself before the program that I just had to do everything in my program,” Chen remembered. “I just really wanted to show everything at this nationals.”
Moving up from third place to win the silver medal was Jordan Moeller, a fifteen-year-old who represents the Northern Ice Skating Club.
“There were a couple of mistakes here and there, and it could have been better,” said the silver medalist, “but this is my first year at nationals, so I am really excited about it. I consider this a success.”
Moeller skated to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and was credited with three clean triple jumps. His total of 127.85 points narrowly edged out the bronze medalist, Nix Phengsy who scored 127.48 points.
“I could have held on to some of my edges a little better, and cleaned up the entrances into my jumps, but overall I am happy with how things went,” Moeller said.
Phengsy, perhaps the first skater with a Laotian background to compete at the U.S. National Championships, moved up from fourth to third with a strong effort in his Red Cliff program.
“I know that I messed up a bit, but I did my best,” Phengsy said of his program. “I stood up on everything, and that makes me happy.”
Fifteen-year-old Phengsy landed two clean triple jumps including a Lutz, and attempted two more, scoring a total of 127.48 points in the competition.
“My family is really proud of me because they work hard to keep me on the ice,” said the bronze medalist. “I’m really happy that I could do so well.”
Though he finished in second place in the free skate, fifteen-year-old Alexander Bjelde had to settle for the pewter medal due to his fifth place finish in the short program yesterday.
“I thought that the performance was pretty good overall even with the few bobbles,” Bjelde admitted. “I’m just coming back from a stress fracture in my back, so I’m pretty happy with my performance. I’ve only been doing run-throughs for three and a half weeks now.”
Bjelde scored a total of 126.27 points in the competition. Lucas Kauger fell from second place after the short program and finished in fifth place overall.