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Chen wins fourth consecutive U.S. National title

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2020 U.S. Nationals

Men’s Free Skate

Nathan Chen repeated as the national champion—his fourth consecutive title—in Greensboro, N.C., on Sunday after an exciting-filled event. Jason Brown maintained second to win the silver, while Tomoki Hiwatashi rose from fifth to claim the bronze.

Chen gave a near-solid performance in his engaging routine to music from Rocketman, opening with a solid quad flip-triple toe and quad Salchow. He put his foot down on a quad toe-Euler-triple Salchow, but was otherwise clean, producing a strong quad toe and four more triple jumps. The two-time world champion also displayed level 4 spins and footwork, all of which received high grades of execution (GOE), throughout to place first with 216.04 in the free skate and overall (330.17).

“I’m thrilled that I was able to stay on my feet for all of the jumps,” said the new consecutive and four-time a champion. “I was a little shaky here and there, but overall I was able to get through the program. I was pretty worried about stamina coming in here, so I’m glad I was able to get through. I was able to stay consistent throughout the week. The audience definitely helped me with that and I’m really happy to be where I am.”

“It’s a huge deal for me to take the next step to, not necessarily be one of these legends, but follow into their footsteps,” he said of  joining the ranks of the likes of Dick Button, Brian Boitano and Scott Hamilton who have won four or more consecutive titles. “These guys have done amazing things, beyond what I have already accomplished. I have something to look forward to. It’s truly amazing to follow in their footsteps. These are all people I have looked up to in skating. They gave advice on mentally preparing and are instrumental in how I prepare for these competitions. They are legends, people who are untouchable. For figure skating’s future, it’s really inspirational. I am honored to be in this position.”

The three-time Grand Prix Final champion said he never thought he would be able to make it this far in his career.

“No one is perfect, even if you are undefeated for a long period of time, the next competition, you never know what is going to happen,” he noted. “If you keep focusing on the results, it will probably be the end of it, it is what it is. All of these guys work really hard and deserve to be number one every time they compete. If someone else wins, I need to work harder to win the next competition.”

The 20-year-old tries not to focus too much on the results or scores, feeling it’s not very healthy.

“When you start focusing on the other skaters, you start losing who you are on the ice,” observed Chen. “You just need to fall back on why you love skating and why you do this. You need to enjoy yourself on the ice. As much as things are not so great, at the end of the day, if you can remember why you love the sport so much, it makes it much easier.”

“There have been maybe one or two other Nationals where I was unprepared,” he added, “but I was able to make good use of the week that I had. I had a lot of experience over the past few years in competing in different situations, and still keep myself in a positive mindset and try to enjoy the experience as much as I can.”

Transition by transition, Brown delivered an emotional and mesmerizing performance to Schindler’s List which featured eight textbook triple jumps. The only error came wen he underrotated a quad toe attempt. All spins and footwork garnered a level 4 and all elements, except for the quad toe, were rewarded with very high GOES. The 2018 Four Continents bronze medalist easily finished second in the free skate and maintained second overall (292.88).

“I have been training really hard and consistently,” said the 25-year-old. “I was happy to get those two programs out this season. I think a lot of the training for me has been hit and miss. I deconstructed and tried new methods of training. I think that builds confidence, and sometimes it does the opposite and I don’t feel confident with what we have done. I am open to trying new things, but I also don’t know if I will be confident about it until that moment.’

The skater went back to Chicago and trained with Rohene Ward for a “little bit of an old training method,” then returned to Toronto. “It was a bit of a jump start for me, that we were able to mix the Toronto team’s way with the old methods. For me, it’s to get into my body and see the awareness. I always have that positive mindset of everything having something to gain and something to grow from, anything is possible.”

Brown worked hard the last 18th months after the 2018 US Championships and put himself “out there” to see what went wrong and how he could grow from that experience and build himself up.

“I think It’s probably the best skating that I have done,” he said. “I think I have a long way to go, as far as the technical aspect, but as far as feeling strong and confident, I felt things came together.”

Until recently, Brown didn’t feel he could take on Schindler’s List—that he might not be able to do it the justice that he felt it deserved.

“In history in general, I knew how much significance it has,” he said. “For me, trying to be mature enough to portray what I wanted to portray, it wasn’t until now. That speaks volumes of what this piece means to me. It’s about putting on this performance, making people remember, and at the same time, it’s a bit of a performance and a celebration and putting out heart and soul in this piece.”

Hiwatashi gave a dynamic and powerful routine to “Petrushka,” which featured a quad toe-triple toe, quad toe, and six triple jumps—all of which were solid. The 2019 World Junior champion displayed strong level 4 footwork throughout to finish third in the free skate and overall (183.87 / 278.08).

“I really just want to go out there and perform the best I can,” said the 20-year-old skater. “That is what I want to do. I really trust the decision on who they pick for Worlds and Four Continents and other competitions.”

“I really had to do well in the short program yesterday in order to get out of the habit of making excuses,” he offered. “For this long program, I performed almost the same, if not better, than the Grand Prixes. There is still a lot to work on, but I think I did what I can for today, and I am just really happy I got through it. I really wanted to protect my placement from last year, or even get better than it, so I think I was working the hardest in the rink, so I am really happy for what I did.”

Vincent Zhou landed a quad Salchow and eight triple jumps—including a triple Axel-triple toe, in his resounding performance to music from Cloud Atlas. The only error came when he put a foot down on the back end of a triple loop-double toe. All spins and footwork were graded a level 4 and the 2019 World bronze medalist finished fourth in the free skate and overall (180.41 / 275.23).

“I have more in my tank for the future, but for me, overcoming everything I have been through in the second half of last year…it means a lot to me,” said the 2019 Four Continents bronze medalist. “It is really special to be able to go out there and do that. For a long time, I have been saying we need to focus on good quality, but that doesn’t shine through until you do it in training and competition. For me, just doing one quad really allowed me to bring out so much more in the rest of my skating and focus on the optimal quality of that one quad and each subsequent element.”

This is only the second competition of the season for the 19-year-old who was off two months from the second half of October through Christmas. He also had a should subluxation two weeks prior to this event, as well as a wound on his ankle from skates that was holding him back in his jumps.

“Even with all that, and some personal struggles, I proved to myself that I am capable under the most unlikely circumstances,” said the 19-year-old. “I am a fighter and I can bring that with me into forward competitions. One week ago, I could hardly land a triple Axel, and only this week, I started landing quad Sal(chow)s in the my program, and to do that, it means so much to me.”

Andrew Torgashev gave skated an impressive routine to “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca which featured a quad toe-double toe, four solid triple jumps, and strong level 4 footwork and spins. However, the 18-year-old underrotated and fell on his opening quad Salchow, fell on a triple Axel, and later stepped out of an underrotated quad toe. He finished fifth in the free skate and slipped to fifth overall (162.77 / 260.64).

“I think I did a good job of resetting myself,” said the 2019 CS Asian Open silver medalist. “I just put in the Sal(chow) one or two weeks ago, because I had noting to lose here. I wanted to show myself as a mature, senior skater. Putting that quad in the second half, that was a challenge. We learn from our mistakes, and the biggest takeaway I will have from this program, is to be able to make the mistake and be able to put it behind me right away and execute the next element. That is a huge positive for me.”

Aleksei Krasnozhan was determined and focused in his routine, which featured seven triple jumps, however, his opening quad loop was underrotated and he stepped out of and put a hand down on a triple Axel. The 19-year-old finished sixth in the free skate and overall (160.61 / 241.32).

“I did everything, there is no secrets to quads or anything, it’s all about doing it in training,” said the 2017 U.S. National junior champion. “I had a lot of traveling to get my green card, and I skipped a couple of months in the summer, then I was trying to get back in shape, get back in the running programs. Every year I have some excuse, but I am in the best shape of my life right now. Fit skinny, looking good as always, we will just build up on that. Before this season officially ends, before Worlds, I need my quads in there, so I can start a new season. It’s not about trying to learn new tricks, but make them part of my routine. I want to go home and train so I can come back stronger.”

Skating to music from The Last EmperorCamden Pulkinen found himself hanging on to several jumps, but reeled out a solid quad toe, triple Axel, triple loop, and triple flip-double toe to finish seventh in the free skate and overall (156.89 / 236.08).

“It’s the first time I landed two quad toes clean at the same event,” noted the 19-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo. “I accomplished one clean quad at Skate Canada, and this year has been a progression for me. I was extremely happy that I hit those quads in the short and free, and did two Axels in the long. I had a little mistake in the single Lutz, but I didn’t let it bother me, so I am pleased with that. I did not do a quad toe, but there is a deep knowledge that I could do one when the moment mattered. Just knowing that is something you don’t get in training, you only get in competition. So I am pleased with the quads and I am excited with next year to add even more.”

Dinh Tran pulled up from 11th to eighth overall (220.88) followed by Sean Rabbitt (213.46).