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USA’s Zhou prevails at Skate America

Vincent Zhou

USA’s Vincent Zhou after his winning Free Skate at 2021 Skate America.

Overnight leader Vincent Zhou of the United Sates dominated the Men’s competition at 2021 Skate America, winning the gold on Saturday night ahead of Japan’s Shoma Uno and teammate Nathan Chen. “This is unreal,” claimed the skater who, along with Uno, broke Chen’s three-year winning streak.

Zhou racked up points in the short program with a solid quad Lutz-triple toe for a first-place finish of 97.43 points. In his free skate to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and “Rising Sun,” the 2019 World bronze medalist landed a solid quad Lutz, but the other four quads (flip, Salchow and toe) were slightly underrotated. Two of his three spins were graded a level four as well as the footwork and he earned 198.13 for first in the free skate and overall (295.56).

2019 Four Continents bronze medalist thanked his team for pushing him every day and helping him to be a better, more “well-prepared and well-trained” athlete.

“I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” said Zhou. “I didn’t really expect this result, but what I did expect of myself was to be as well prepared and well trained as I possibly could. I think just focusing on that every single day at home led to making the seemingly impossible become possible. I hope that is a recurring theme for the rest of this season and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make even better things happen.”

The skater noted that his competitions results have been pretty consistent thus far this season.

“As for how I plan on riding this momentum and hopefully maintaining good results for the rest of the season ahead, it’s about managing the ups and downs and not letting things get into my head and keeping my goals in mind; a level-headed approach.”

Uno landed a solid quad toe-triple toe in his short program but doubled a flip and was third (89.07) coming into the free skate. The 2018 Olympic silver medalist struggled on his quad jumps in the free skate, putting a hand and foot down and turning out the landing of a loop and underrotating and stepping out of a Salchow. He hung onto a quad flip but then underrotated and put a foot down on the back-end of a triple Axel-Euler-triple flip, finishing third in the free skate 181.61. However, the skater was able to maintain second place overall with a total score of 270.68 to win the silver, edging out Chen by 1.31 points.

“It’s not about what I did well in my performance or what I couldn’t do in my short and long program, it’s about the mistakes I made in this competition,” noted Uno. “The things I lacked and I will train hard towards my next event which is the NHK Trophy in Japan. To be honest, I am very honored that I ended up second because it’s a really high level competition and I think it’s amazing and I am really aware of that. But at the same time, when I think about my goals and what I am aiming to attain, I face the reality that I am not there yet.”

Chen had a dismal fourth-place short program (82.89) after falling on his opening quad Lutz and botching a quad flip combination. In the free skate, the three-time world champion rebounded to land a quad loop, quad flip-triple toe, and two quad combinations, but doubled a Salchow and a Lutz. He scored 186.48 for second place for his performance to music by Mozart, but his total score of 269.37 was not enough to defend second and he finished third overall.

“The past two days weren’t my best days but I am happy to be here,” said the five-time U.S. Champion. “I am happy to be in Vegas and I’m happy to have a live crowd to perform in front of.”

The skater definitely feels there needs to be more reflection given his finish at this event.

“I don’t have a perfect answer,” admitted Chen, “but it’s definitely something that will be a priority for me. At this point in time, all I can really try to do is keep moving forward, try to learn from this competition and go from there.”

In regards to losing his winning streak, the skater said, “It’s not devastating. It was inevitably going to end as a winning streak at some point in time, and I am really proud of these guys up here. If anyone is the break in my streak, I am glad it’s him (Zhou). All that being said, it’s just something that happened. I am proud of what I have accomplished in the past, but at this point in time, the only thing I can do is move forward. That is where my mind is at and I will continue doing that.”

Shun Sato of Japan placed fourth in his second Grand Prix of his career with 247.05 points. The 2019-20 Junior Grand Prix Champion doubled a flip in the short, but produced a good quad toe-triple toe and sat in second (89.07) coming into the free skate. He stepped out a quad Lutz and then fell on a quad flip in his routine to The Phantom of the Opera, but landed a quad toe-double toe and quad toe before stepping out of his final triple Axel.

USA’s Jimmy Ma astounded with a clean short (84.52) that included a quad toe-triple toe, but struggled on several jumps in his free skate to music from Attack on Titan. The 2021 U.S. International Classic silver medalist opened with a good quad toe-triple toe, but stepped out of a triple Axel, popped the next triple Axel, and stepped out of the back end of a triple Lutz-Euler-triple Salchow. He slipped from third to fifth overall (228.12).

Michal Brezina of the Czech Republic finished sixth (227.47) followed by Daniel Grassl of Italy (221.43), Canada’s Nam Nguyen (219.60), Adam Siao Him Fa of France (217.52), and Russia’s Artur Danielian of Russia (214.93).

France’s Kevin Aymoz, who was 11th after the short, withdrew prior to the free skate due to a groin injury.

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