Home Figure Skating News Chen in comfortable lead at U.S. Nationals

Chen in comfortable lead at U.S. Nationals

by Paula Slater
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2020 U.S. Nationals

Men’s Short Program

Nathan Chen took a comfortable lead after the Men’s Short Program in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday afternoon. Jason Brown is currently in second followed by Andrew Torgashev.

Ever consistent, Chen put out a solid routine to La Boheme which featured a quad flip, triple Axel and quad toe-triple toe. The two-time world champion also earned a level 4 on all footwork and spins to score 114.13 points.

“I am thrilled with today!” said the three-time and defending champion. The short program went really well and I am really happy I got the elements in. As it goes, I am just really excited to be here at nationals. If the flip was not there, I would have changed the program a bit, but the flip was there. For the long program, we’ll see how I feel tomorrow morning. Every competition is a new competition. The successes and failures don’t define what a competition is going to be like.”

“As a skater, we maybe have only do six competitions per year, and the other NCAA athletes have more demanding competition schedules,” he said, regarding training at Yale. “These athletes have incredible majors, and the demand is really inspiring. I think since we have such demands, the time we have to study is more intensive. The way Raf (Arutyunyan) trains us, we need to be self sufficient as kids. He instills that in us when we are very young, so that by the time we are at this level, we still need him of course, but we need to know exactly what to need to do that day. Ultimately, when we are competing, he is there, but he is not the one giving corrections as we are performing. We are the ones who have to self-correct, so being able to orient practices, you learn how to fix things on your own.”

“I still want to keep progressing, so we will figure out what is best for me,” added the 20-year-old. “The mark of an athlete is wanting to improve on yourself. If you start relaxing or getting ahead of yourself in the middle of a program, things start going awry. So the best thing to do is maintain your head frame throughout the program, and at the end, you can focus on what you did well or not well.”

As always, Brown displayed stellar quality in his skating, landing a solid triple flip, triple Axel, and triple Lutz-triple toe in his routine to “I Can’t Go On Without You.” The 2018 Four Continents bronze medalist also earned a level 4 on all spins and footwork and received the highest components score of the night, finishing second with 100.99 points.

“I struggled a bit at the beginning of the season,” said the 25-year-old. “We worked really hard with the cons of the program. Every single day, we are working with quality, the skating skills as well as the jumps. My coaches are pushing me as hard possible in every aspect. I was really happy to be able to stay present today, and keep up the adrenaline with the performance.”

“Every day, they are really pushing me to be the best version of myself,” he added. “That is really progressing. I have a long way to go, but I look forward to it. I am learning so much from my team, and we are constantly in this trial-and-error phase. They have learned more about me, and I have learned more about them. Each opportunity to compete is a chance to learn from them. I have had to be very patient in my training, and I am proud of my consistency as a reliable competitor.”

“2011 (in Greensboro) was my fist senior Nationals,” said Brown. “You don’t forget your first senior Nationals, and 2015 was my first championship. Each time I turn another corner, it brings back those memories. The rockiness I have had to struggle with has made me stronger. When you are out there, you don’t think about emotion, because I am still focused on getting the job done. But, the thing I love most about the sport, is the performance aspect.”

Torgashev gave a very strong performance which featured a quad toe, triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe in his routine to “Bloodstream” by Tokio Myers. The 18-year-old showed earned a level 4 on his footwork and two spins to score 97.87 points for third place.

“That was a really solid event, and I am excited going into tomorrow,” said the 2019 CS Asian Open silver medalist. “When I saw the score, the last thing I looked at was the component part. This season has been rocky to start, but these past weeks I have been able to put my heart and soul into everything I do. I need to stay focused on whatever works. Today was a great skate, and tomorrow is a new skate.”

Vincent Zhou landed a quad Salchow, triple Lutz-triple toe and triple Axel in his engaging routine to “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons to place fourth with 94.82 points.

“I have been starting to do more clean programs that weren’t there during the Grand Prix season,” said the 2019 World bronze medalist. “So what I put out today makes me excited for what I have coming up. I added quads and a triple Axel, so I tried to put out a more exciting program.”

“I just think it’s best for myself to concentrate on one thing at a time,” said the 19-year-old regarding school and training. “I’m OK with not having that much attention (that Chen has). When I skate, I try to do my thing and don’t think about catching him.”

Skating to “Love Runs Out,” Tomoki Hiwatashi produced a quad toe, triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe and finished a close fifth with 94.21 points.

“I have been starting to do more clean programs that weren’t there during the Grand Prix season,” said the 2019 World Junior champion. “So what I put out today makes me excited for what I have coming up. I added quads and a triple Axel, so I tried to put out a more exciting program.”

Aleksei Krasnozhan stepped out of a triple Lutz, but landed a triple Axel and triple flip-triple loop in his routine to “Runaway” and “Freedom.” He sits in sixth with 80.71 points.

Camden Pulkinen placed seventh with 79.19 points. The 19-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo., landed a solid quad toe, but stepped out of a triple Axel and two-footed the landing of a triple Lutz combination.

“I hit a pretty good quad toe, and the way I see it now, it’s not as much about this Nationals, but setting myself up for Beijing and the Olympics,” he said. “It would be great to start getting medals now, but I know that the quad toe is still new, and when you add new elements to a program, it changes mentally. This was a chance to challenge myself mentally to do that quad toe and keep the rest of the performance together.”

“I put maybe a little too much pressure on myself with the quad toe,” he added, “maybe not as much as the other jumps, but I was really just relieved that I hit the quad toe. Compared to last year, it is different because I wasn’t doing quads and I was junior. Now I am competing against names like Yuzuru and Nathan, and I am still getting used to it. It’s not too hard to compete after an amazing skate, because I like to feed off of that. You don’t want to see a competition where everyone is making mistakes, you want to see big scores.”

Sean Rabbitt delivered a near-solid routine with exception of an edge call on a triple Lutz. The 29-year-old is currently eighth.

“I have been able to see all the different champions, learn from them, grown from them,” said Rabbitt. “Skating in the same warm up as Nathan, a lot of people might find that difficult, but I was more at home, because the crowd was already going. I think it’s really cool to be out there with him, especially since I’m 29, and most of them are 10 years younger than me.”

“This season, I had a late start,” he added. “I decided for some personal reasons I wanted to keep skating. At 29, it matters what place I am in, but it is more because I love to skate.”

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