USA’s Nathan Chen maintained his overnight-lead to win his fourth consecutive Skate America title in Las Vegas, Nev., on Saturday. Teammate Vincent Zhou took the silver, while Keegan Messing of Canada pocketed the bronze.
Chen made two mistakes in his free skate to selections from Philip Glass, but that didn’t deter him from taking first (187.98) in this segment of the event. The 21-year-old doubled an intended quad Salchow and popped his final jump, a triple Axel.
“I’m a little bit disappointed with the jumps I missed,” said Chen. “I shouldn’t have done that. I think I know what I should have done to make that happen, but in the time, it wasn’t quite there.”
The rest of the program was clean and featured a quad flip-triple toe, quad toe-Euler-triple flip, and quad toe-triple toe. He also received a level 4 on two spins, as well as the footwork which received high Grades of Execution (GOEs). His total score was 299.15.
“I’m just thrilled to be here at the competition,” said Chen. “I’m so thankful for everyone that’s involved and how smoothly everything went so that the skaters could just focus on skating.”
Zhou under-rotated and fell on his opening quad Lutz and later under-rotated a quad Salchow, but landed a quad Lutz-triple toe, as well as five more clean triple jumps in his routine to “Algorithm” by Muse. The 2019 World bronze medalist also showed good spins and footwork and scored 175.74 for second place in the free skate and overall (275.10).
“Obviously there were a few hiccups in the program, but overall, I’m really proud of myself for what I did at this competition,” said Zhou. “Especially considering that I did some pretty stupid stuff at the practices and maybe got my head into places where it shouldn’t be. I’m always out there fighting to be the best that I can. I’m proud of my fight this week, I’m proud of going in and getting that second quad Lutz.”
“I’m also happy with the way I performed both programs,” he added. “Obviously there’s room for growth, but I’m proud of taking charge of my own skating and making strides in artistry and improving in small things.”
Zhou hasn’t had the smoothest of summers in the past, which led to him not always being fully prepared for those Grand Prix seasons. He was always dealing with either boot problems or struggling with some sort of injury, for example, a torn PCL and dislocating his shoulder multiple times.
“Finally, this year with COVID going on, there weren’t really any other major things happening besides this competition,” said Zhou. “So my team and I really set our eyes on this one competition as the main objective for the time being, and I was able to get some solid training in.”
“I still had some ups and downs, minor injuries, and annoyances coming into this competition,” he added, “so I wasn’t in the best shape that I wanted to be in. Overall, I’m still happy with the result.”
Messing struggled on a triple Axel-Euler-triple Salchow, under-rotating the last two jumps, and also under-rotated a triple flip which had an edge call. The 2020 Canadian bronze medalist was otherwise clean in his “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses, showing two quad toes along with very good level 4 spins and footwork. He scored 174.02 for the third place in the free skate and 266.42 overall.
“I’m actually pretty stoked on how I skated today,” said Messing. “I had two little bobbles in the program, but this is probably one of the few times that I’ve actually been able to go out and leave everything on the ice. Going into the long program, right before I stepped into my starting position, I thought, ‘This is for you guys, to team Canada, to everyone that had to stay home.'”
“I’m so proud that we we’re able to come here and have a safe competition and just have the opportunity to compete,” he added. “Coming here and leaving everything that I had out on the ice is just icing on the cake. I’m carrying the flag with honor and I’m so incredibly proud to win my second Grand Prix medal here.”
USA’s Tomoki Hiwatashi delivered a quad toe-triple toe and triple Axel-double toe, but took a fall on a triple Axel and doubled a quad toe. The 2020 U.S. bronze medalist showed good level 4 footwork in his routine to “Take Five,” “Blue Light, Red Light,” and “Nutville,” which was awarded positive GOEs. He finished fourth (158.13) in the free skate and maintained fourth overall with a total score of 245.30.
“There are still a lot of things I need to work on,” said Hiwatashi, referring to his levels of spins and consistency in jumps. “I really think it’s just about getting my mind set into doing those things rather than just thinking about the whole program. Also, to get myself into choreography more. I feel like I’m lacking right now, especially the long program.”
Teammate Ilia Malinin landed a quad toe and quad Salchow in his Grand Prix debut, placing fifth (143.56) in the free skate and overall (143.56).